When people think of meditation, usually images of far-away yogis sitting crosslegged chanting mantras are conjured up. Meditation for most people’s minds involves sitting still, closing one’s eyes, relaxing the body, breathing deeply and trying to find that place in which many Zen practitioners call “no mind”. How is that possible to have “no mind”? The no-mind principle is basically the idea that one can reach a meditative state in which they have no thoughts running through their head. Getting rid of the busy head is one of the main reasons these monks and yogis meditate. Having practiced different types of meditation before, and being involved in the martial arts, I always found it hard to achieve this state of thoughtlessness. This was always difficult to do when I was completely relaxed and sitting, let alone trying to stand and do day-to-day activities while maintaining this state – i just wasn’t able to do it.What if i were to tell you that you could achieve a clear mind easily? Sure this will require practice on your part but you do not have to resort to banishing yourself from society and hooking up with a Zen Monestary. There is an approach used by many native tribes the world over. The secret is to, as Jon Young founder of Wilderness Awareness School often states, “Lose your mind and come to your senses”.
According to native tradition, this state of mind was a normal everyday waking condition. It was brought about by their intense awareness of their surroundings – something that has been lost with our modern-day lifestyles. No longer do we need to depend upon our keen senses in order to survive. In hunter-gatherer societies it was imperative to pay attention. You never knew what was lurking behind the next thicket waiting for you to become its next meal. As we left our hunter-gatherer traditions and became herders and agriculturalists, obtaining food to survive became much easier. Over time man began to lose their senses and come to their minds. Their primary focus was their thoughts and not their senses. Nowadays with our supermarkets in every town and city, the most we ever call upon our senses is to be able to feel which peach isn’t too hard or too soft. This coupled with television and computers has forced us to tunnel in our vision and focus on a small area in front of us instead of engaging all our senses in an expanded way. I am not condoning that we stop thinking; there is a time and a place to use our minds. This is our birthright and what separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. What I am saying is that we restore what was a natural part of our existence – This can be done throught the Sense Meditation.
In a nutshell the Sense Meditation allows one to be so deeply aware with all of one’s senses that the busy mind basically shuts down and with time a new or sixth sense is developed. Let me explain a similar situation: My father, a former member of the German special forces would tell me stories of times when he with his team were in a dangerous area trying to accomplish a mission. They would be so engrossed in trying to hear, see, feel, smell and taste anything out of the ordinary that often times their senses would hurt from overuse. There were times when they would be in this intense state of awareness that they could communicate without words and sense danger before it presented itself. This is the sixth sense that I’m referring to. I’ve heard of many soldiers who’ve experienced this in wartime as well as elite athletes and even professional musicians. I guess you could call it being in the Zone.
By using the sense meditation this is exactly what happens. We become so in tune with all of our senses that they begin to work as one unit building synergistically upon each other until the mind is completely free and able to be a clear antenna for any inspiration or promptings. By expanding one’s focus beyond just the dominant sense of vision and expanding that into the other 4 senses, namely smell, taste, feeling and hearing do we open up ourselves to that sixth sense.
So what is the process you may ask? The method is very close to what Jon Young teaches but with a slightly different approach. To begin, find a comfortable sitting area preferably outside and if it all possible in a secluded spot in nature. Now close your eyes.
Begin first by focusing on the sense of taste. What tastes do you pick up in your mouth? Did you just finish a big meal? Can you still taste some of the different foods that you ate? Is it a sweet taste? Bitter? Focus on different areas of the toungue, do some parts of it taste different than others? Now open your mouth, what tastes can you grasp from the air? Does your tongue taste dry? Wet? Sweet? Sour? Bitter? Salty?
Now i want you to switch focus to the sense of smell. Some say that smell is perhaps one of the oldest senses that we have developed. It is often linked to specific events in our lives. Have you ever smelled something and been instantly brought back to the time in your life when you had noticed that particular smell? It’s very closely linked with memories. So now with this new focus, begin to pay attention to the different scents around you. Do you smell the moisture in the air? Perhaps the grass was freshly cut, can you smell that? Is there a body of water nearby? can you smell it? How about the dirt by your feet does it have that strong earthy smell? How about what the wind is bringing you, perhaps you can smell something that someone is baking. Maybe there are animals nearby. Can you smell your dog or cat? Try to smell in all directions at once taking everything in. Concentrate on each smell that comes into your nose. After 2 minutes move on to the next exercise.
