Orienting to space

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.) Continue reading

Developing attentional flexibility: the 12 states of attention

I just took four more days of training in biodynamic craniosacral therapy, and what I learned about practicing it has made me want to revisit the 12 states of attention.

Attentional flexibility is a skill that has many uses. Here’s an example: Someone has a chronic pain in their left leg, sciatica. Let’s say the person is seeking professional help in the field of alternative medicine and doesn’t want to take painkillers or see surgery as a solution, but meanwhile, there’s the pain, which can be wearisome, frustrating, and debilitating.

What if the person could transform the pain felt specifically in the left leg by diffusing it all over their body, so there was less pain spread more widely?

What if the person could then move the pain out to the skin, and then outside of their body?

What if the person could find a place on their body that was not feeling any pain and focus their attention fully on that place? What would happen to the pain?

What if the pain had a color or sound, and it changed to a healing color or sound?

These are examples of attentional flexibility, which can be a useful skill not only in managing pain, but also for dealing with any kind of state that we’d rather not be experiencing – depressive thoughts, negative self-talk, any kind of “stuckness”.

Attentional flexibility may not be a “permanent” solution to some problems, but it can create a sense of spaciousness around problems, provide options, and allow one to have a broader experience of life.

In biodynamic craniosacral therapy, a practitioner can use attentional flexibility to bring attention to his/her own body and specific sensations of biological and energetic processes, to his/her connection with the client, to the client’s processes, to the unit of client/practitioner, to the space inside the room, out to the horizon and beyond, to intuitive thoughts that arise, and more.

Attentional flexibility can be learned by practicing the 12 states of attention. For more, read my original post on the 12 states from October 2010.

Lovely sweet rain, a morning meditation, and MONEY!

I am adoring my experience of a lengthy, soaking RAIN here in drought-stricken Austin, Texas — off and on yesterday, seemingly all night, and most of this Sunday morning. I’m guessing maybe two inches of precious rain has fallen. Feels like such a blessing.

We (people, air, plants, wildlife, soil, streams, lakes, roads) need this so badly. There are cracks an inch wide in the soil under my trailer and under the dead grass. The only green grass around is under trees that got watered in an effort to keep them alive, and around the new trees I planted starting in late August. They’re drinking it up.

I love being inside my trailer in the rain. The sound of rain on the roof is divine.

And it’s Sunday. Sleeping in (well, to 8 am) to the sound of rain feels wonderfully precious. I’m undecided whether to go out to ecstatic dance, the farmer’s market, the Austin Yoga Festival, or to stay blissfully inside on this wet fall day — I have reading to catch up on, videos to watch, a cat to play with, food to cook, or maybe I’ll mix it up spontaneously.

~~

I just did a 35-minute meditation session. When my attention was focused, it went to body awareness and to hearing. My body awareness has deepened since I started massage school in June, of course. Understanding my hands as antennas, feeling layers of tissues down to the bone, and experiencing others touching me with various levels of connection, compassion, and presence have been quite an education.

Hearing while on the cushion a mockingbird and other birds, rain noises, traffic on wet pavement, my cat rustling in a cabinet, I notice I’m accustomed to picking out single sounds. It’s a nice stretch to take it all in, and like a symphony, to go back and forth between individual sounds and the whole cacophony, like zooming in and out with a camera, only with my sense of hearing. That reminds me, I’m leading my adventurous Fourth Way book group through the 12 states of attention on Tuesday.

~~

Yesterday I was fortunate enough to be able to attend a workshop, Metaphors of Money, taught by Charles Faulkner, an NLP trainer, trader, writer, and researcher. Given that metaphors, conscious and unconscious, underlie our experience (the map is not the territory; a map is a metaphor for metaphors), we examined our metaphors around money.

I personify money. I like it, and I want it to like me. I know money likes me when people write checks out to me and give/mail them to me or hand me cash! Also, when I look at my bank balance and it feels good, I know money likes me. When it doesn’t feel good, I feel pressed, and I take steps to bring more in.

I noticed that as the workshop progressed, every time I heard the word “money,” its visual representation in my mind (cash, dollar sign, checks, bank balance) looked brighter and more vivid. By the end, “money” was glowing with white light!

If this workshop is offered again, you can find out by subscribing to NLP Resources Austin‘s email list. (You don’t have to be trained in NLP to participate.) They have a lot of other cool stuff coming up too.

