Loving Through the Senses
Loving Through the Senses
(The following is an excerpt from the free ebook, Living from the Heart by Nirmala. You can download a PDF of the entire ebook here. And sample another excerpt here)
We are filled with love when we give it away, not when we receive it from others. This truth can profoundly free you from the search for love, as anything is a worthy object of your love. Especially when you realize that love is simply awareness and space, you can freely give it to everything that appears in your experience. In this way, you are filled to overflowing with the sweet open presence of love.
It is also possible to experience this fullness of love through your physical senses. For the most part, we use our senses to take things in: We look at something to get something, such as information. We might look in our wallet to see how much money we have left. Or we look in the fridge to see what there is to eat. We listen to the radio for some entertainment or news. We feel our pocket to see if our car keys are in there.
Or we might try to get something more than information through our senses: We watch carefully to try to feel safe. We stare longingly at a photo of someone to try to be filled with love or to be satisfied by their beauty. We listen to music to try to be filled with excitement or joy. In a sense we have learned to be consumers with our senses. We try to acquire beauty, pleasure, excitement, passion, happiness, security, value and even love by ingesting these through our senses. But just as love from the outside doesn't ever fill us up or completely satisfy us, anything we try to consume with our senses isn't ultimately satisfying.
Unfortunately, the experiences we take in through our senses do satisfy a little. Looking at a beautiful woman or man does give us a little bit of pleasure, excitement, and the experience of beauty. However, such pleasure and excitement are very fleeting and never enough. This is actually an unavoidable part of the nature of life and of our Being. The truth of our Being is pure emptiness or space. So when we take in any experience, it flows into the inner emptiness of our Being and, in the process, is dissolved by that emptiness. The inward flow of experience is a flow from form to emptiness. Everything we consume with our senses and awareness returns to its original nature as formless presence.
This is why the satisfaction we get from outer experience is never enough. Trying to fill ourselves up with beauty, passion, happiness, and love from the outside is like trying to fill a leaky bucket. No matter how long you stand there with the hose pouring water into that bucket, it never fills up. No matter how many experiences of passion, beauty, and joy you consume, the inner emptiness of your Being is still totally empty. And no matter how much love or attention you receive from others, it's never enough to fill the hole in your heart. You can never get enough of what doesn't satisfy.
Because of this, our attempts to feel good by ingesting or consuming outer experiences can lead to a compulsive or an addictive attachment to outer experiences, including fun, beauty, or romance. A basic principle of psychology is that an intermittent reward is more powerfully reinforcing than a constant one. So the little taste of excitement or satisfaction we do experience from seeing a beautiful person, tasting chocolate, or traveling to Fiji can lead to a slight, or even severe, addiction to the outer experience. People can become addicted to just about anything, including scanning the crowd for a beautiful face or planning ways to maximize fun or pleasure. This can also result in avoidance of or overreaction to things we don't want to experience: We may tighten or withdraw when we see the wrinkles in our lover's face, or we may not eat the healthiest foods if we don't want to taste them.
Fortunately, there is a simple solution. It is in the outward flow of the positive qualities of our Being, including love, that we can fully experience the peace, joy, love, and beauty within us. When joy, peace, or excitement is flowing from within us, it is moving from emptiness to form. The inner emptiness of Being is the source of everything, including joy, passion, peace, strength, compassion, support, and love. So it is in the outward flow of awareness and love that we are filled with the experience of these qualities. It's in this movement from emptiness to form that these particular qualities take shape. Emptiness moves into the particular forms of love, peace, joy, and everything else with the outward flow of awareness. Surprisingly, the inner empty source never runs out. There's always more joy and love to be found in their true source.
Because of the habit of trying to consume things with our senses, instead of feeling this fullness of Being, we often feel empty, hungry, and incomplete. So we go looking, listening, and feeling for something else to satisfy us. We may compulsively look for a better lover, a better car, or a better job even when the lover, car, or job we have is actually quite wonderful. We may develop the habit in the way we watch or listen to the world of always looking for something to take in with our senses that will satisfy us. Of course, many people experience this when it comes to food. We want joy and satisfaction by tasting something, and yet we can never eat enough. Similarly, we want joy and satisfaction from seeing or hearing something of beauty, but we can never see or hear enough to satisfy. Audiophiles are forever searching for a better sounding set of speakers.
