Meditation: Refining the Senses

in What's New

The traditional design of a mandala reflects the natural harmony that exists among color, direction, and the senses. White is in the east, yellow in the south, red in the west, green in the north, and blue in the center. Seeing is associated with the east, smelling connected with the south tasting with the west, hearing with the north, and body sensing with the center.

These five faculties and their fields of interaction express our human embodiment. Our being is naturally part of a mandala, even as beginners in meditative practice. Awareness operates through the senses, each faculty expressing its own rhythm and timing, its own inner texture. By exercising these faculties we begin to develop the inner side of the senses that connects us to the ground of human being. Vast and subtle levels of the senses can be developed by advanced yogic practices based on philosophical and psychological analyses and meditative exercises.

It is not necessary, however, to embrace formal meditation before beginning to exercise the senses. Each inner sensory faculty, and each outer field, expresses a facet of being that we can enter into deeply. The distinctive textures and feeling tones of each of our senses can be touched, expanded and deepened with practice. We might look for a beautiful spot in nature where we can sit quietly, or we might prefer to take a walk.

Loosening body and mind, we first relax the muscles from the top of the body down: head, neck, shoulders, arms, chest, belly, legs, and feet. Letting physical tensions drop away, we allow the mind to be at ease as well, unoccupied, and free of psychological or philosophical analysis. 

Once completely at ease, the entire field of mind and body begins to feel more spacious. Now we can invite each sense field to join us: vibrant colors and distinct forms, rich fragrances and tastes, subtle textures of sensations, the rhythms of sounds. As the senses come alive, we connect more intimately and deeply with experience. 

For five to ten minutes, try to sustain the richness of this experience. Periodically, throughout the day, relax deeply and open the senses for a while. Over time, extend each period of relaxation until it lasts twenty or thirty minutes. As you grow familiar with inner calm, the depth of feeling tones, and the vivid presence of experience, with practice you will be able to tune to the subtle levels of the senses more easily, and find your way to this realm of richness anytime you wish.

Today, many people simply do not have the time to meditate for long periods, but we can use this informal approach to good advantage: first relaxing body and calming mind, then tuning in to the senses, expanding the experience, and then deepening the feelings. 

Mandala Gardens (1991), page 74-75