A Vocabulary of Perception
Focusing on experience (sensory awareness), before trying to or claiming to understand. Not acting on a false understanding.
This goes for everything, every practice, every idea, every person, culture or sentiment.
Every news report, advertisement or textbook, everything anyone has ever said, all words and beliefs.
Thoughts are cursory ideas of things that helps hold the mind together so the identity can operate, direct perception is not taking this so seriously.
Direct perception is not an intellectual understanding.
Something else can take its place in the attention:
Gravity, Spatial Phenomena, and Breathing, a good place to start.
This is the ultimate in contemplative science.
Metaphors: "To avoid losing touch, always aim for first hand experience"
In my work as an artist (particularly in sculpture and performance), in the martial arts, meditation and in nature connection, I noticed that one main parameter of experience is spatial awareness. This awareness is variously subtle or gross, focused or expanded.
One other main context of this work is the realms of mental health and altered states: How can we develop an articulate our experiences, no matter how “out of the ordinary”.
So this is a “ Practical Phenomenological Epistemology” – for practitioners and contemplatives, or anyone interested in neutral language for discussion around altered, dampened or heightened states of consciousness related to mental health, hallucination, “psychosis”, spiritual or transpersonal experiences, undefined perceptual events and non-conceptual/non-verbal reality.
This is what I mean by the unification of all tradition: traditions are actions take as individuals or as a collective that attune the neural maps to certain patterns. The point of this vocabulary is to offer a language of consciousness that can be applied to any tradition or practice.
This is a list of actions enacted by the attention, that is to say: a way of shifting perception through the application of the will. The fact that we are working with a set of embodied senses in the material world (gross, subtle or otherwise) provides a grounded context to engage with this art.
“Space Bending”: practicing and mastering the ability to alter our experience of elements we can perceive with any of our senses in the present moment. There are other embodiment techniques that support this practice: notably breathing (for relaxation and subtlety), movement or exercise for altering state of consciousness. Also very important is noting the evolutionary basis of the senses and awareness in the natural context: the raw human-animal sensory abilities related to surviving and living in connection with the land.
The following list came about because of a desire to have on hand a decent vocabulary for this practice and of direct experience in general.
There is a particular focus on the spatial field as the main external parameter of awareness: Spatial Awareness:
N.B: We are doing many of these actions all the time: practice helps us to improve skill and consciousness of processes and gives us access to further subtlety and focus. Each action is an amplification of the information.
The base senses: (Not all actions apply to every sense).
Seeing – Sight.
Feeling – Felt Sense, felt spatial, temperature/moisture and kinetic information.
Hearing – Sound or Silence.
Smelling – Odor in the space or emanating from objects.
Tasting – The taste of the phenomena/object/material.
The attention actions: practice and repetition improves effectiveness and reliability of skill.
'Object' is any phenomena, 'physical thing', or 'space'.
Sweeping – When we first enter an experience, the phenomena/objects that we are first aware of (this could be external or internal).
Sensing- This is the first time we notice a specific object or phenomena.
Focusing – This is really focusing our attention, giving it enough time to take effect.
Attuning – Imprinting the phenomena, or object in the neural map (memory).
Remembering – Recalling the phenomena/object and making it present.
Spacing – Focusing specifically on the space between objects and others in proximity, the negative spaces.
Sizing – Noticing how big or small a thing is compared to it's neighbors (or oneself or anything else)
Volumeizing – The space the object takes up.
Scaling – This is the first drastic alteration of perception: Shifting the scale of the object/space, experiencing it as an enormous landscape,
or very tiny.
Timing – Related to scaling, we can alter the time of the object by noting that human time is purely conceptual: the object exists in eternity.
Detailing – Focusing on particular details.
Tracing – Following lines and edges.
Coloring – Noticing particular colors or contrasts in a field.
Lighting – Noticing the way light reflects.
Shading – Noticing the absence of light and shadows cast.
Sequencing – Shifting attention and awareness through a series of characteristics.
Relating – Comparing and relating one or more objects or phenomena.
