When Covid struck, I decided to travel inwards. I wrote two books, as yet unpublished. One is entitled, In Good Company – The End of Living Alone, the other, Robes of the Desert – What It Means to Live a Non-Egocentric Life. Not knowing if anyone would resonate with my ideas, I decided to offer a 10-week online course on the material. I called the course – Grace of Sense – Where the Inner World and the Outer World Meet. I wrote, at length, what subjects Grace of Sense would cover. Everyone told me that what I was sharing was too long and that no one would read it. But they did.
I thought ten people might enroll. A hundred people enrolled. And so Grace of Sense as an online community-school began. Three years later, it continues.
I invite you now to read what I shared when Grace of Sense began. If you, like me, are intrigued by these subjects, please consider signing up for my next Grace of Sense Begins series, beginning on October 21st. If you register before October 4th, you will receive a discount. Go to www.graceofsense.com/course-offerings and scroll down to Level 1. Apply this coupon code EARLYL12210 before clicking the Purchase button in the registration form.
Hope to see you in my class soon. Write to me at anytime, if you should have any questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
Course Content for
Grace of Sense Begins
Photo: B. Fertman
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense…
We are all endowed with senses, though some of us do not have all of them. There’s a very simple way to understand what happens to our senses. As our motoric activity increases, often our conscious sensory receptivity decreases. The result is that our actions are not as informed as they could be, which often makes them less accurate, more effortful, less effective, and sometimes inappropriate. By conscious sensory receptivity, I mean the awareness of sensory input. The diminishment of conscious sensory receptivity prevents us from experiencing how we are doing, what we are doing, as we are doing it, reducing our ability to delight in and appreciate life as we are living it.
It is as if, within us, there is a doer and a receiver. For example, there is the you who washes your hair, and the you who senses and enjoys your hair being washed, or the you who does not sense your hair being washed and therefore cannot enjoy it. There is the you who is feeding you a spoonful of soup, perhaps potato leek soup, or miso soup, or lentil soup, or split pea soup, or French onion soup. And then, there is the you who is tasting it, savoring it, feeling thankful for it, or the you who is not tasting it. Haven’t you ever been so distracted that you’ve sat down, proceeded to eat lunch not tasting one thing, finished the meal and then a half hour later can’t quite remember if you ate lunch and, if so, what you had? 100% doing, 0% conscious sensory receptivity. Reawakening the receiver within, the one who is not putting out, not on output, but the one receiving, on input, keeps us from becoming depleted, allows us to be replenished.
A receiver differs from a perceiver. A perceiver witnesses, notices, observes, sometimes analyses, occasionally understands. Perceiving is primarily a mental activity, a mindfulness practice. Receiving is a sensory practice. A receiver senses, feels, experiences, enjoys and appreciates. With receiving we go beyond the perceiving of our actions into the receiving of our actions, beyond the perceiving of the world into the receiving of the world, beyond the use of the mind alone, and into the mysterious workings of the heart.
Your Place in the Family of Things
Felipe Ortegas – Apache Potter
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
In his book, I and Thou, Martin Buber understands this profoundly. For Buber, there are only two possibilities when it comes to relationships. One, subject-to-object, or two, subject-to-subject. Buber refers to the first as an I-It relationship, and to the second as an I-You relationship. I-It relationships are utilitarian and I-You relationships are existential, that is, about mutual existence. In other words, an I-It relationship is a being to non-being relationship, and an I-You relationship is a being to being relationship.
Buber goes into great depth around this simple idea. He explains how you can be in an I-It relationship with a person. If the reason for the interaction is primarily utilitarian, a person can turn into an It. What can this person do for me? How can I best utilize this person? On the outside, we may appear warm and friendly, but our deeper motives for relating to this person are essentially utilitarian. We want something from them. We do this a lot. More than we might like to admit.
But, thankfully, we can also be in an I-You relationship with people, but not just with people, with anything. Of course, if you are in an I-You relationship with another person, or with your beloved dog or cat, or with your blossoming apple tree in your backyard, you feel that this entity you are being with is alive. You feel their existence. You are in their company. The relationship is about being with, not about getting anything from, or anything done. But, and this is a very positive but, we can also be in I-You relationships with objects.
Here is what I have come to realize. Respect for the world and self-respect are inseparable. When we handle an object roughly, we handle ourselves roughly. If we decide not to handle an object roughly, we cannot handle ourselves roughly. If we decide that this object can feel everything we are doing, then we begin to feel everything we are doing.
Living on Biological Time
Time feels very real to us. A second is a second, a minute a minute, an hour an hour, a day a day, a year a year, a decade a decade, and yet our subjective sense of time varies. An hour can fly by in a second, an hour can feel like an eternity, for better or worse. An entire life can fly by in a blink of the eye. Ask almost any person nearing the end of their life. We can find ourselves waiting, a temporal event, for an urgent phone call, for a needed document to download. Or we find ourselves rushing about, worried about being late, meeting deadlines, getting everything done that we have to do. Living on clock time. Time pressure. Then, there is long-term waiting, for the kids
to leave home, for the perfect person to come into our lives, or for when we will be earning much more money, or for when the covid crisis finally ends and we get to travel, visit our friends, go out to eat, go to a movie.
Living in the world of clock time and the world of body time are like living in two different worlds. A clock has numbers on it and that is how we know what time it is. A body does not use a number system to know what time it is. It uses a sensory system. It feels out what time it is. For the body it is always the right time for something. It is our job to figure out what it is the right time for. When all our senses are tuning in to what our body is saying and we give our body just what it wants, we feel good.
Maybe our bodies know how to “tell us” the time. We sense when we are hungry, our body feels something, and this feeling tells us that it is time for us to eat. We eat and at a certain point our body will sense something, telling us that we have eaten enough, that we are no longer hungry. Sometimes we listen; sometimes we don’t, just like sometimes we listen when a person is talking to us, and sometimes we don’t. Learning to listen and to follow the biological beat of our own body.
No Center, No Circumference
We all possess a sense of space within, or a lack thereof. Sometimes, we feel trapped, or cramped, that we have no room to move or breathe. Sometimes, we feel open and free, that the future is open to us, that the horizon widens forever, that the sky is the limit, that life is deep and vast, like the ocean. Some of us seem to puff out, some squeeze in, some hold back, some thrust forward, some press down, some pull up. Unaware of doing it, we impinge upon our space and sometimes the space of others. We want to live our lives with a pleasant, invigorating sense of space within us. We want to feel spatially unconfined, unfettered.
There is space between, between us and our smartphones, our computers, our steering wheels, our soup bowls. There is space between us and those around us when on a crowded train, in line at the grocery store, at the kitchen table.
There is space around, above us, below us, before us, behind us, beside us. Unbeknownst to us, often we live with blinders on, zooming in on what is in front of us, living our lives running along tracks, down invisible corridors, through high hedged mazes, unable to see and sense the immensity of space around us.
Space exists. A lot of it. It’s up to us as to how we wish to relate to space, as an It or as a You.