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.
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, seeing it as an enormous landscape.
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.
Tracking Perception workshop:
Waking up the innate powers of connection to experience, and integration through practice.
For this written piece I want to assume something, offer something that is true and accessible in its first form, and highlight the principles that are demonstrated as a result.
My assumption is that yours and my senses work in much the same way, only differing in the degree of subtlety and particular detail. I also assume that we share the ability to connect to something, to a phenomena with our attention. By focusing with our attention we entrain ourselves to the object (or subject) of our focus. The connection deepens with repeated practice.
Another very important thing we share is the ability or the potential to be curious. Curiosity is a certain attitude of awareness to the unknown. Without curiosity, we can learn “by rote” and repeat certain patterns, but there is not the spark behind the action to also ignite joy and invigoration: the action is imitation only. Curiosity is fueled by something, propelling us forward effortlessly. We can be curious within repetition and discipline, but we must start with curiosity. It is like planting an orange tree before building a house, we work to construct the scaffold and the structure and so on, whilst knowing that the oranges are on their way. We can know that the house we build will be richer for its shared beginnings with the orange tree. Later in the life practice, the orange tree continues to give, and the life of the home is both structurally sound, and nourishing. In this way curiosity must be part of the foundation of any expedition of transformation practice.
There must be a certain level of innocence within this work: not naivety, but rather a lack of constrictive agenda. Our maps of meaning and value, and the story we tell about our experiences can either amplify or eliminate. An approach to practice that is open enough to allow the unexpected, to allow us to be surprised, is really essential to the process of making meaningful connections and learning through synthesis.
What I'm pointing to here is a certain power or character trait. It may seem an obvious statement, but consider the following: a thread has one loose end, as we follow the thread, we enter the weave, and as we pull and manipulate the thread, we change the weave. Curiosity then, is a way or method of pulling a thread, or following a trail. Using a curiosity with our senses in direct perception practice will have a certain affect on the weave. What we perceive will respond to that particular tone or attitude. It is not the only way to manipulate the weave, but having left gaps for the unexpected to flow through, we end up with a richer pattern, and a subtler experience.
So if the attitude of curiosity is at least somewhat established (or rediscovered), we can become aware of the way or feeling our attention works from that basis. Once the sentiment and practical focus are symbiotic, real change starts to occur.
But what is the weave? What realm do we want to focus our beings on? Assuming we can at least categorize the difference between thinking and feeling, ideas and sensation (or the combinations thereof), we can choose where to focus: thinking or feeling, imagination or sensation. I don't want to make value judgments on the personal practice of individuals, but rather offer a perspective on integration: Self-localization is the ongoing process of connecting to the resources of the present moment. I'm specifically referring to the sensory information presenting to the awareness, that precedes the layering of meaning that comes after. The assumption is that the attitude of curiosity is an open enough map to allow this direct experience to pass the filter.
So if we are practicing to localize the self, and approach deeper and deeper levels of embodied connection through direct perception, curiosity is a great attitude. By extension, trust is the glue of integrity. As the sensory experience within the present moment unfolds, as the weave shifts and shimmers, we slowly establish a deeper connection that is orientated around permission and non-violence; deeper subtlety, more reliable feedback; ongoing trust in the act of practice.
Another way to say this is that the mundane can be nourishing, if we approach our sensory experience with the right attitude, this curious focus. The point is not that we will have some kind of revelation (we likely will have many), but rather that we can begin to redefine success, redefine the feedback relationship with reality to allow the best conditions for simple satisfaction. Integration is moving towards the safety of being interconnected through voluntary practice, accessing resources made available according our own curiosity; personal allegiance with ever-present forces. The orientation around simplicity, localization and the present moment reduces the dynamic tension of transformation to a gentler level; I.e sustainable practice.
There is another assumption within this whole model: that practice can be in any moment, any space. That the living experience itself is one continuous thread within the weave of life. The way we wash the dishes, the way we sit and write, the way we sit and talk with friends, work and play, love and grieve, rest and travel. The way we move with each step, breathe each breath, all of this is the weave, and our particular point of awareness is a thread within the larger pattern.
Improvisation is a process of responding to the moment, making decisions within a state of flow that holds our attention and our sense of purpose. Improvisation allows focus through uncertainty, continuation through variation, and authentic connection to experience. Sensory improvisation then, is directing focus effortlessly in connection to sensory phenomena, relaxing into choice and curiosity in such a way that we nourished by our own awareness.
The way we follow the thread; pulling the string, affects the weave at large. We experience more of what we do; we are the weave, speaking back to ourselves through sensory phenomena.
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