Insight into internal and external awareness

Tricycle magazine’s Daily Dharma quote (see below) addresses the nature of reality.

It all comes from the mind.

I’ve been interested in the mind and how to use it for a long time. Learning about the 12 states of attention (taught by Nelson Zink) helped me recognize how habitual we often are in how we use our minds — and how we can regain access to neglected states.

One of the characteristics of every state of attention is whether it is internal or external. Some people are more externally focused, while others attend more to their internal experiences. Internal/external are metaprogram sorts in NLP and pertain to Enneagram types as well.

One of the directions to wholeness is to seek more experience with the awareness that you use less often. When an externally referenced person begins to notice more of her/his internal experience, it can be mind-blowing!

Notice how often your mind attends to external matters and how often it attends to your actual experience. Are you more internally or externally referenced?

Tibetan Buddhism weighs in on these states:

The Root of Everything

The mind is the root of everything. In the Tibetan teachings, it is called kun je gyalpo, “the king who is responsible for everything,” or in modern translation, “the universal ordering principle.” Mind is the creator of happiness and the creator of suffering, the creator of what we call samsara and the creator of what we call nirvana. As Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche used to say, “Samsara is mind turned outwardly, lost in its projections; nirvana is mind turned inwardly, recognizing its nature.”

-Sogyal Rinpoche, “A Mind Like a Clear Pool”

Yes, nothing exists outside awareness. Therefore, the mind is the root of everything.

Wikipedia says samsara is “the continuous but random drift of passions, desires, emotions, and experiences.” In other words, suffering.

Nirvana, on the other hand, is said to be beyond suffering, the mind free of attachment.

These are new connections for me today. Thank you for that, Tricycle!

12 states of attention

My most recent post, Refining Awareness, includes some instructions about using your vision to focus down to the pixel level, and then to open your vision and let everything come into your field of vision.

These activities are actually based on a set of exercises called the 12 states of attention that I learned about and practiced and presented on, so that now I seem to have internalized them enough that I don’t consciously think about it.

The three main senses we use are seeing, hearing, and feeling, or visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. NLP 101.

Each of these senses can be experienced externally and internally. For example, I can see the computer in front of me, and I can close my eyes and remember the image or imagine the computer morphing into a piano. That’s Visual External and Visual Internal (remembered and constructed).

You can further expand your sensory acuity by practicing using each sense as broadly and as narrowly as possible. Hence, look at a pixel, then let everything come in. Those states are Visual External Narrow (VEN) and Visual External Broad (VEB).

You can do this with hearing as well. You can focus on one sound in your environment (or in your memory or imagination), and you can focus on all the sounds.

A man I’ve never met but who has been a teacher for me came up with the 12 states of attention. His name is Nelson Zink, and he’s got a pretty amazing website, Navaching. Click here to read about the 12 states of attention. He’s got a lot to say and says it well. (And check out his other pages. It’s pretty fascinating. I also do nightwalking. And read his book, The Structure of Delight.)

The point is that through our conditioning, most of us come to favor some states and neglect others. If you enjoy having more resources, you can practice these states and gain awareness skills. You never have to be bored again, and you will reach more of your potential!

So when I meditate and do a body scan, I may bring to awareness my skin, starting with my head and slowly going down my body to my foot, bringing each area into awareness (Kinesthetic External Narrow).

Or I may attend to how my head, chest, and belly feel (Kinesthetic Internal Somewhere-Between-Narrow-and-Broad).

When I sit and practice whole body awareness, I am using the Kinesthetic Internal/External Broad state of attention.

(The convention is that the skin is the boundary between external and internal for the kinesthetic sense. But because my energy body radiates through my skin, my skin isn’t really a boundary, so I’m sensing internally and externally at the same time.)

The kinesthetic sense may actually be a lot of senses, including balance, knowing where my foot is in space, temperature, tactile, muscular, and so on. Emotions are usually classified as kinesthetic as well, since we feel them in the body.

Anyway.

Wisdom is a broad state, no matter whether we’re seeing the big picture, hearing the cosmic OM, or feeling connected to the Source. Big Mind is a broad state, and that’s a skill gained from meditation.

Check out Zink’s website and practice the exercises given, if you like. It will bring you gifts of knowing yourself and experiencing more of your full potential.