The creative act of cultivating 'states of being' is arguably one of the most powerful skills to learn. States of peace, strength, relaxation, intention, trust, connection.
I keep coming back to a basic principle: that life is experience, and all experience happens in the present moment, and within that moment, experience can be shifted, through types of attention, movement and sensory conditioning. In this way can these states of being be accessed and reliable.
How then to align the 'human self', the social self, the cultural self, and this 'magical self', an enchanted experiencer, tuned by practice.
Direct experience, and the attendance to it, repeatedly shows itself to be effective in this...
But humans, marvelous as we are, need a good story. We need a good reason to turn and face the heavy and un-loved parts of ourselves. It is hard to admit discomfort, and anxiety, shame and grief. Our cultural context is very quick with its story about these things. The are the markings of failure, if you believe that spiel.
In fact, its a widely spread story that our direct experience isn't valuable at all, but rather we should be putting our attention elsewhere: on acquisition, materialism, accounting, justice, being smart and attractive, being 'in the know'. Feeling and sense are suspect and so sincerity is desperately rare.
As lots of people do, I'll continue offering a different story: that by and large, our sensory information is and should be our first point of call for practice and living: an embodied life.
That through feeling the small and hidden sense of things, the softest breath, and rustle of leaves, we can connect more deeply to life. That by moving slowly, we make more time, and that by relaxing we are better able to work. We can see miracles in each color and enjoy the marvel of water. We can dance with gravity and sense into the depth and richness of each movement.
It is not easy though, sometimes it can be like looking for a needle in a hay-stack. The mind says many things in these moments. "Yeah yeah I know that and these other things", or maybe "Oh shit, I can't sit still, that is actually terrifying". "That guy does it better", "She is more in tune with the cosmic goddess than me". Indeed: "How does this pay the bills".
And so on and on does the mind tell us what it thinks it knows about what we experience. Reflex story, I think, is the great obstacle to deepening embodiment.
What does the story show, and what does it hide? This can be a good question, the tough question, when we can all get very attached to our stories. We can forget that we are not only the story, that we are a great many things, adaptable, resilient, ancient.
The solution is patience, compassion and the ability to not take our thoughts so seriously. To be able to calmly say: "noted" to the screaming thoughts, but keep the feet planted and the attention focused on the direct experience, the direct perception.
To trust our experience, to risk finding something we didn't know was there, to risk being moved.
Perhaps this is the most difficult and rewarding thing.
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.