I know, I know. I KNOW.
You’re probably wondering where the hell I’ve been! I apologize. Again. Many of you have taken notice of the gaping swaths of time that have passed between these newsletters. To quote Wodehouse: “I [can] see that, if not actually disgruntled, [you] are far from being gruntled.”
I’m sorry. Of late, the exigencies of life have enveloped me like a thick cloud of locusts, and it’s taken every ounce of mindfulness I have to remain afloat. And still, I’ve found myself sucking down the water. So, gentle reader, I beg your forgiveness. And now let’s sally forth.
I wanted to title this newsletter, Coming To Our Senses, but quickly realized that that would be nicking the name of a Jon Kabat-Zinn book, and that didn’t seem fitting, even with a well annotated footnote. Instead, I settled on Start Making Sense, which does draw from the smash-hit album by the Talking Heads, Stop Making Sense, but I digress.
Start Making Sense, brings us back to the basics of mindfulness. And one can never overdue the basics. Start Making Sense really means to start making sense of what is actually coming to us through our sensory experience. It means setting aside the world that is mediated and created by thought. It means experiencing the ‘bare data of cognition.’
My teacher, Rodney Smith, repeatedly reminds his students that the primary basis for practice is simply learning to discern the difference between thinking about one’s experience and directly experiencing what’s happening. The more we are able to shift gears into the latter, that is simply making contact with the sensory world, the more we can start to notice certain positive effects. Compared to the world of thought, the world of the senses is sobering, calming, and steadying.
In contrast, the mind’s rearrangement of the sensory world is quite often terrifying and depressing. My favorite line on this theme comes from Patrick McGinley in his novel Foggage:
“Tolerable misery is the only option for those who are cursed with the perception of other possibilities.”
Indeed, if the thought-created world was all there was, we would truly be in a pickled jam. But there is the alternative: the world uncreated by thought, the world of our immediate senses. And it’s only in that world that we find a peace and freedom from the torments of the mind.
I’m packing for Zurich! Looking forward to giving my first Yin Training there. And I promise to be back in a week and a half with a newsletter entitled, Losing My Zen.
Originally published on June 1, 2012