Photo by Paul on Unsplash
Sounds like fun? I agree. But, if so, why do we turn away so often from our five senses to engage in our habitual problem-solving mindset, or our tendency to daydream? When we spend a lot of our time concentrating or daydreaming, we are in danger of staying in a head-focused mode that takes us away from reality. We are no longer aware of our whole selves, in time and space. Here’s the truth: to live more centered in the present moment we need to become more sensuous. That way we can be more alive to the world and more sensitive to ourselves.
Let’s look at this idea up close, even though these may be facts we all know. For example, to TOUCH another person is an intimate and extraordinary sensory experience that can trigger the experience of awakening to my whole self. Imagine caressing the softness of a baby’s cheek with your finger, pressing your neighbor’s hand in a firm handshake, sharing a comforting hug with a friend or family member, or giving yourself to a loving sexual encounter.
And how about LISTENING? Personally, whenever I become aware of a problem, my immediate solution is to do something about it right away. But sometimes what I really need to do is listen to all its aspects before taking action. That moment of listening could be the pause that refreshes my outlook and reorganizes my original reaction. As for listening to others, I need to ask myself, “What do I have to ‘do’ to hear what you are saying?” If you try that, you may become aware of whatever emotional impediment exists between you and the other person. For example, sometimes I discover how I narrow and compress my body when I listen. I call it concentration, but it feels more like stressing myself! Or my body may reach forward to take in the message coming at me, or shrink back unconsciously in refusal to accept it. The fact is that staying rooted in my own presence while being with other people is a huge task, especially if my main aim is to please them or attract their attention.
Another vital connection to my Body Being comes through SOUNDING—singing or humming. It’s a great way to release tension and experience the vitality of my own vibrations while putting them out there in the world. To sing a song from the heart accesses and links more parts of ourselves than are usually in contact with each other. Whether noble themes in church, battle cries in action, anguished love songs that rend the heart or joyous arpeggios in the shower, singing awakens a part of us that searches to express what we really feel. And even when we are totally unaware of what we’re doing, whatever song we may be humming is often a direct message from the unconscious.
Now let’s talk about SEEING‑—a primarily receptive activity. I see more when I look intentionally at the world, or someone in it, or even at myself. A conscious effort at seeing connects me to my whole being. Gurdjieff suggested we take ‘snapshots’ of ourselves at different moments of the day, to see what’s really going on inside. Am I deep in thought, or mired in a reaction to something that just happened, or stressed out in my body? I return to where I am, with my seat on the chair or my feet on the ground, as I look out at the world. Then I can give up trying so hard to capture what’s in front of me with my eyes, as if to grab it and bring it back into my head. Instead, I can look out from the visual cortex (which occupies a fourth to a third of the neuronal activity at the back of my brain), and let whatever’s out there come toward me to receive each impression within myself.
As for TASTING and SMELLING, they can open a whole new world of experience, as we well know. So many emotions are created, all the way from delight, a taste of the nectar of the gods, to confusion about what I’m eating, or absolute disgust.
What I’m trying to say here is that body awareness, or what I call Body Consciousness, is essential for the inner and outer balance I seek—and the senses are portals to that experience. What’s more, whenever I connect with them, I expand. Try it right now. The quality of your movements will change, perhaps even dramatically, depending on how deeply your mind accesses your Body Being. And the change can happen any time, anywhere. For example, when I’m walking down the street and see a tall tree rising in front of me—a monument to verticality—I’m suddenly filled with body awareness. My spine surges vigorously upward with my head floating on top as my pace slows down. Joy fills me. I feel more grounded. More real!
Nevertheless, manifestations of imbalance also carry a useful message. Whenever I trip or stumble, it’s a call from “Central Intelligence” to stop for a moment. Maybe I was deep in thought and cut off from my meat and bones, flying through the stratosphere on mental wings. When I lose contact in that way, I vow to come down into my feet, reminding myself that the function of a human being is to occupy the middle, between inner and outer, and to serve as a bridge between the energies of Earth and Heaven.