Sensory Doorways to Nonordinary Reality, #2

Part 2:  Awakening by (re)opening the senses

Every animal has a dominant sense, a sense that has been developed to a high level in order to help it survive. Often you can identify the dominant sense just by looking at the animal. Which of its sensory organs is largest? In these exercises you use the names of animals to remind you to use your senses as they do.

The exercises are best done in nature, somewhere you feel safe and not self-conscious. A beach, a park, the bush, and your lawn are all good places.

One: Get present

Relax into the place, into this particular spot. Check in with yourself. Notice your own internal state. How does it feel to be here? Breathe. Become aware of your breath and the exchange you make with the plants, taking in oxygen and giving back carbon dioxide. Allow yourself to feel gratitude for this mutual gifting with all of the green ones.

If you feel hurried or have a need to get on with something, go home. This won’t work if you’re stuck in that state of mind.

Two: See with the eyes of an owl

After a few minutes, shift your awareness to your vision. Use your eyes to observe nature fully. No thinking, no interpretation, only seeing. To soften your vision and notice what’s in your peripheral vision, try this: look at a spot ahead of you in the distance while holding your arms straight out to your sides and wiggling your fingertips. Don’t turn your head or eyes. Notice your wiggling fingertips on both sides at the same time.

Now move your arms back and forth to see when your fingertips disappear. For most people the field of view is close to 180 degrees – half a circle. Does that surprise you?

Then, drop your arms while maintaining your owl vision. First, notice what is moving. When you are fully open in owl eyes, you will first notice moving things like people, leaves, birds, waves, and all the other things that attract your everyday attention. You will also notice more subtle motions, the movement that your brain screens out before it reaches ordinary consciousness. For example, you don’t pay attention to moving shadows or reflections because they don’t have much meaning; they are neither a potential threat nor a potential benefit. Seeing moving shadows or reflections is a good sign that you’re in owl eyes and aren’t screening anything out.

Now expand your owl eye awareness and take in more of your surroundings. Notice shapes and the contours of the landscape. Notice the richness of all the colors around you and how they blend into the landscape. Focus on something for a moment, then go back to owl eyes.

With a little practice, you will quickly develop the ability to move from focused vision to owl eyes effortlessly. This process occurs entirely in your brain – there are no changes at all in the eye itself. Try using owl eyes when you’re walking, or talking to someone, or sitting in a busy place, and notice how it feels different.

Three: Hear with the ears of a deer

Next, expand your sense of hearing. You may want to close your eyes so you can focus better on listening – we humans take in 90% of our information through our eyes. Relax and open your hearing. Listen for the “big” sounds first. Notice which directions they come from and what you know immediately when you hear them, such as who or what is making the sounds and what they tell you about your surroundings. Are the sounds human or non-human? Do you find them relaxing or do they created tension in you?

Now, focus on “smaller,” more subtle sounds, until you are listening hard for the smallest, slightest sound you can hear.

Cup your hands behind your ears and aim your head at one particular sound. Now drop your hands away from your ears, then bring them up again. Notice how your hearing seems to become more acute with the help of your bigger ears. Think how big the ears of a deer are, and how much sound they can gather when they are focused in your direction.

As you do this, notice any tendency in yourself to have opinions about what you hear, to make judgments or feel compelled to take do something. Let go of all of that. Allow yourself to learn what the sound means, and stop there. Let your judgments or actions be separate from your observations.

Four: Touch like a raccoon

Open your eyes. Take in both the landscape and the sounds again. Then let the attention of your eyes and ears be drawn to something nearby such as a tree, running water, grasses, soil, a rock. Ask its permission to touch it. If permission is not given (this is rare, and always with a reason; most are happy to be contacted by a human!), continue searching and asking other objects. Permission might be just a feeling, or you may receive a more obvious sign.

Do not touch anything unfamiliar or potentially dangerous. There are plants and other aspects of our environment that can be harmful to humans in many ways – let this motivate you to learn about what is around you.

When you have permission, lightly touch the object with your fingertips, then your whole hands. Notice its physical qualities: shape, texture, temperature, movement or stationary energy. Feel the energy of the object and give back some of your own energy. If feasible, touch the object with other parts of your body such as a bare foot, your face, arm, scalp, or back. Notice how this feels, physically and on other levels.

When you are complete with this, thank the object for sharing space and touch with you. If you’ve moved it, gently return it to where you found it.

Five: Smell with the nose of a bear

Let your sense of smell and taste come fully into your awareness. Feel your connection with all around you through these senses. Open your mouth and breathe in. What do you taste? What do you smell? Close your mouth and breathe, and notice whether the taste and smell are different. Inhale the aromas at different heights from the ground, including right down with your nose touching the ground. Allow yourself to be guided to objects that catch your attention. Take in the scents of various plants, rocks, and other things. You may choose to taste some of these objects by lightly placing your tongue on them, but again, Do not touch or taste anything unfamiliar or potentially dangerous.

Six: Let Go
Now, let go of all of your thinking. Lose your mind; come to your senses. One at a time, experience Owl Eyes, Deer Ears, Raccoon Touch, and Bear Nose.

Try to experience all of these at once. This will not be easy at first; you will likely find yourself switching from one to the other. Persist. At some point, when all of your senses are working together in an expanded fashion, you will enter an expanded state known as Wolf Awareness.

It took me a long time to get to Wolf Awareness. I worked with each of my senses in turn, learning to expand my physical awareness to a wider visual field, then to a bigger and deeper soundscape, then my tactile surroundings, and finally to the tastes and smells in my environment. I learned to switch quickly from one sense to another, and occasionally two senses would be fully open at the same time. One day, I had a flash of Wolf Awareness – and with that moment, a completely unexpected transition from ordinary physical awareness into a shamanic state of awareness far beyond the physical. This state included physical awareness, such as I imagine a wolf would have, but it was much larger. I was surrounded by the vastness and beauty of the realm of Spirit, beyond about the physical realm.

Final Step: Come Back

Take time to reflect on the experience of consciously opening your senses. Journal about your experience. Integrate these skills into your everyday life until they become part of your ongoing expanded awareness.

This doorway to non-ordinary reality requires more practice and time than the technique with the loop of grass. On the other hand, you can practice these techniques anywhere and anytime, for as long or short a time as you wish, and you can enjoy the expanded awareness that they will bring. It’s up to you.

You’ll love how your senses expand.

Published May 17 2022

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