Dominant Sensing

Dominant Sensing

Over the years, I’ve written about our Dominant Sense, the sense that dominates our way of relating to the world and our typical style of spiritual experiences.

I’ve also written how we actually have 7 primary senses and explored the origin of our sensing.

park sunset
Photo by WisDoc

Reading this blog, you may have noticed that the author is visual. I often have visual experiences and use visual language like “lit up” or “seeing” to describe knowing.
Visual people are more mind-oriented and conceptual because sight and mind are driven by the same energy, the gut chakra. Visual experiences may seem fancier and can be easier to describe because it’s the mind that gives us words. But they’re also more prone to entangle or distract us and sit furthest of the main three from source.
People who are more touch-oriented are often more feelings-oriented as both associate with the heart. But this is more subtle and less definable by words. Yet it’s also closer to source and more universal. For those oriented this way, where I say see, use feel. (laughs)

Those more hearing-oriented are closest to source as it is sound (heard vibration) that is the first expression. This is why mantra is very effective for bringing us close to pure consciousness. Because of hearings association with the throat chakra, there may be a facility for giving expression to the experiences. Yet this may come through song, poetry, or abstract expression rather than conceptual words. Where I say see, use hear.
Of course, all of this is a broad generalization. None of us are reserved to one box and we all share these senses and energies.
Further, they can come together. Synesthesia is an involuntary crossover of the senses. We hear colours or smell sounds, for example. Yet, closer to the source, the senses merge.

Inner light can become sound on fire. Subtle touch can be filled with vibratory information and light. Qualities of personality are a fragrance. The world can come to be seen as a song on fire, lit up with information and feelings.

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  1. Jerry Freeman

    Hi, David.

    Great post. It’s something I’ve thought about a lot.

    As you say, the visual sense can be more impressive, “flashier,” which leads many to value subtle visual experiences as more significant or “higher” than experiences that are felt, rather than seen.

    I’ve observed people (literally) claiming because they’ve seen angels or devatas or subtle bodies or the structure of creation, they should be taken more seriously when they talk about enlightenment or the nature of consciousness. That, frankly dangerous, attitude can happen when the residue of ahamkara (the ego sense) itself clings to and claims the experiences of higher states of consciousness.

    The Yoga Sutra mentions this: “When the celestial beings beckon, we should not respond with pleasure or pride, because this will obstruct progress, and it is always possible to fall.”

    The capacity for profound empathy, for sensing deeply and in detail what other beings are experiencing, is not flashy. It’s a “heart” process that tends to keep quiet about itself. Because it orients toward others, it is less prone to being hijacked by ego than more object-based, sensory experiences may be, although ego sometimes does get entangled here, too.

    You wrote: “Visual experiences may seem fancier and can be easier to describe because it’s the mind that gives us words. But they’re also more prone to entangle or distract us and sit furthest of the main three from source.”

    I make flutes (Irish whistles) for a living.

    A whistle will play two octaves. Depending on how you set up the instrument, it will favor the lower notes or the higher notes, or it may be balanced more in the middle. You can set them up with different voicings depending on how you manage the balance between high and low response.

    But here’s the thing.

    If you move the voicing too far to favor the high notes, the lowest notes will not play. If you move the voicing too far to favor the low notes, the highest notes will not play.

    The way we experience subtle levels of reality is like that.

    It seems, for each person there will be a range of subtle experience. For some, that will tend to be more in the direction of SEEING. For others, it will tend to be more in the direction of FEELING. No one, it seems, covers the total spectrum of possible subtle experience. No one is without blind zones, though there have been some with impressively broad and profound comprehension. (This is why, btw, there’s no such thing as a perfect guru.)

    I’ve observed, people can be highly sensitive to the things that fall into their particular range of subtle perception but completely miss something that does not. For example, someone who is more geared toward subtle sensory experience may fail to pick up some levels of subtle feeling in others. Those subtle feeling perceptions may be accessible to someone more directly attuned to them but who doesn’t happen to see angels.

    It’s important not to rate one range of subtle perception as “better” or “higher” than another.

    One may assume, “Now I’m sensing everything” because a range of perception has opened up that was not experienced before. (No, you are not sensing everything.) One may assume “That person is a reliable guide because s/he perceives levels I don’t.” (That person may or may not be a reliable guide.)

    There may be a sense, btw, “My experience is all-inclusive. Nothing is left out.” That is valid. But it is important to understand, not every DETAIL will be picked up by the senses and feelings, even when the broad umbrella of experience leaves nothing out.

