‘Coming to our Senses’ The Art of Receptive Knowing
This Sunday we held another Half Day Meditation Retreat here at Ratanagiri on the Tweed Coast.
Below are the Retreat Reflection Notes for your consideration, especially if you did not have the chance to attend this Retreat.
Retreat Reflections: ‘Coming to our Senses’ – The Art of Receptive Knowing
Sunday 10th February 2019: with Buddhist Psychologist & Meditation Teacher John Barter
Being alive to life as the most important thing!
At times we may well wonder, what life is all about and what it is that is most important for us?
When it comes down to it, we may feel and say that, the most important thing is being alive; experiencing life, being fully present and making good worth of our experience of life and being alive!
Missing the point and living where we don’t belong!
Our real experience life, not as a thought or as an idea; not as a concept or mental conception; but as a direct experience through our senses. Our 5 physical senses of sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing.
Whilst we can think about the past and future, our senses only sense what is happening right now!
Yet all too often we are not present to life, to what is happening right here and now. We get caught in the mental-sense of thinking. We get attracted and distracted away from the fabric of experience into the mental comments, commentary, complaints, concerns and critique; not just about what is happening now but about what has already happened or what we think might be going to happen.
This can cause us to feel disconnected from our-self and estranged from life because we are living in the wrong place; regretting the past and reacting to the idea of the future. This does not make for happiness, health or fulfillment. Fundamentally it is a waste of our two most precious assets – time and energy!
By not being present; we miss the place and ‘point of existence’! May be the whole point of existence is to realise and arrive at the ‘point of existence’, which always and only is just right here and just right now!
Coming to our Senses!
We need to ‘come to our senses’ both literally and metaphorically. This means aligning the mind to where life is happening. We need to have more of our moments; appreciating that Life and our life is just a collection of the present moments that we were present for.
If being alive is important for us; if our quality of life is important; not as our financial or professional status, but the full fresh experience of life through our senses; then we need to ‘come to our senses’; to experience life, to be alive to life; to receive and to allow life in! For this we need Mindfulness. We need to be Mindful to the present; to be Mindful of our body and our senses, to have a calm-clear mind to be sensitive to the experience of the sensory experience (i.e. how it feels to ‘receive into awareness’ that sight or sound or smell or taste or touch). In seeing, just seeing, in hearing, just hearing, in smelling, tasting and touching, just smelling, tasting and touching.
How do we know what we are knowing? So often we only know through thinking and not through the direct sensory experience of things. We get caught in preconceptions; ideas and conditioned reactions.
By being Mindful to what is happening both outside of us and within us we connect into the foundation and fabric of existence while also being aware of our fundamental experience without getting caught into a lot of mental manufacture and manipulation of experience.
Whilst we can become attentive to and focused upon a particular experience such as a particular sensation, sight or sound to the exclusion of others, there is another helpful way of knowing and being.
Mindfulness can be used as an ‘Exclusive Focused Attention’ or it can be used as an ‘Inclusive Receptive Awareness’. This is like a light that can be a ‘spot light’ or a ‘flood light’. Inclusive Receptive Awareness as a form of Mindfulness can be very helpful to develop and use in developing our relationship to all forms of experience through our senses, especially the unpleasant ones that we usually resist or react to.
Receptive Awareness, Receptive Knowing, Heart Knowing
This form of ‘Knowing’, which I refer to as ‘Receptive Awareness’ or ‘Receptive Knowing’ or Heart Knowing, allows life in.
Rather than our mind being attracted and distracted out to particular experience; our mind stays grounded in our body, attuned to our senses. Here we allow and receive experience what ever it may be; a sight, a sound, a smell, a taste, a touch; pleasant, unpleasant or neutral. ‘Receptive Knowing’ doesn’t get caught in choosing or judging. It does not get caught in the mental comments, commentary, complaining or critiquing. ‘Receptive Knowing’ is stable but not static, flexible and not fixed, peaceful but not passive, strong but not stuck. ‘Receptive Awareness’ does not get caught in Reacting. Resisting, Denying or Distracting; it is free and flowing and allows a more functional relationship to experience without wasting precious energy.
Enabling and engaging ‘Receptive Awareness’ or ‘Receptive Knowing’, allows us to be ‘touched’ by experience, both literally and metaphorically. Literally, our senses are ‘touched’ by the experience’; metaphorically we are ‘touched’, feel or are sensitive to the experience.
‘Receptive Knowing’ may be appreciated as a neurological – movement of the mind from ‘Left-Brain Thinking’ to ‘Right-Brain Knowing’. This appreciates that the left side of our brain is more involved in conceptual thinking and processes information in a linear time-based way. The right side of our brain is more involved in ‘body awareness’, bigger picture wholistic knowing, intuitive awareness and parallel processing of information.
Here we can refer to ‘Receptive Knowing’ as ‘Heart Knowing’ as apposed to ‘Head or Mental Knowing’.
The Heart as the centre of our body and place of Heart (felt) Knowing, allows experience to come to us through the doorway of our senses. We receive objects of awareness into this grounded knowing, with a mindful stillness, calmness, receptivity and sensitivity.
We can use ‘Heart Knowing’, ‘Receptive Knowing’, to create an openness to our experience; to receive life into awareness. This allows us to receive and be touched by life rather than be attracted and distracted, drawn out and even drawn down by what may be happening. It allows a calm, a peace, an equanimity and a caring approach to our experience. It is from this space that we can then choose to engage conscious considered thought and action if needed.
The practice of ‘Heart Knowing’ or ‘Receptive Knowing’ creates a new relationship to our ongoing flow of experience through our senses, including the mental sense of thoughts and allows a new way of being present and fully alive. It fosters and allows the flourishing of a special appreciation and gratefulness for our present moment experience, for the natural world and particularly for life as a lived and felt experience.