Coming to Our Senses
by: Loden Nyima, Resident Teacher at DMC
The world meditates us
All of our senses are an expression of basic wakefulness. Right now, we’re seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and feeling—because we’re awake. And everything we perceive is sacred, living, and free. It’s all actually made from the earth and the elements, even if it’s so impossibly refined and processed that it’s easy to forget that. Isn’t the earth sacred?
In meditation, we remember this. Every perception is a reminder, a wake-up call, a notification that we’re alive and that life is precious, fleeting, and beautiful. We’re part of an ecosystem, a circle of life. This can be an especially helpful way to meditate when we feel scattered, anxious, alone, or stressed out by a situation in our lives. It can help us reconnect with our greater whole.
We can do this by grounding our practice in our senses. Let ourselves feel our connection to the earth below us, like a tree with deep roots that go down. The earth has been holding and accommodating us our entire lives, always will, and will welcome us home when we die.
Let ourselves hear what we hear, whatever sounds are in our environment. If we can meditate outside, great, but if not, listen not only to the sounds in the room but also to the silence allowing them. Hear the wind, the rain if there is any, we can even hear our heart beating when we settle down.
Let ourselves see what we see. We don’t need to escape to meditate. Our eyes can be open and relaxed, down a bit at first, up more once we’re settled in. We don’t look at anything, but yet sights come in, like light coming in through the windows.
Let ourselves feel the warmth all around us, ultimately from the sun, and the warmth within our breathing bodies. Let that warmth melt away any tension we’re holding. Let that warmth love us, nourish us, give us life, invigorate us. Let it hold and melt any stuck emotional energy. Most of our bodies are water. Let it flow, move, connect.
Feel our breathing moving in and out of our bodies and into our environment. Our breath is our connection with the wind and air all around us. Let our breathing take us beyond ourselves, within ourselves. Let it carry away anything we’re holding in our minds as we breathe out. Follow it out into space. Feel it coming back in and flowing through our bodies. Feel it being shared with everyone.
Let ourselves feel what we feel. No right, no wrong. Be who we are. Breathe. Breathe, welcoming with it all. Everything we feel is now. We feel because we’re alive. We can feel pleasure, pain, and everything in between. Welcome ourselves home.
Let our minds be like the sky.
Let our thoughts, stories, memories, hopes and fears, dissolve away into it, carried away by the wind of our breath. Don’t worry, the wisdom, or intuitive knowing, and compassion within them will only get stronger.
If we’d like, we can do a body scan, gently bringing our awareness to each part of our bodies starting with our feet and moving up, taking three breaths with each part, breathing into it, holding any tension with warmth and love, and offering it to the earth, the wind, and the sky. We can know we’re made of the elements, whole with the elements, never separate from mother earth, water, fire, wind, space.
If focusing on our body isn’t helpful or is even reminiscent of traumatic experiences, instead, we can use whichever of the senses feels grounded and safe to us, like a particular sight in the room, or a sound. We can also place an object we like in front of us and meditate on that. One of my friends uses a pebble from a holy site she visited.
In meditation, we’re coming to our senses, and we’re trusting our senses. Let them do the work! If we relax through our senses, relaxing into what we see, hear, feel, we’ll relax into natural wakefulness.
The world meditates us.
If we find ourselves spacing out too much, we can bring our awareness more closely to our breathing. It’s up to us to find the appropriate balance between being with our breathing and opening to our senses—and there is no contradiction whatsoever, it’s just a matter of how open, big, and free our minds and hearts are ready to be.
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About the Author: Loden Nyima
Gelong Loden Nyima is a fully ordained Buddhist monk. He lived at Gampo Abbey from 2009 – 2017 where he practiced intensively, completed Shedra studies, and served in various roles including as a Shastri. He now lives at Shambhala Mountain Center where he serves as Resident Teacher and a founding faculty member for the Summer Seminar and other programs. He spends a portion of each year in retreat, frequently travels to continue his own dharma education, and can often be seen jogging around the land at DMC.
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