    That is because the machinery of perception, each individual human nervous system, is geared to receive a particular, individual and unique spectrum of frequencies. And it is geared to process them through its own particular, individual and unique setup of mind, intellect and feeling.

    Each individual is a perfect and unique reflection of the totality. No one is “better” or “higher” than another.

    1. Excellent observations, Jerry. Thanks for sharing.

      I agree on the experiencers. I began having big visual experiences back in the 70’s. The TMO instructed me to never talk about them. I didn’t consider that very supportive at the time but it did keep me out of a lot of trouble. It kept the process inner until it matured more.

      I’ve seen people have a big experience, think thats what enlightenment is, then become identified with it, trying to get it back again. An experience is always just content. It’s not source. We always have to let them go to go further.

      And yes, we’re all tuned a bit differently. There isn’t time to cover even everything within our range. Nor do we have the capacity to do it all at once. This reminds me of the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 11, where Krishna shows Arjuna his whole form. Arjuna is overwhelmed.

      I have found that collective activity in a group of the awake does create a wholeness not possible individually. But such groups are temporary as yet.

      And yes, I very much agree. Good experiences don’t a teacher make. Teaching is a skill only some have.

      And your observations also point to why there’s a lot of us. Each of us has a gift to offer in their own way of knowing wholeness. By adding our part, all of it is enriched.

      Thanks again!

  2. Uli

    “People who are more touch-oriented are often more feelings-oriented as both associate with the heart. But this is more subtle and less definable by words. Yet it’s also closer to source and more universal.”
    …so, inhabiting more the physical body (such as in Judith Blackstone’s approach) is a stronger way to bring us to the source…that is my experience each time I go deeper into the physical body, a strong being present and bliss…your thoughts….?

    1. Right Uli, if that’s your dominant mode. If it’s not, it may just feel dulling as the attention is on our inertia, what keeps us physical.

      Being in the body is also part of grounding though so will also be beneficial for people absorbed in the higher chakras. But in this case, it’s more about light activity, effortless asana, etc.

      We’re all built a bit differently, so it can take a little observation and experimentation to find the right mix. And then that may shift as we do.

      1. Uli

        I don’t know, David.
        Why then the exercises of Gurjieff for developing body awareness..(and many other traditions, including the spiritual roots of the West in the ancient Greek tradition, as documented by Peter Kingsley)?

        “A tomb. A garment, to be discarded at death. An obstacle to the awakening process. A place of bondage.

        These are but a sampling of ways in which the human body has been viewed in almost all of the spiritual traditions. One of the more classic expressions of this view can be found in the mantra-like words: “I am not this body.”

        It is an utterance that, curiously, is neither true nor false. Rather it is irrelevant to whatever purpose or function this brief sojourn on earth is destined to serve. In a strange way the words also betray a disdain of this physical being; a disdain that almost borders on spiritual hubris in that it views as virtually worthless this awesome creation. We would do well to ponder the implications of this perception since at an unconscious level it has profoundly influenced our attitude towards the physical body.

        Once again then, we find that even with such subtle techniques as “listening to the body,” or “following the breath,” or coming to a more “global sensation” of the body, that the implementation of these techniques is undertaken by permission of the mind. And oddly enough, this continues to escape our notice. It is the mind that still holds the baton.

        Very rarely do we come upon a truly reciprocal relation, in which there is a sharing of awareness between body and mind—as co-partners. Yet it is precisely this state of rapport with our earthly companion, that provides an indispensable foundation for the real work of self-study and self-awakening. And as we become more practiced in this way of relating to the body, something interesting occurs. We find that the living presence of this being begins to make itself known to us through its emanations—which we experience as sensation or sensory awareness—and that this enables us to partake of the body’s own field of awareness. Not as object to the mind, but as subject within its own sphere of influence and awareness.

        We realize then that we are no longer associated with a “body.” Rather, that we are in the presence of a living being, a being with whom we share the journey towards spiritual awakening.

        What is extraordinary about this way of approaching the body is that the experience of it seems so natural. It is also pragmatic in that it has the effect of freeing the attention from its usual deep identification with the tensions (and thus from the physical, mental and emotional habits that are supported by these tensions).

