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The sense of touch and meditation

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

One thing I have noticed in meditation is that I often come back to the sense of touch. For example when I think of the mind, my awareness often goes to my head and tries to “touch what is inside my skull”. Which makes little sense because you cannot touch “that which generates thoughts”.

Similarly when I close my eyes, in meditation I often come back to the sensation around my bum, where there are often something that feels like ticks or twitches. It is an awareness of the body, but it is not directly touch on the skin. It often seems to be in an area below my bum.

Have you explored your senses in meditation? Can you keep them separate, for example noise in touch and noise in hearing seem to overlap?

Snakeskin

Comments

  • personperson Where is my mind? 'Merica! Veteran

    I do a similar sort of thing when I get lost in thought. I come back to the feeling of the body more than the breath. The area that seems to draw me in is sort of the shoulders and upper torso, I kind of get the sense of it like a triangle of sorts and feel the weight of it, the sense of gravity pulling it down.

    Snakeskin
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Recidivist Samsarist Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Have you explored your senses in meditation? Can you keep them separate, for example noise in touch and noise in hearing seem to overlap?

    The fact that meditation grounds us so deeply in the present moment makes it a highly synesthetic experience all around.
    I would go as far as to say that we should make it a point to hone all our senses during meditation.

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Yes, by all means hone the senses. But I think most people aren’t even aware of most of the senses that the body provides. I once did a course at an Anthroposophical society on the senses, and there they listed 14, including the sense of temperature and the sense of kinesthetics (the relative position of your joints), and they said they were discussing the virtue of including another three.

    The Buddhist lore talks about the five classical senses - sight, sound, touch, taste and smell - and even lists them as having separate “sense doors”. But there are stories in the medical literature of people experiencing sinesthesia, the blending of the senses.

    During meditation on the breath though, ones awareness tends to be focussed on the sensation of breath in the body in various places, a very light, rhythmic sensation. So I find it interesting to be drawn to the touch.

    Snakeskin
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Have you explored your senses in meditation? Can you keep them separate, for example noise in touch and noise in hearing seem to overlap?

    My meditative practices revolve around the body relative to the breath. After many years, especially when sitting, it's sometimes difficult to differentiate what's imagined about the awareness of the body and what's actually being sensed, but it's clear that whatever is imagined or visualized or felt is being fed by senses. As @Kerome pointed out, the human body has far more than just 5 of them "with the mind as a sixth" and, as @DhammaDragon suggested, I think my own meditative practices have either sharpened these senses or my awareness of them.

    "One trains thus: I shall breath in experiencing the whole body."

    There's a couple interpretations of "whole body", but I've come to experience it as a comprehensive, internal and external awareness of a breathing body, all it's parts, its blood, its organs, etc. When sitting, I spend quite a bit of time immersed in the comprehensiveness of it, inside of it, if that makes any sense.

    ShoshinlobsterDhammaDragon
  • An object of right concentration can be anything. Sending metta/healing to the body. Yep. Good plan ❤️

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited December 2017

    The thing that bothers me is that if Buddhist scripture just blindly accepted 5 senses plus the mind as sixth, what does that imply about the thoroughness of the investigation of the structures of mind? Or lists such as the skandhas? The senses are relatively easy to investigate, yet no-one in the community of monks choose to correct the lore.

    Meditation and the senses

    It does concern me a little...

    Snakeskinperson
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator
    edited December 2017

    So are the 5 senses.
    They are each like a chapter title. It gives you a general idea of what's to come, but the whole kit and caboodle takes time to read, intake, digest, process and understand.
    I think stopping at what you first perceive just limits yourself....

    The 5 senses they talk about, are not 'added to' They are expanded and embellished. They are principal, then expanded upon.
    Holding your breath isn't a 'new' sense. It's a variation.

    Sometimes, people can over-think things....

