Sensate Practice — How To Be More Alive

To engage in any meaningful conversation about human life we have to assume that our bodies are real.

Any being that uses its senses to experience the world is sentient.

We are all sentient beings and we all experience the world a little bit differently.

For millennia society and religion has attempted to rein in our experience of our senses, especially around sex and pleasure.

Carl Jung and many other experts of the human psyche have expressed a simple truth for many decades now: Everything that we repress becomes expressed in some way.

Jung goes on to explore the idea that even if we don’t personally express our repression, our societies will — somehow, somewhere, usually suddenly and violently.

Pent up emotional states are not cuddly creatures. They are monsters living under our beds, waiting to pounce and devour us.

For many decades I have explored meditation. The idea goes by many names: zen, yoga, dhyana, art, music, exercise, love-making, cooking, cleaning, poetry, ecstasy, religion.

No matter what we consider to be meditation, we are always looking for the same thing — dissolution in something that is bigger than ourselves.

Why are we always looking for a way out of our Selves? Perhaps because we have been taught that being alive is a burden.

For many years I was a Buddhist and accepted the idea that life was characterized by suffering.

Albeit 50% of that idea is true, it is also 50% wrong.

Where does art and music and love-making bring you? Hopefully to a place beyond yourself, somewhere sacred where our minds can quiet and our souls can become one with the universe.

Or sometimes it’s just decorative, background noise, and fun.

Every craft we undertake takes a lifetime if not more to master and yet we still attempt to become better every day — why? Because it is enjoyable, it makes us happy.

No matter what we are doing, we are attempting to become happy.

Religion insists that it owns happiness. That it even owns our souls. But it doesn’t. It owns nothing other than what we give it.

Religion, politics, economics — they take as much as they can get, like hungry ghosts. Never full, always eating.

And yet they are the creations of our sentient selves.

We can neither stay away from them forever nor pretend they don’t exist.

But we can transmute their insensate machinery into a more human and therefore more caring animal.

We are all sensate creatures.

Using the organs of our senses, we collect endless experiences that our conscious and unconscious minds transform into the stories that make up our lives.

Right now we are consumed with the digital world — screens take up the majority of our attention and we feel numb to all else.

Perhaps it is time to change that, on an individual level.

Perhaps it is time to wake up and be alive once again.

Sensate Practice is the psychological and physical process of consciously and unconsciously engaging with our senses in each successive moment that we experience.

Similarly, Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing one’s attention to experiences occurring in the present moment.

But Mindfulness assumes that the mind is all important, that it has ultimate sway over all that is important.

But it is not — thought, conscious or unconscious, is not more or less important than any other sensate process.

We do not even have to assume the existence of a soul to clarify this point. The human body is made up of a trillion processes that, all together, make up who we are. Thought is one of those complex systems, a meta-cognation resulting from synaptic neural networks.

Our bodies include thought; thought is part of our physical process of life.

I will give you an exercise:

Today, or for the rest of the day, focus on your senses.

Immediately we find that compulsively looking at our phones is not part of this paradigm.

All phone addiction arises out of a perceived absence of connection to the senses, and when we give into this addiction we lose that connection, and we have to work on reconnecting to the senses.

So give up your phone.

Give up your tablet.

After I write this I will give up my computer.

And just BE. BE somewhere. FEEL where you are.

Today.

If you want to enjoy movies or TV later, that is okay as long as you are WITH someone. Someone that you experience.

Because this life is not about staring at a motherfucking screen until we die.

It is about inhabiting our bodies fully.