Not too long ago, I posted Orienting to stillness, orienting to motion, providing some options for people who are interested in exploring awareness. Today I want to share some experiences with orienting to space.
First, a little backtracking. Starting in 2010, I wrote here about the 12 states of attention (and also here), which I learned from Nelson Zink on his website Navaching (which also included instructions for night walking), which sadly he has taken down. Reading his book of stories The Structure of Delight is an experience I highly recommend. It’s like no other book you’ve encountered, and if you’re interested in acquiring wisdom from a bunch of interesting characters, you’ll enjoy it.
(If you don’t want to click the links about the 12 states, here’s a summary: We primarily use our visual, auditory, and kinesthetic senses. Our experience can be subdivided into narrow and broad. For instance, a broad auditory state would be listening to the whole orchestra playing, while a narrow auditory state would be singling out the oboe in the orchestra. These states can be further divided into external and internal. An external visual state is seeing your environment with your eyes, while an internal one is imagining or remembering something. The image below shows the 12 states.)
Although I haven’t written about the 12 states in recent years, they are embedded in my world view. I value having flexibility in what I pay attention to, how I pay attention to it, and understanding what others may be experiencing. We have natural proclivities among these states that play a big role in the work and pastimes we choose, yet some of these realms can go unexplored for much of a person’s lifetime, which is a loss, in my opinion. From bean counters to visionaries, proofreaders to poets, there’s room for all at the table, and I would presume that part of the maturing process in a fully lived life would include expanding one’s experience of more of these states.
So for today’s topic, orienting to space, I’m going to refer to the 12 states, also drawing on my training in craniosacral biodynamics and yoga, for some kinesthetic experiences in meditation.
Here are some kinesthetic narrow experiences to try when sitting quietly, uninterrupted. These are both internal and external: you will feel sensations on your skin, You may also feel these sensations inside your body and extending into the field around you.
- Bring your attention to the top of your head, your crown chakra. Keep your attention there, and you will at some point notice a sensation there. It may feel like pressure, flickering, vibrating, warmth, air moving, or something else. If you don’t feel anything, stay with it. If you still don’t, come back again and again until you do.
- Bring your attention thusly down to each chakra: third eye, throat, heart, solar plexus, umbilicus/sacrum, root. Spend some time at each chakra feeling the sensations there.
- When you reach your root chakra, imagine/feel that energy descending into the earth.
- Bring your attention back up your body, chakra by chakra. Yin moves down toward the earth, yang moves up toward heaven, and sometimes people find one direction easier than the other. What works best for you?
- When you reach your crown chakra, imagine/feel it extending above you, stretching into the cosmos.
- Sense this territory as a tube running from deep in the earth to outer space, penetrating your body vertically along your midline, with each chakra open like a jewel on a string. How does it feel to be connected to the earth and the cosmos with all your chakras open? Vibrant? Expanded? Enjoy the state.
The next experiences are to spend time in Kinesthetic Internal awareness, both Broad and Narrow:
- When sitting quietly, sooner or later your attention will be drawn to specific areas in your body experiencing discomfort, pain, tingling, energized, or a lack of sensation. Just notice and breathe. Make yourself as comfortable as you can. Be sure to notice which parts feel good!
- Body awareness is a vast realm. Using your knowledge of anatomy and imagining/feeling, you can sense your body by system: skeletal, muscular/fascial, nervous, cardiovascular, digestive, craniosacral, etc. Go slowly and just notice. Pretend like you’re remote viewing into your own body. Does your body have anything to tell you?
- You can also sense your body by region: head, neck, shoulders, arms, etc. You can sense it from your skin inwards and from your core outwards.
- You can experience each of the three major containers, lower (pelvic), middle (chest), and upper (head).
- You may notice a slow, rhythmic fluid tide moving up and down your body. This usually takes a while to experience. This is a manifestation of primary respiration in biodynamics, and giving it attention makes your system more coherent.
- One of the great koans in my life has been “whole body awareness.” See if you can sense your entire body at once! Experimenting with how to do this is fruitful. You might experience complete embodiment, being completely at home and aware inside your skin. That would be KIB. If you extend this into the space around you, you are moving into KEB.
In the 12 states, the division between internal and external is your skin. Kinesthetic external sensing is the most neglected of the 12 states for nearly all of us humans! Now you’re noticing the interface between your skin and the space or field around you:
- To move externally, sense your skin’s interface with your environment: air, clothing, furniture, floor, etc. Notice temperature, drafts, humidity, pressure, texture, gravity, and whatever else you can sense.
- Your personal field may extend anywhere from inches to several feet away from your body. Can you sense an inch away from your skin? A foot? A yard? If you are close to another person or animal, can you sense their presence? Can you sense changes in density or vibration in the field around you? Does the field around you have anything to tell you?
- Extend your awareness gradually out into the room you’re in, or if you’re outdoors, into a room-size bubble around you. Can you sense the walls, ceiling, floors, objects in the room? If outdoors, can you sense the presence of nearby trees?
- Extend your awareness outside the room or bubble. Gradually expand your awareness toward the horizon, either what you can see visually or what you can imagine. Notice if there is a shift in how you experience yourself when imagining/feeling yourself at the center of a 360-degree circle of horizon. Do you feel more or less grounded? Can you sense a wind, a tide, a very slow rhythm? Another manifestation of primary respiration.
- Keep extending your awareness more broadly toward our planet, solar system, galaxy, as far as you want to go.
The experience of living suspended in fields, personal and vast, is a huge paradigm shift for all of us.
Warning: This practice can lead to deeper body awareness, inner peace, and experiences of oneness and connection to others and the planet.