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited December 2017

    Well, according to the article I quoted if you look at the sense of balance, it has its own mechanism in the ears and it’s own pathways in the brain. It is even called “your sense of balance”, using the same word. These are unique inputs to the mind and it is hard to qualify it as a “sub class” of one of the other senses.

    And a good morning to you :) I’m just having my first coffee...

    Snakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    I had mine 2 hours ago. Oh the joys of insomnia....

    I realise the sense (ha ha ) of what you're saying; it's worth bearing in mind though that the origins of these teachings knew little, if anything, of the intricacies of the 5 senses highlighted.
    Sure, we don't stop there.
    There is wonder in everything we see. And don't see.
    But don't mistake ignorance for ignoring....
    I agree that exploring the minutiae is an expanding fascination.
    But over-thinking things can also be a hindrance.
    While we're busy meditating on the intricacies of the eustachian tube, other matters are being left aside.
    All good to ruminate. But don't get hung up on the details. Therein hides the devil...

    Snakeskin
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    The thing that bothers me is that if Buddhist scripture just blindly accepted 5 senses plus the mind as sixth, what does that imply about the thoroughness of the investigation of the structures of mind? Or lists such as the skandhas? The senses are relatively easy to investigate, yet no-one in the community of monks choose to correct the lore.

    Meditation and the senses

    It does concern me a little...

    I see where you're coming from and I guess that's why I stopped bothering with those kinds of teachings. I won't go as far as to dismiss them outright because the lesson may be lost on me for not being able to assume for the benefit of the lesson that "such and such is such and such".

    I also get what you mean with the hearing and feeling with all the vibrating going on.

    Snakeskin
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    The thing that bothers me is that if Buddhist scripture just blindly accepted 5 senses plus the mind as sixth, what does that imply about the thoroughness of the investigation of the structures of mind? Or lists such as the skandhas? The senses are relatively easy to investigate, yet no-one in the community of monks choose to correct the lore.

    Meditation and the senses

    It does concern me a little...

    I don’t worry about the missing stuff. The Buddha didn’t include cells, molecules, atoms or particles in his analysis of the body, no DNA, nothing any more esoteric than earth, water, fire and air. And those elements composing the body are merely to be experienced: earth as the quality of solidity; water as the quality of liquidy; fire as the quality of temperature; and air as the quality of movement. Each one should be experienced in itself, e.g., just solidity, nothing else. The scientific reality of solidity is density. It’s not so much that things can’t occupy the same space but densities of really tiny things. The Buddha didn't teach that. Whatever the objective reality of “earth”, though, solidity is the subjective, experiential reality the Buddha did teach as not mine, not what I am, not the self. “Which is greater, the leaves in my hand, or those in the forest?”

    person
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I spend quite a bit of time in sensory exploration, and always have. Tactile is probably strongest for me, I have a lot of memories attached to touch, for example. It's just how I've always been. I take the kids on "sensory hikes" which encourages them to connect with the natural world. But I don't have a lot of problem letting go of sensory experiences in meditation. Maybe because I spend a lot of time focusing on and exploring them it's easier to somehow draw a line. My oldest son has Asperger's/HF autism, and his sensory experience is off the charts. He's had to learn a lot of ways to mitigate that experience so he can function in the world. But it also allows him to experience things in ways most people do not.

    Snakeskinlobster
  • DhammaDragonDhammaDragon Carpe Diem Recidivist Samsarist Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    The thing that bothers me is that if Buddhist scripture just blindly accepted 5 senses plus the mind as sixth, what does that imply about the thoroughness of the investigation of the structures of mind? Or lists such as the skandhas? The senses are relatively easy to investigate, yet no-one in the community of monks choose to correct the lore.

    In fact, the senses and the structures of the mind, as integrated in the process of perception have been thoroughly investigated by the Abhidharma and Yogacara systems, @Kerome.

    Buddhaghosa's "Visuddhimaggha" and especially Vasubandhu's "Thirty Verses on Consciousness Only" are refinely complex psychological works that put Freud to shame.

    Snakeskin
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