For this part of the exercise i want you to again focus first on yourself. Your eyes should still be closed. What do you feel inside you? Can you feel your digestive system working? Can you feel the coolness or warmness of the air flowing down your windpipe? Focus on your heartbeat, can you feel it beat in your chest? Can you feel that same pumping rythm in any of your extremeties? When you swallow is your throat dry or wet? Is your mouth dry or wet? If you just finished a big meal can you feel your stomach in an expanded state, perhaps you are hungry, can you feel the emptiness of it? Now begin to focus on the outside of your body, what are you sitting on? is it cold? Hard? Wet? Warm? Rough? Smooth? Are any of your appendages falling alseep or uncomfortable. Don’t judge it, just try to experience it. Do you feel the shoes on your feet, the clothing wrapped around your body? Can you feel the wind on your face? Which direction is it coming from? Can you feel the texture of the wind? Is it shifting or blowing from a constant location? What else do you feel? How about the Sun. Feel it’s warmth, feel the parts of your body which are not facing the sun, are they cold? Focus on this for at least 2 min.
After the 2 minute exercise with the sense of smell we will now continue on to the next sense – the sense of hearing. Keeping your eyes closed try to focus on listening. What do you hear closest to you? Is there an insect crawling in the grass next to you? Can you hear it scuttle? Do you hear the wind? What does it sound like when it’s blowing through a pine tree as opposed to an oak or through the grass? Can you hear the trees swaying? How about the birds, which different types of birds do you hear? Can you hear the squirrel scurrying about the tree tops? Have you heard any airplanes? Continue to spread out your sense of hearing further and further away from you all the while continuing to focus on those sounds that are near. Don’t forget to listen to the silence between the sounds. Often times when focusing on the major sounds around you, you fail to notice the undertones and less than obvious sounds that are in between the major ones. Try to maintain a 360 degree awareness of sound all around you.
Now open your eyes… Begin first by raising both arms to the front of you while wiggling your fingers. It should look like you’re casting a spell on someone. Now continue to wiggle your fingers while slowly bringing your arms out to the sides of your body all the while maintaining both your forward gaze and visual contact of your moving fingers. You should feel your vision expanding. This broad vision is highly sensitive to motion. Maintaining this broad vision and forward gaze, begin to notice what is moving in your field of vision. do you see the trees swaying? Without focusing on the tree and looking at the horizon, can you begin to identify the different trees or objects around you. with practice you will be able to discern between the flight of a robin from that of a european starling all without ever focusing on the birds! Spend around 2 minutes just taking in everything that comes in your field of vision.
Into the sixth…
After spending the first 10 minutes on this exercise (2 MINUTES for each sense), I want you to do the same exercise over, but this time integrating all the senses. To do this begin as usual with your eyes closed. Focus on the sense of taste in your mouth and in the air. Do this for 2 minutes. However now instead of purely focusing on the next sense, smell, I want you to maintain an awareness of the different tastes while including the sense of smell. Again after two minutes include the sense of feeling with taste and smell, then after two minutes add hearing with taste, smell and feeling and finally on the 8th minute open your eyes and add the sense of sight all the while maintaining the other 4 senses. Continue to maintain all 5 senses for another 2 minutes.After practicing this 20 min sense meditation a few times you should try to immediately integrate all the senses at one minute intervals. In other words, practice the sense of taste for 1 minute, add to it the sense of smell while maintaining an awareness of taste; Do this for another minute and continue adding all the senses. At minute five, you should be maintaining an awareness of all 5 senses. Now maintain this complete sense meditation for another 10 min. By practicing the Sense Meditation for at least 15 min a day you will begin to notice a quietness of mind. I’ve found this meditation one of the most effective ways of entering “no mind” or what some call “the Sacred Silence”. What’s great about this is that it can be practiced anywhere: in the office, at school, waiting at the bus stop, in the grocery store etc. One of the side effects of practicing this regularly is you will begin notice a heightened sense of awareness of things around you and will begin to gain an awareness of things beyond your 5 senses; in effect developing a sixth sense. After regular practice I noticed this happening many times that it was beyond coincidence. For example I always enjoy sneaking up to my wife as silently as possible and just standing right behind her. Then when she finishes what she’s doing (like folding her clothes) and turns around she bumps right into me being scared out of her wits in the process. Well apparently being sick of being the brunt of my games one morning she began to do the same. I was using the blow dryer which was easily covering any sounds that she was making as she was sneaking up to me. However right before she came close enough to scare me I felt something and turned around laughing because I saw her in a crouched position trying to stalk up to me. Another example was while I was in school I walked into a classroom and my friend was there waiting until I entered to throw a pencil at me. As i walked in I didn’t even look at him, the pencil was off and i caught it in mid air and threw it back at him hitting him in the chest. I was just as suprised as he was. He exclaimed, “what are you, a ninja or something?!” I laughed and just shrugged my shoulders. I noticed during both of these examples that I was in this state of not thinking, where my mind was as clear as a still pond.
With practice you’ll be able to engage all the senses right away instead of increasing them at intervals. Entering that silence of the mind will become easier and easier until you find that you prefer that state of mind over the “busy mind” feeling. Good luck!