There is another way: We can give love through our senses. Instead of trying to see or take in something exciting or satisfying with our eyes, we can shower whatever is in our sight with a flow of love through our eyes. This is as easy as shifting the focus to the outward flow of awareness rather than the inward flow of sensation.
Exercise: Take a moment to look at something in your environment. Start with something neutral or something you find pleasing to the eye. Notice how you are relating inwardly to the experience of sight. Are you trying to get something from looking? Is there an evaluation of what you are looking at? Is it good enough? Is it satisfying enough right now to simply look at this object?
Now allow a fuller flow of awareness through your eyes to the object. Instead of trying to take in the object through your eyes, shower it with a fullness of loving attention through your eyes. Just for a moment, love it for no reason with your seeing. Love is ultimately acceptance and attention, so just give the object lots of attention and acceptance. Notice if you can feel a sense of love flowing out of your eyes to the object. Use your sight to give love to the object instead of to get something from it.
What is that like to feel an outward flow of love through your eyes? Don't worry if you are doing it right or if you are feeling it enough. Just notice how it shifts your experience to whatever degree it does, or just imagine a flow of love through your sense of sight to the object.
Now pick another object and, once again, allow loving awareness to flow out of your eyes to the object. Just for now, allow as much love as you can to flow through seeing to the object. Now move from object to object and shower each of them with love, just for the sake of this experiment. As you get the hang of it, you can even try it with objects you don't like or even strongly dislike. You can also try it with people and pets. Notice how some things are easier to look at this way than others, but give as much love to each thing as you can.
You can repeat this experiment with your other senses. What would it be like to shower things with love through your hearing? Your sense of touch? Your taste buds? What if the most important thing isn't how good your food tastes, but how much you love it with your mouth? We started with the sense of sight, as that sense has the greatest quality of separation or distance to it. Hearing, touch, and taste are just naturally more intimate senses, while seeing entails more of an experience of separation. However, that sense of separation can be profoundly shifted to a feeling of connectedness by giving love to things through your eyes. Here is a similar exercise for the sense of touch.
Exercise: Take a moment to touch something with your hands. Start with something neutral or something you find pleasing to touch, like a soft pillow or blanket. Notice how you are relating inwardly to the experience of touching. Are you trying to get something from the sensations in your hands? Is it satisfying enough to simply touch this object? Notice the inherent intimacy in touching something. There's no distance between you and the object you are touching. Is there really any separation right now as you touch it?
Now allow a fuller outward flow of awareness through your hands to the object. Instead of trying to take in the feel of the object, shower it with a fullness of loving attention through your hands. Just for a moment, love it for no reason with your touch. Love is ultimately acceptance and attention, so just give the object lots of attention and acceptance. Notice if you can feel a sense of love and acceptance flowing out of your hands to the object. Use your hands and the sense of touch to give love to the object instead of to get something from it.
How is it to feel an outward flow of love through your hands? Don't worry if you are doing it right or if you are feeling it enough. Just notice how it shifts your experience to whatever degree it does that, or just imagine a flow of love through your sense of touch to the object.
Now touch another object and, once again, allow loving awareness to flow out of your hands to the object. Just for now, allow as much love as you can to flow through your hands to the object. Now move from object to object and shower each of them with love, just for the sake of this experiment. As you get the hang of it, you can try this with objects you don't like to touch or even strongly dislike. You can also try it with people and pets. Notice how some things are easier to touch this way than others, but give as much love to each thing as you can.
Now include the internal sensations of your own body. In a very intimate way, you are touching everything inside of you. Your kinesthetic sense of touch includes being able to feel the joints, muscles, and even the organs of your body. Notice what happens if you give loving acceptance and attention to your arms and legs in the same way you did to the physical objects around you. Just for now, fully feel any sensation that arises in your body and directly send love and awareness to it.
