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Do Your Senses Get You in Trouble?

     Do you remember learning about the senses of smell, taste, sight, touch, and sound? It was placed somewhere between math problems and learning about the different states of the USA.  It was taught as five ways of perceiving without the connection to how much power they have on our emotions. The senses are a major driver of our experience of likes and dislikes and therefore our emotions. Interpretation of sensory experiences can lead you into disgust, ecstasy, despair, or delight. Through our senses we are moved away with some degree of repulsion or towards with attraction and sometimes we are neutral with no particular emotional response.

     Experiences are created through our senses. In the transition through puberty the timing of when to start using deodorant to cover up body odors could make our break your popularity among your peers, or your acceptance of others.  Does enjoyment over the taste of good food lead you to eat more than you intended?   We make decisions such as where to take vacation based on sensation.  What does the image of sitting at the quiet beach versus the stimulating activity of Las Vegas night life elicit as a felt experience?  How does the touch of ocean wave washing over you feet compare to walking in shoes across the carpet of the casino? How does the felt experience of the sound of the ocean waves compare to the sound of the pings of slot machines?  How does the sight or touch of winning money or seeing or hearing a live performance appeal to you versus the sight or touch of the of being in the hot sun,  and washing off sand at the end of the day?

     Our sensory perception can bring glorious times or disappointment.  The mind  engage in the external world through the senses. Do we want our mind to be at the mercy of external experiences that fluctuate between pleasure and displeasure? There is no guarantee of peace when our mind is in constant engagement with the outer world. These days the sight of a Republican or Democratic bumper sticker is enough to get people’s mind in a whirlwind of judgement and agitation. Has something you heard in conversation ever made you overreact and end up in an argument?

     Can you think of any situation in which the root of the trouble did not involve the senses? I can not. I awoke sleep deprived the other day. The night before my senses led me to binge watch Netflix way past my bedtime. I watched(sight) the drama and chuckled at some of the dialogue(sound) causing me not to stop at my allotted one episode. The sensory experience was too tantalizing.  The next day I cursed my lack of sleep and lack of willpower to turn off the program earlier.  My senses ruled and I paid the price.

     Over the past several weeks there have been posts on the first four limbs of ashtanga yoga as laid out by Patanjali in the text, The Yoga Sutras.  The fifth limb is pratyahara translated as the withdrawal of the senses.  Practices of pratyahara train the mind to move towards an inward focus that reduces the “gravitational” pull of the mind to external sensory experiences.  The practice of  pratyahara is the development of equanimity over things that usually give rise to the roller coaster of pleasures and displeasures.  Training the mind to be less engaged with external objects loosens the grip on the attraction or aversion of good or bad sensory experiences, respectively.

     Pratyahara prepares the mind for meditation where the mind can proceed to learn to be its own source peace. This will be the topic of next week's blog.




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