I was about to scribble a post about the importance of sensing life with our bodies rather than our minds. I decided to first pop over to a blog or two. At Songs of Unforgetting, I found a post called “When Matter Matters” about a similar subject. Synchronicity.
For the past 6 weeks I’ve been having a major love “affair”. (Hence the lack of consistent posting here.) Though I’m not in a full time relationship with anyone else, this feels like an affair because our interactions are so passionate, so intimate and intense. It’s more than a fling, but it probably won’t lead to a long term relationship. Yet I feel a strong desire to meld our bodies together and become one physical entity.
There are so many subtle sensations going on in our bodies all the time. Acknowledging them can take time, often accomplishes little except the experience itself, and can become addictive for their primary nature. Though most religions disdain sensuality for its pitfalls, the sensuous stimulation of our bodies holds incredible treasures. True, those same desires can torture us with yearning when the stimulation ceases; they can rage into our conscious thoughts until we lose both mind and body trying to obtain an unfulfillable desire. But, like any other gift, there are two sides to how it may be used.
No matter how much philosophy or spirituality you study or apply in your life, you are primarily a sensual creature. Aldous Huxley hit the nail on the head with the title to his book, “The Doors of Perception”, the five “doors” being the senses. If someone exists sans any senses, they are not living. Spirituality cannot save someone who does not exist.
Taste brings us to the joy of food, or the disaster of gluttony. Smell stimulates deep memories and emotions, and is under-rated as a tool for living fully. I can sit outside during a breezy Summer day and experience dozens of smells. It accomplishes nothing, but fills out life. Hearing brings us to music, with its fountains of meaning and feeling. As a musician I sometimes forget how much my personality has been formed by the both the tearful drama of Puccini and the crystalline intellectual structures of Bach. (and each also has the attributes of the other; Puccini has structure and Bach has drama) For me, the timbre and intonation of someone’s voice can be as subtle and beautiful as music. Sight is primary to our existence. Besides its functional uses, it allows us to connect with the beauty of gardens, the power of art, the smile on a friend’s face. Touch is another under-appreciated tool for deepening our experience of the world. Sadly, most of us are touch starved. Descriptions of any of these will never replace their direct experience.
All five senses come together through intimate connections with another person. Taste, smell, sight, hearing and touch become vivid ties between our inner and outer selves. We can literally turn inside out and become defined by our interactions with the beloved. Naturally, this is playing with fire. Passionate intimacy is very, very addictive. Lives are often ruined over this kind of love. Yet it’s value is self-evident.
To the touch-starved person, skin to skin contact is like breathing air for the first time. The fire of touch cleans the soul, brings billions of cells to passionate awakening. It shows our bodies we are not alone. Different parts of the body hold different secrets. One of my favorites is the insides of joints: behind the knee, inside the elbow joint, behind the neck, inside the thighs.
The smells of the beloveds hair and skin imprints on the brain, never to be forgotten. Yet the memory of a smell is not enough. One cannot get enough fresh doses of the lover’s pheromone concoction. Again, the present moment expands to become whole countries of sensual delicacy. The vibrations of the lover’s cooing voice may unlock layers of stress and invite one to sink deeply into the present moment. Seeing the beloveds dreamy gray eyes, tomato red lips or wisps of nearly invisible hair on the earlobes is an exploration of uncharted worlds, territories which will one day fade into oblivion, yet which now careen perfectly into this reality through our own eyes, ears, nose. The salty taste of the other’s skin is unique recipe, yours to drink to satisfaction.
The goal of many spiritual practices is to overcome desire. Desire is dangerous if uncontrolled or unbalanced in one’s life. A monk may spend his life avoiding sensual attachment; yet, that solitary monk is sensually aware of his breathing, the air on his skin, them smells of the flowers nearby. We all occasionally succumb to the excesses of the senses. Should their potentially dangerous temptations make them off limits? Or should they be used as spiritual gifts, with great care and respect? I prefer the second choice.
The secret to balance is to avoid becoming attached to the pleasures of sensual stimulation. Detachment does not mean being cold or avoiding pleasure, just accepting that all this passes. Enjoy and let it pass.