Repeat the above exercise and substitute the sensation of hearing. Explore the experience of loving things through your ears. And then try it with the sense of smell and taste at your next snack or meal. Because these other senses are more intimate than the sense of sight, you may discover that it is very satisfying and rich to give love in these more immediate and intimate ways. You can also combine all your physical senses and love the totality of your present moment sensory experience:
Exercise: Take a moment to love something through one of your senses. Notice if you are trying to get something from the sensation. Now allow a fuller outward flow of awareness through your sensing to the object. Shower the object with a fullness of loving attention. Just for a moment, love it for no reason.
Now notice another sensation and allow love and acceptance to flow to another sight, sound, smell, taste, or tactile sensation. And then love another sensation and another and so on. Be sure to include the sensations of your own body, including whatever is happening inside of you and whatever you can experience of your own body through sight, listening, and touch.
How is it to feel an outward flow of love through all your senses? Don't worry if you are doing it right or if you are feeling it enough. Just notice how it shifts your experience to whatever degree it does, or just imagine a flow of love through all of your senses to your present moment experiences.
Now allow awareness and spaciousness to flow to all your sensory experience at once. Include every sensation you are having, and notice that you can love them all at the same time. The source of awareness is limitless, and you can't run out of awareness and love, so why not give as much awareness and love as you can to everything that's here right now? Don't worry if you are including everything or not. Just allow your awareness to flow out in as many directions and to as many sensations as you can. What is it like to just love the totality of your sensations?
LOVING BEYOND THE SENSES
You can include more subtle sensations if you experience these, but being able to experience subtle energies and dimensions isn't necessary to experiencing the fullness of love. Thoughts, emotions, and desires are also a more subtle level of experience than physical sensations.
Exercise: Take a moment to love something through one of your senses. Now allow a fuller outward flow of awareness through your sensing to the object. Shower it with a fullness of loving attention. Notice another sensation and allow love and acceptance to flow to another sight, sound, smell, taste, or tactile sensation. Then love another sensation and another and so on. Allow awareness and spaciousness to flow out of all your senses at once. Include every physical sensation you are having, and notice that you can love them all at the same time.
Now notice any thoughts or emotions that are arising, and allow this same loving attention to flow to them as well. If a strong desire or longing arises, include it in the total flow of open awareness. And if you sense any energy or presence in the room, love it for no reason as well. Don't be concerned if you don't sense anything beyond the physical, as it really doesn't matter. Just love whatever you are experiencing in this moment. It is satisfying to love anything and everything, so why leave anything that is here right now out of this abundant flow of sensing and awareness? What is it like to include everything in your loving flow of awareness?
You can even love whatever you are not experiencing in this moment. You can love through your physical senses, through pure awareness, and through sensing existence itself. In this way, you can love the entire universe and beyond. It is rich to love what's here in your direct experience, and you can also simultaneously love what lies beyond your immediate sensory experience. Just send love to everything even if you can't see it or feel it. What is it like to simply give more and more love?
There is one more place you can send love, and that is to all time:
Exercise: Love whatever you are experiencing in this moment. Include everything in your loving flow of awareness: everything you can see, hear, touch, feel, and everything you can't. Let love flow to the infinite reaches of space throughout the universe and beyond.
You can also send love through this present moment in time to every other moment in time. Start by loving the exquisite immediacy of the experience you are having in this moment, and then send love to every memory or thought about the future that arises in the immediacy of this present moment. Now also send love to the past and future, to the endless array of intensely immediate "nows" that have ever appeared and that will ever appear. Don't worry if you are doing it right. Just send love, and let the love find its own way to the past and future. Notice what it's like to love the entire flow of time. Include as much of eternity as you can.
Notice what your experience of the present moment is like when you allow limitless love and acceptance to flow out of this moment to every other moment in time. Does loving all the moments of your life and beyond limit or restrict your experience of this moment? Or does loving all of time allow you to even more fully experience and love the precious uniqueness of this very instant? Paradoxically, loving all time can bring us into even more intimate contact with the present moment.
You don't need to pick and choose what to love. Anything will do, from a dryness in your mouth, to the feel of a dog's fur, to the sound of the wind, to the mystery of thought, to the infinity of space itself, or even to a direct mystical sensing of something beyond your normal senses, such as the infinite expanse of time itself.