        We discover then that this dynamic state of rapport with our living partner grounds us; it grounds our work. Instead of dreaming of the work of spiritual transformation, we live the work. And because we are thus grounded, we become thereby more receptive to the help from above that is always available to transform us—whenever the inner conditions allow this lawfully to take place.” (Don Hoyt, Views from the Real World: Early Talks of Gurdjieff)
        “This bottom-up somatic approach to the meditative process throws into bold relief the way in which conventional, top-down approaches are too often little more than mental projections—in Trungpa Rinpoche’s language, mental gymnastics. In the direct, non-conceptual approach of Somatic Meditation, the practitioner is able to meet his or her own experience in a direct, naked, and totally accessible way. Importantly, it is only this kind of unmediated experience that brings about lasting transformation. In Somatic Meditation, then, we realize that the ultimate meditative state is not found outside, above, or in some other place; it is discovered as the most essential and profound reality of this very human body of ours, just waiting for us to awaken to it.” (Reginald Ray, Somatic Meditation)

        1. Well – this is a huge topic. For example, in the Vedic approach to meditation, body awareness is used when processing major releases to help facilitate them. Asana is also used, but as a preparation for effortless meditation.

          However, a long term practice of body awareness is considered dulling. Benson’s Relaxation Response would be a good example. Based on 70’s research on TM, he developed a relaxation technique that generated some of the same physiological results. However it brought none of the long term benefits of a more suitable technique.

          Your Ray quote dismisses mental techniques as mental gymnastics. But are all meditations equal? What are the long term effects? Awakening to the body or awakening to cosmic being? Is the teacher surrounded by awake people?

          For someone who is more somatic, body-oriented techniques are beneficial but all techniques are not created equal. Does it awaken the body or just relax it? Relaxing is beneficial, to a point. But what is the result?

          “I am not this body” is a perfectly valid experience of the process of disentangling from identification with the body-mind. But I’d suggest it be seen as a symptom but not as a goal. Too many experiences have been turned into practices and philosophy, missing the source of it all.

          Gurjieff is a fascinating character. But he’s someone who woke up not knowing how he got there. How many students did he wake up? One of his students said that on his death bed, he referred people to Maharishi.

          Sure, there are examples of teachers with a somatic approach. And there are others who favour a devotional approach. But to me, the ideal is a form of Raja Yoga, the royal road, the direct path to source. And then you tune that for your own proclivities and requirements.

          That’s what works in my experience.

          1. Uli

            What is interesting for me is that Don Hoyt points to the attitude of disdain towards the body and the physical manifestation that has afflicted virtually most of the (patriarchal) spiritual traditions. “The body itself is a disease”, the statement by Ramana Maharshi being a extreme example of that.

            Relaxation is not meditation, as you well know, so Benson’s experiment is not a good example.

            The scholarly/mystical work of Peter Kingsley points to the meditation techniques (incubation,lying down for hours, incorporated into Sufi practice and considered as the most advanced meditation) of the ancient Greeks (received by Pythagoras in a ritual transmission from a Mongolian initiate) as going deep into all the senses – choiceless awareness – to reach the Source. A shortcut, if you will.
            I wasn’t aware at all of this western tradition when I was adolescent and out of despair, immersed myself in long hours – through many weeks – of sensory awareness -; yes, sometimes I fell asleep 🙂

            But I reached a point where out my still body began to move spontaneously (graciously, not release kriyas…exactly like the classical imagery of dancing Sahkti over still Shiva); where I experienced everything in the room with closed eyes as it was right “here”, with incredible intimacy (spaceless awareness); feeling overwhelmed as if I was crushed by a giant stone; and then a strange spinning while being physically still (this last experience, according to Kingsley in his book “The Dark Places of Wisdom”, the beginning of samadhi).

            So, this works in my experience.

            I have the feeling that this collective awakening that you describe so beautifully is going to be a re-discovery of this other way of waking up, really inclusive and holistic, where everything re-members itself as love-consciousness-sacred vibration, everything is divinity, including matter. Time will tell…

            1. Hi Uli
              I’m not talking about disdain for the body. That’s kind of an extreme take on renunciate approaches. The body is our means of living enlightenment. It’s very precious.

              However, the key to awakening is connecting to source aka transcending or samadhi. Pure samadhi is without content, it is just empty awareness (at first). If you’re not connecting to source by whatever means, then you’re not supporting source waking up through this form. It’s simple.

              A friend mentioned a source listing 108 ways to transcend recently.

              I recommend effortless meditation as it fast. Generally, you transcend within a couple of minutes and repeatedly. I’ve never heard people talking about spinning in samadhi but that may vary by technique. I have heard creation described as rising in a spiral so that may be related – moving down the spiral.

              But yes, people will wake up through many ways as the whole environment starts to wake up. And once awake, everything else begins to wake up too.

              1. Uli

                it’s a paradoxical experience: one is extremely still – physically- but at the same time one feels a inner spinning, so quick as to create an appearance of stillness, like a gyroscope (an apt metaphor brought by Jiddu Krishnamurti).

