Question for you: how many times during the day do you actually stop and experience your experience? Meaning, how often do you engage your 5+ senses in an attempt to gain both clarity and an appreciation for the moment? Unless you’re a die-hard meditator, I’m going to guess not many. Don’t worry, for most people, momentary awareness is more the exception than the norm.
Checkout this interesting Yoga Journal post from Tara Brach entitled, Coming To Your Senses. The article’s emphasis is on how a majority of us spend a lot of time in our heads thinking about the events of our day rather than in the body feeling them. As a result, we miss out on direct sensory experience. Using the Buddha as a guide, Brach outlines several mindful attention meditation exercises as a way to drop into the body.
In order to awaken from this trance, the Buddha recommended “mindfulness centered on the body.” In fact, he called physical sensations the first foundation of mindfulness, because they are intrinsic to feelings and thoughts and are the base of the very process of consciousness. Because our pleasant or unpleasant sensations so quickly trigger a chain reaction of emotions and mental stories, a central part of our training is to recognize the arising of thoughts and return over and over to our immediate sensory experience. We might feel discomfort in the lower back and hear a worried inner voice saying, “How long will this last? How can I make it go away?” Or we might feel a pleasant tingling, a relaxed openness in the chest, and eagerly wonder, “What did I do to arrive in this state? I hope I can do that again.”
The basic meditation instructions given by the Buddha were to be mindful of the changing stream of sensations without trying to hold on to them, change them, or resist them. The Buddha made it clear that being mindful of sensations does not mean standing apart and observing like a distant witness. Rather, we directly experience what is happening in our bodies. For instance, instead of seeing our hands as external objects, we carefully feel into the energy that is our hands at any particular moment.
Read more from Brach here on feeling your experience through meditation.