It’s been a wild and wonderful summer that has been at times breathtaking, gut wrenching, heart opening, confusing and thrilling. In June we went out of one home and into the hands of friends. We went onto the road, off the grid, out of routine, into new territory. Our travels took me off regular practice, out of my comfort zone, into the immediacy of the moment and I think I may be on to something.
My husband and I traveled in our tiny camper for more than half of the summer. Even though I wasn’t dancing in classes, even though yoga was snatched at rest stops, even though meditation was of the driving and hiking kind, I was still connected to the practices we share.
Sensation is the connection.
Sensation is neutral. No matter what is going on, keep coming back to sensation. Seems simple but the mind is tricky (and complex and beautiful). The mind will quickly pull away, so fast you might seem that sensation and what the mind thinks about sensation is the same thing. It’s not.
Sensation is just what is. Mind is the judgment, evaluation, categorization about sensation: good/bad, like/dislike, pleasant/unpleasant. Keep coming back to the neutral sensation itself. Mind will want to tell a story about sensation – about why it’s happening or what it means. Keep coming back to the essential nature of sensation.
The kind of sensation I’m after is what meditation teachers call direct experience. You can feel it right now. Close your eyes and feel the direct experience of your hands. Sense what your hands feel like from the inside. Rather than shape and color and wrinkles and rings, feel the tingling and pulsing and heat and coolness that are your hands right now.
I have a flurry of mind activity around the sensation of hunger. Thinking about how I will avoid the discomfort of hunger is one of the main activities of my life. Lately, I’ve been pausing to feel the direct experience of hunger to see what’s really happening. I’ve discovered that being hungry is a range of sensations and a whole lot of stories.
Let’s do it together: right now sense your hunger. Sense your belly, your throat, your mouth. Notice the sensation of hunger without doing anything about it, figuring out how long it’s been since you’ve eaten or planning what and when you’ll eat next. Your mind will pull you away, and that’s okay. Keep coming back to the sensation of hunger.
Direct sensation, this essential nature of sensation, can be a slippery place to hang out. The mind is so quick to figure things out and tell a story and make a plan, it’s like balancing on a greased beach ball. It’s not about getting it right and staying solidly right there. The practice is about noticing when your mind has pulled you away and come back.
Keep coming back.