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Senses

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Senses

Direct Knowing Pervades all of Our Senses

Direct knowing is inherent in our perception in general; it pervades all of our senses, and it’s happening all the time. Without it, we would have no experience. This knowingness is not that mysterious. But we don’t recognize direct knowing as the true source of what we call our experience because it’s usually mixed with all kinds of other knowing. Rarely do we recognize ourselves as a field of knowledge where the field itself is nothing but a recognition of its patterns. Yet this is our nature, and it is important to understand that this direct knowing is happening all the time. It informs and underlies—it is the foundation for—all of our experience. The more our capacity for direct knowing becomes precise, specific, and clearly discriminating, the more we are integrating the aspect in its diamond form. Our knowing then becomes more luminous and vivid. But most important, our knowing becomes objective, that is, free of our associations and preferences. Knowing in the Diamond Dimension brings more precision and clarity—and hence certainty—to our knowing. We are more able to discern correctly and know things as they truly are. How else can we recognize truth?  

Essence has Capacities Which Transcend the Physical Senses

Essence has many capacities, some of which are called the subtle organs of perception, which transcend the physical senses. These capacities, which transcend time and space and therefore the limitations of the physical senses, are in the unconscious. This explains how the unconscious knows about other people. So we see that intuition is not essence itself but can come from essence and can be used for the understanding of essence. However, when essence is present in the conscious experience of the individual, then there is no intuition and no mystery. There is just direct perception and direct knowing—direct knowing of essence because there is consciousness of it, direct perception of oneself and others because essence has the capacities that transcend the boundaries of time and space. You don't need to wait for intuition, you just look, just pay attention. You see, you perceive, you know. You know how you know. You understand the mechanism and the process. You can turn it on or off whenever you like. You can direct it wherever you want.

Experiencing the Mind as Space Leads to Sharper Senses

Our evidence suggests that the more the rigid boundaries of the self are made porous and dissolved, the clearer and sharper becomes the experience of the mind as space. The experience of one’s self and one’s mind as open, pure spaciousness, an empty clear space, becomes increasingly available. The experience is pleasant and freeing, bringing lightheartedness and a clear joy. In the experience of spaciousness and openness, one experiences the absence of emotional heaviness and a release of the sense of burden. There is mental clarity and a lucidity of perception. All the senses become sharper, as if cleansed and rejuvenated. The body feels light, relaxed, agile, and buoyant. It is similar to the experience of being in a clear open space with fresh and crisp air—as if on the top of a high mountain on a clear day, or on a broad beach—but it is experienced inside. And ultimately it becomes clear that we are not a subject experiencing this spaciousness—we are the spaciousness. 

The Void, pg. 22

Freedom from the Senses Means not Believing that the Information that Comes Through them is the Whole Story

Our belief in the perspective of the physical senses influences our consciousness in a powerful, dramatic way. We cannot know how powerful this influence is until we perceive the nonconceptual. So freedom from the senses does not mean not using them. It means not believing that the information that comes through them is the whole story. For example, when you have done some meditation practice or had an insight or some energetic opening, you have undoubtedly seen in many such experiences that your perception becomes very different—you experience yourself in a less opaque way, but also the perception through your senses is much more vivid. The world you perceive often will look more vivid or bright, or more precisely itself, clearer. Your sight has been cleansed; you hear sounds you were not hearing before—the sound of birds outside is clearer, more present, more beautiful. Smells and tastes are more clear and full. You are living in a different world. So clearer information is coming through the senses; you are experiencing the physical world with less filtering through concepts. In such experiences it is not only that the physical world becomes more vivid; at the same time you become more open to your own presence and awareness, more available to the living, direct perception of what is manifesting in your body, your feelings, and your essential presence. 

If the Physical Senses Perceive Through Reified Concepts We Tend to Perceive Only the Physical World and are Convinced that is all of Reality

Let us summarize. First, we have seen how we are imprisoned by our senses, how, if the physical senses perceive through reified concepts, we tend to perceive only the physical world and are convinced that is all of reality. As part of that perspective, we tend to see reality as composed of discrete objects. We take ourselves to be discrete objects, fundamentally the body, in relationship to other discrete objects. In this perception, we are a body that lives in a physical universe with other discrete objects, some of which are alive. We call some of the alive objects “people” and “animals,” and we interact with them. Other objects which are not alive, we call “inanimate.” This perspective results from the development of the conceptual mind, and the training we receive in childhood. This conditioning makes it difficult to see through or beyond this perspective; we have taken it to be reality. The materialist perspective determines the reality which underlies all our personal, emotional, and psychodynamic issues. The physical world and the world of concepts of discrete objects become the same thing. The conviction that the physical dimension is the most fundamental reality is one of the main barriers against seeing the truly fundamental reality, which is what is—nonconceptual truth, nonconceptual reality.  

