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Making Sense

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The white fathers told us, "I think therefore I am," and the Black mother within each of us -- the poet -- whispers in our dreams, I feel, therefore I am free.
--Audre Lorde (African-American poet)

I would like you to imagine for a moment or so that you're a bird. Choose one of which you're especially fond. Now, as that bird, picture yourself resting on the branch of a tree, watching what goes on in your environment. In this state of stillness you are aware both of your individuality and of the ways in which your consciousness merges with that of other beings.

The music of bird song ripples through you to become part of your own melody. The heat of the sun warms your feathers, and the scent of grass and leaves fills you with a music of its own. The movement of other animals is part of the dance which is your world.

Then the atmosphere changes. A squirrel chatters a warming; chipmunks and birds pick up the cry. Deer spring from their resting places and dash into the depths of the forest. Though you feel safe on your high branch, you hop to a point where leaves will conceal you.

The animal which now enters the forest clearing seems curiously vulnerable, having neither claws, a beak, nor sharp teeth, but it is not this which you notice. You are impressed by how this creature holds itself apart from the other beings here.

It tramples grass and leaves without any awareness of the life beneath its feet. It extends no tendrils of feelings to experience the rhythms of life all about it; instead, it barricades itself from these impressions with the noisy chatter inside what it calls its mind. To you this is puzzling behavior, and you feel relieved when this strange creature leaves the forest to go on its lonely way.

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The Human Animal

I am in favor of the human mind. Our minds are ever-renewing sources of entertainment and amusement, and infinite in their ability to imagine and create. They become a problem only when we employ them at the expense of sensation. That's when we become the humans who forget that we're also animals.

Our forgetting this has definite consequences for the rest of the life which inhabits this planet. When we view ourselves as apart from and better than other beings their welfare may become of little importance to us. We forget that their well-being and ours are interconnected, and that in ill-treating them we treat ourselves equally badly.

There are some more immediate consequences, as well. When mind is foremost we may demand of ourselves that all experiences be filtered through it, and the various sensations which add richness to existence cannot usually be so filtered.

Thoughts and words get in the way of experience. If we try to express the feeling of wet grass on bare feet, the texture of a cat's fur, we distance ourselves from that appreciation.

The frustration of attempted translation becomes so great that we often diminish our ability to experience sensation and feeling -- because we may, without consciously knowing it, decide that something which can't be easily expressed in the medium which is most comfortable for us is not to be trusted. We may suspect that too deep a descent into the world of sensation and feeling will lose us our human edge of superiority.

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The World of Mind

We've designed a world in which the rewards of being a mental creature keep on rolling in. In school the areas of study based on feeling and intuition take second place to science, mathematics, and other "logical" disciplines. We learn to dissect animals as if they were machines. We are taught that our minds are machines, too, megacomputers which, when fed the right information, will churn out the right answers.

Through all of this none of our physical sensory organs have been amputated; nor have our more subtle senses been disconnected, but we have increasingly come to distrust them and block their messages. Sensation, though, is an indication of aliveness, and blocked from natural sources of stimulation, we may turn to artificial ones. When senses somehow sneak through the barriers we've raised we may erect emergency ones in the form of numbing drugs (including food).

We may experience life as unsatisfying or boring, discard marriages or relationships, take countless seminars to try to find out what's missing in our lives or wonder why we're not psychicãbecause we've forgotten that a world of sensation is available to us, could we but open our own senses to take it in.

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The Road to Recovery

There are many ways to reconnect. If you don't have an animal friend in your home you may want to consider welcoming one. If you do have one (or more) you can pay more attention to it -- not just the sensuous pleasure of stroking silky fur (for some, scales or feathers). Appreciate the way the animal moves, washes itself, stretches, or sits quietly in its own rhapsody of pleasure.

Plants are also sources of sensory pleasure. Enjoy their smells (when available), and when you appreciate their beauty make it more than a visual experience. Imagine how it feels to be a soft green leaf soaking up sunlight. Experience the feeling of flowers" colors.

When you listen to music feel its vibrations. When you read fiction imagine yourself in the various settings described in the book. Take a bath with essential oils in your bath water.

Get into natural settings whenever possible (a city park will often do). Experience and enjoy. When I lived in a city I particularly enjoyed becoming attuned to squirrels.

Notice when you shut down your sensations. You may realize that you've just walked ten blocks without noticing a thing or that your becoming bored by your life. Give yourself one of the above sensory thrills at once -- or one of the ones below.

When our senses and our minds are in attunement we make use of all of the gifts when can make being human a joy. We become the creatures who can walk in the woods without causing alarm. We are, and we are free.

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The Sensible Worlds

The varying textures of crystals -- the ridges of tourmaline, the rough texture of kyanite -- are in themselves a sensory experiences, and they bathe the eyes with their beauty.

I've already mentioned the beauty of flowers. They share another special quality with crystals; their subtle vibrations help to bring us into attunement with a deeper rhythm, the harmony in which all sensations are the notes of the song we share with all of life, a song which guides us home.

While any crystal can teach us something about the world of sensation, there are some which I believe can connect us directly to the energies of the other physical realms of consciousness.

Moss Agate, which is commonly used for balancing the left and right sides of the brain, thus bringing our feeling and intellectual faculties into alignment, is also believed to be helpful for communicating with nature spirits.

I've personally experienced much appreciation of the physical world by being around malachite, azurite, and chrysocolla, especially in any of their combinations. Rhodochrosite, in addition to being visually soothing, can help to ease the anxiety we may feel as our senses awaken.

I also recommend the heart stones: rose quartz, pink tourmaline, rhodonite, and aventurine, to soothe and nurture us on our journey to wholeness.

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The Floral Mandala

Nicotiana (FES), despite its name, isn't only for those who would like to quit smoking. This flower essence addresses the reluctance to experience sensations and feelings which can lead to any form of addictive, numbing behavior. and gives one the courage to deeply experience the energies of other life forms and of the earth itself.

Corn (FES) is specifically recommended to those urban dwellers who've learned to dull their responses to sensations which seem unpleasant or overwhelming; while Dill (FES) helps us to allow the world of the senses to become a vehicle for enlightenment.

Hound's Tongue (FES) is excellent for those who believe that the world of the intellect is superior to the world of sensation. It helps one to experience the richness of the sensory world.

Beyond the Rainbow
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