The wonderful thing about being filled with love and joy from showering simple awareness and love on whatever appears in our experience is that it frees us from having to find or get the right experiences or from having to avoid the wrong ones. If you can be filled to overflowing with the sweetness of love by looking at a plastic wastebasket in this way, consider how that might affect your Saturday night dates! While you don't have to marry the first person you shower with love through your eyes, you may discover that physical appearance isn't as important to love and romance as you thought. Similarly, it might not matter as much as you thought what song is playing on the radio, what is being served for dinner, whether you are having an expanded or contracted experience, whether you are suffering or not, or what is happening period. If everything is a potential object for this limitless flow of love, then you can just relax and love whatever is in front of you or whatever is happening right now.
LOVE REVEALS INNER BEAUTY
There is an even more surprising discovery you may make: When you shower something with love, it reveals its inner beauty. Just as a black light reveals the fluorescence in a poster from the sixties, the love in your awareness can reveal the beauty, value, wonder, and intrinsic worth and perfection that is in everything. The secret to experiencing more perfection in the world isn't to create a flawless life full of exquisite objects of art, beautiful lovers, delicious food, and exclusively pleasurable experiences, but to shower every object, every person, and every experience with the inner fullness of love until its inner beauty shines with a profound radiance. You can do this in a fantastic mansion or at the local garbage dump. You can do this with a beautiful movie star or with the grouchy old man who lives on your street.
You can also do this with your own body and personality. This love that flows through your senses is actually what you are. The body and personality that you experience yourself as are really just more objects to love. All the reactions, thoughts, desires, and inner sensations that arise within you are simply more things to love. They are as beautiful as everything else.
There is also intense and vast beauty, perfection, and wonder within the larger dimensions of your Being. Empty space reveals a glorious texture, fullness, and softness beyond the softest thing in the universe when you love it fully and without reservation. Time becomes an infinite playground of possibility and creation when you love it with all your heart. Presence and all the qualities of your being, including love, peace, joy, clarity, and strength are the most delicious flavors you can imagine when you just love them with all your senses and with awareness itself.
Don't take my word for any of this. Find out for yourself what happens when you love for no reason, especially if you include anything and everything. Love is for giving and giving, and then giving some more.
BEYOND THE EXPERIENCE OF LOVE
Beyond the possibility of experiencing more and more love in your Heart, is the even richer discovery that love is what you are, and what you have always been. This open flow of awareness is what you are made of. It is your true nature. When you are experiencing more love, you are experiencing more of your true self.
The recognition that love is your essence, your nature, allows an ultimate sense of fullness that isn't dependent even on experiencing love. If love is what you are, then it doesn't matter if you are experiencing it right now or not. If for a moment you don't experience your shoulders, do you lose your shoulders? No, they are part of you and are always here, whether you are noticing them or not. This is not to say that it doesn't matter whether you experience the complete potential for love that exists within you. However, once you have discovered and repeatedly experienced the truly limitless nature of the love that you are, it doesn't matter whether you are experiencing that right now or not because you know that that infinite potential is still who you are and who you will always be.
While it's rich to explore and discover the limitless capacity of your Heart to love, and then love some more, you can also simply rest here as love itself. Love at rest is still love. When love is resting as the pure potential for love, it is just another dimension of its accepting and allowing nature.
Love is not just a part of you; it's the nature, or essence, of every part of you. The capacity for open, spacious awareness is always here, even if you are using only a very small portion of this capacity. All of the exercises and prescriptions in this book are actually descriptions of what has always been true. No matter how much or how little love is flowing in this moment, love is still always here. It's who you are and who you have always been.
Every moment of your entire life has been an experience of the flow of awareness and love to something. Even when love isn't being experienced, there isn't any less love; there is just less of the outward flow or expression. The source is still here in all its glory. Love is not only for giving, it is what you are.
The above is an excerpt from the book, Living from the Heart by Advaita spiritual teacher, Nirmala. Use the following links to further sample or purchase this book:
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