                A quote from Kingsley’s “In The Dark Places of Wisdom (whose work, as a reference, is praised by Adyashanti and Eckhart Tolle, among others):

                “Ancient Greek accounts of incubation repeatedly mention certain signs that mark the point of entry into another world: into another state of awareness that’s neither waking nor sleep. One of the signs is that you become aware of a rapid spinning movement. Another is that you hear the powerful vibration produced by a piping, whistling, hissing sound.
                In India exactly the same signs are described as the prelude to entering samādhi, the state beyond sleep and waking.”

                1. Curious. The experience here and in people I know list symptoms like deep silence and peace, breath stoppage, a wave of bliss, bright light, lively presence, and so forth.

                  Some do hear the pranava in various ways. Same level as the bliss. And we may feel the body itself vibrate but I’ve not seen spinning.

                  Again probably related to technique. Personally, I’m used to becoming more and more settled, not spinning. (laughs)

          2. Uli

            How was that that Lorne said..?, “being the Now”… 😉

            “Because the body never moves out of the present moment, the fact of the body is the ground from which we can travel into thought or into the world and yet still return to ourselves. It is the doorway through which we can experience larger, more expanded states of consciousness that are the source of the vision, inspiration and revelation that guides us through our lives.”

            Gary Sherman, Perceptual Integration: The Mechanics of Awakening

            1. Hi Uli
              I agree with the opening part of the quote but not the rest. The body resides in the present and the mind takes us off into the past and future.

              The body is our platform for being in the world but our overall makeup is many-layered. It is the overall structure and its refinement and integration that lead to expanded states and revelation.

              For example, without the life-force, our body turns to mush. Without the mind, our senses are severely hampered.

              So yes, the body is part of the picture and for some, it will be a more prominent means of letting go. Any aspect of our experience can be used to go beyond experience. In the majority of cases, we have to discover who we are beyond experience to wake up. Then we can bring that forward into all the layers.

              So if the technique takes you beyond, perfect. Yoga focuses more on getting beyond the mind as that’s the bigger obstacle compared to the body.

  3. Joseph

    Hi David, are you familiar with the Nad or Nada sound that can supposedly be heard constantly? I’ve heard different interpretations on what this means, some call it divine music, others (such as Edward Salim Michael) describe it as a shrill “ultra” sound, similar to wind or ocean waves.

    Perhaps this would be strongest in those that have dominant hearing.

    1. Hi Joseph
      Nada can refer to an “unstruck” sound, ie: a sound that has no physical origin. I generally refer to this as the primordial sound here, the sound of becoming. The first level of things taking form is a fine vibration. That can be heard as a sound.

      How that is heard depends on from where we are hearing it. It may be heard as a deep rumbling, as a high pitched tone, as a vibration in the body, as the sound Aum, and so forth.

      Hearing music is a bit different as music is differentiated from a single tone that contains all of it.

      People who do hear it all the time generally want it to stop as it can be annoying or drown out other sounds. It typically fades if you move your attention elsewhere.

      Some techniques are focused on it but I suggest you use sound to go beyond this as well. It’s still in the field of action and the gunas.

      Those more hearing oriented may be more inclined but because this is fundamental, it can be seen, felt, etc as well. Thus, someone visual may see it first or they may hear then see it. There’s a lot of individual variation on this principle.

        1. Hi G
          Yes, and more fundamentally as an ocean of coloured waves. Those are the gunas beginning to interact.

          Note that auras and flowing colours are on a more expressed level where qualities have differentiated. Becoming is a constancy which spreads out into detail as it progresses.

      1. Joseph

        Very interesting how you mention that the sound of the nada will be different depending on where we are hearing it. Personally I hear a high pitched tone. If I put on noise blocking earmuffs I can hear it extremely clearly.

        Do you think this sound could be used in the same way as a mantra in TM style meditation, to go beyond? I suppose it doesn’t have the benefit of keeping the mind occupied, like a mantra, which may make it less effective.

        1. Hi Joseph

          Just as a broader point, a high pitched tone can be the result of ear damage or of purification and healing in the ear. But as a primordial sound, it contains a great deal of information. Some people can “zoom in” on it and browse the data.

          I’ve heard it a number of ways over the years.

          Some do use it as a technique. There was a somewhat notorious fake version of hearing this that was taught some decades ago. But the idea of a true meditation is samadhi, to take you beyond all content of experience into source. That’s where the real benefits come from.

          Here I see it as an interesting experience that teaches us a bit about the world but that’s about it.

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