Weighting – Noticing/feeling the weight of object/materiality.
Materiality – Noticing what the material is made of.
Physical Imagination - Placing oneself in, on, near or holding the object/phenomena.
Histrionic Kinesis – Feeling the kinetic sense of the actions required to arrange/build/manipulate the objects and materials.
Object Manipulation – Manipulation of the object using the body. Sensing weight/size/temperature/texture.
The Psychic functions:
Enchantment – Engaging with sense of intrigue and mystery.
Significance – The object or phenomena has specific meaning or associated narrative to the context.
Personalizing – The element is associated with a person, entity or character, or has its own autonomous personality.
Emotionalizing – Association, catalyzing with a felt emotion.
Autonomizing – The object/pheonomena is making itself known to the senses of its own accord: an omen or a messenger.
Blessing – Full acceptance and cherishing of the phenomena/space or object.
Deifying – Treating as Sacred or Divine with the awareness.
Attachment – Admitting or assigning importance to the phenomena/object, to an identity.
Identification – Identifying with the object/phenomena: identity in some way defined by the existence or condition or character of the object.
Naming – Classifying, labeling. Also the reverse is practicable (removing labels).
Unification – The object(s)/phenomena are one and the same with the psyche/identity, to a greater or lesser degree.
Disassociation – The object/phenomena means nothing and the psyche is not resonant.
Practicing the Mystic Arts
Mystic Arts: The practical synthesis of Art, Embodiment, Meditation and Narrative Medicine.
Mediums and Practices:
Medicine for the future
The performance and demonstration of experience through arts is the sharing of the human story. Art plays many roles in culture. It tells a story, it heals and it translates experience. The artistic practice changes the consciousness of the artist and the witness, it moves us and empowers us.
It is part of the relational infrastructure of the community. In this way art is communication. I am not speaking of art for commercial purposes, I am speaking of art as a practice of living authentically. In this way art is therapy, medicine for future.
The subject matter
There has always been a certain propensity among some people to ask the big questions. The uncertainty of the dark recesses of the emotional and mental realms...the missing patches in our knowledge...have and always will be essential elements of experience. For without that wild dimension of the unknown, into what space would we grow and evolve? It is these edges of consciousness that are the context that the Mystic Arts engage with.
Unity in diversity
As with any endeavour, it is prudent to have a motivation for action (or non-action) that is based on clear intentions; the same goes for the Mystic Arts. Each practitioner will have a personalised or specific approach to their subject matter and method; yet it is clear that they will share a common orientation.
It's not what we think it is
It is easy enough to say that Mysticism is a religious or 'spiritual' attitude towards the unknown in reality. What is more difficult is engaging with discourse on the practices of Mysticism; that are the Mystic Arts. The main barriers, incidentally, to both the discussion around Mysticism, as well as the practice, are to do with the conceptual and symbolic nature of what we call 'understanding'. It is one thing to understand knowledge, it is another to understand experience.
The practice of Mystic Arts is a practice of experiences, in terms of altering the perspective and quality of consciousness of experience, as well as altering the experience itself. Getting stuck on the symbolic or conceptual hierarchies of the mind can lead to missing the glory and gift that is a direct relationship to experience.
The essentials of practice
Contemplation, then, is the main port of call for the practitioner; the practice of contemplation is the act of observing closely and paying attention. Further, the object of contemplation changes with attention; this is to say that the experience of the object changes.
So the mystic arts are practices of both consideration and direction; of listening and expressing; of stillness and movement. Essentially, the way in which we practice contemplation directly affects our experience. This especially true of creative contemplation in visual art, music, dance and storytelling.
The storytelling of art translates the experience of the artist purely and effectively through the medium; demonstrating the mastery of these two foundational halves of the Mystic Arts:
Choice and Surrender...Gentleness and Power, Strength and Softness, Active and Passive.
The harmonic of cultivated balance is the product of diligent practice.
This is the truth hidden on the path of liberation.
Photos: Pakololo - Daintree Valley Queensland 2015