Come to Your Senses, Again – November 7 2017

Happiness, not in another place but this place…not for another hour, but this hour.
Walt Whitman

Forever is composed of nows.
Emily Dickinson

There is much talk these days of living in the now, of being present. It is somewhat inaccurate to suggest that we actually could be anywhere other than where we are, that we actually could be anyplace other than ‘the present moment.’ We are where we are, absolutely and irrefutably. What is being spoken to, of course, is where is our attention? Is it here, in this moment and in these surroundings? Am I attending to my experience in the here and now? Or am I in speculation – the hashing and rehashing of my past, trying to make it come out differently; or the endless creation of hypothetical tomorrows, trying to get a handle on things before I get there, trying to control my future to lessen my fear and find a possibility of happiness.

In the Vedic approach to life we recognize the truism that speculation leads only to suffering. Ever and always. Speculation takes me out of the only place I ever will experience happiness or the absence of fear, and that is in this present moment. Only in the here and now can I align myself with the flow of life; and to be fully aligned with the flow of life, to be aligned with the movement of nature itself, is to have the most profound experience of happiness available to us as humans.

The opposite of speculation is to be present to the world simply as it is. You’ve heard the saying, “Come to your senses!” This is one way always to step out of our negative, speculating thoughts: to come to our senses. 

We begin by taking a breath to remind ourselves that we have a body – that we are something other than our thinking – and then we check in with our senses, one by one: 
  • Can I feel my bottom against the chair, my feet on the ground, the warmth of the sun, the breeze against my cheek, the fabric of my shirt against my arm? 
  • What can I smell? Depending on where we find ourselves, we may have a tendency to cut off our awareness of the smells around us. Take in the scents of the coffee shop, of the office, of your car, of your friend or loved one. The smell of sun on skin, of water on a hot sidewalk, of exhaust, even of garbage. Just notice what is there, regardless.
  • What can I taste? What was the last thing I had in my mouth-the coffee, the toothpaste, the lozenge, the fruit-and what does it taste like now?
  • What am I hearing? If it’s loud and cacophonous, what are the individual sounds I can pick out? Conversations, generators, traffic? If it’s a more quiet space, what can I hear in the distance? The wind in the trees, the far off surf, birds, animals, the hum of civilization way over there? 
  • What am I seeing? Colors, shapes, shadows and light, intensities of light from one side of my vision to the other? Try to notice it all at once as a visual field, rather than as a series of objects.
This takes far longer to read than it does to accomplish. We can go through our five senses in about a minute’s time to become grounded in the present; and we can do this anytime we find ourselves in worry or speculation. Whenever we find ourselves in the habit of thought.

Again: speculation leads to suffering. Becoming grounded in our present makes us available to happiness.

Today I will walk through my five senses to become present to the world, knowing that as I become present to the world, the world and all the possibilities it contains will become present to me.
Glass and Marbles in the Kitchen, Studio City, CA
All original material copyright © 2017 Jeff Kober