If We Look Only Through the Physical Senses, We Tend to Look at Reality from the Perspective of Physical Things

If we look only through the physical senses, we tend to look at reality from the perspective of physical things. If I use only my physical senses, only my eyes, ears, nose, touching, and my tongue, I will tend to see things in terms of physical objects in space because that’s how the senses function. We have been seeing how physical reality and reified concepts are actually the same thing in our experience. The world of entities, discrete entities like tables and people and trees, is what we call the physical world. But that physical world is made up of what I am calling concepts. The conviction that physical reality is the ultimate reality is the same as the conviction that concepts are ultimate reality. This is a radical notion which seems to be the opposite of common sense. Conventional understanding has it that the physical world is independent of the mind, and that what we see, smell, feel, and hear is objective reality. Taking the physical world to be ultimate reality means taking the table as an ultimate reality, as something independent. It seems to exist without you, without people, without consciousness, so it must be ultimate reality. But a table is a concept. Before the child learns this concept, the child doesn’t necessarily know that there is a table separate from the floor. When you see through your concept of “table,” when it becomes transparent rather than opaque, you realize that the table and the floor are not separate. That nonseparateness is not on the physical level; it exists on another level, which we cannot see through our physical senses. The unity which makes concepts transparent is apprehended through a capacity to perceive which has nothing to do with the physical senses. The basis of unity is not in the physical world. 

Materialism is the Conviction that the Physical Universe is the Only Universe and that What We Perceive Through the Senses is all of Reality

So materialism is not only a matter of having materialistic values. Materialism is the conviction that the physical universe is the only universe, and that what we perceive through the senses is all of reality. If you believe only in natural science, you become a materialist. Some forms of spiritual training attempt to detach the consciousness and the perception from the physical channels. They involve developing the ability to perceive without being restricted to those channels alone. It does not mean not valuing or disbelieving physical perception. Spiritual perception, perception of what is real, puts sensory perception in its place as part of the information that is possible for us. To be imprisoned by the senses means to be solidly convinced that physical reality, or reality as we see it through our senses is absolute reality. The prison is the belief that this reality is the most fundamental, everlasting, solid reality —the most real. If you consider the way you conduct yourself, the way you think, feel, and behave, you will see that you have this underlying conviction. The way you think of yourself and the way you live your life are very much influenced by this conviction. It is the strongest conviction in your mind. Even our spiritual experiences, perceptions of the transcendent or essential, which are clearly not physical, do not shake this conviction. Our belief in the fundamentalness of physical reality remains solidly entrenched in our souls. In any authentic spiritual work, this conviction must eventually be confronted, shaken, and dismantled. It must be shattered before we can perceive totally, completely, what is actually there. 

We Actually Need to Include Other Perspectives or Dimensions to Enable Our Physical Senses to Function Clearly

We are seeing, then, in some detail, what is meant when spiritual teachings say that we are prisoners of our senses. We are seeing why the spiritual traditions admonish us to “Be free from your senses.” In many traditions and religions, this injunction has taken on a puritanical meaning. The orientation is that sex is not good, pleasure is not good. You are told, “Don’t focus on the sensual world, and don’t act as if it is important.” Unless you understand theway in which the senses are a prison, you might take the devaluing of the physical world literally. The message then is: Don’t look, don’t feel, don’t desire. However, in our work we engage in the process with all our being, including the physical. It does not work to try to eliminate physical experience when you are working on the whole being. It is true you might have experiences of not identifying with the body, being aware of yourself as pure awareness, for example, but if this experience is used to move away from the experience of the senses, you will maintain and strengthen the duality between the physical world and other dimensions. The physical world, and thus the conceptual world, will never become transparent in your experience. To know that the physical perspective is only partial is not to devalue the physical, but to allow the possibility that there are other perspectives. We actually need to include other perspectives or dimensions to enable our physical senses to function clearly. This is called the cleansing of the physical senses—becoming free of the physical senses means cleansing and clarifying them. Cleansing or purifying the senses happens when they function in a deeper mode of perception—perceiving through our being, through our essence, and through our hearts, instead of through reified concepts.

Your Beingness is what Senses, what Looks, what Feels

Because we forget our origin and our true nature, we tend to stay on the fringes of existence and never let ourselves live in and from the center of  ourselves. It’s quite a tragic story. When teachers tell you that you are asleep, or have gone astray, they mean that you have gone astray from your existence. You are asleep to your beingness. But it’s not exactly that you have gone astray in the sense that you were somewhere else, lost, and now you’re here. Actually, you were here all the time. You have actually always been here, but you kept looking elsewhere. Your beingness is what senses, what looks, what feels. We are a beingness, not a thought following another thought. We are something much more fundamental, more substantial than that. We are a beingness, an existence, a presence that impregnates the present and fills our body. We go so far away from ourselves, but what we are looking for is so near. We constantly put our attention on whether the situation is what we want or don’t want. Is it good or bad? But the significance of any experience is our mere presence, nothing else. The content of any experience is simply an external manifestation of that central presence.  

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