Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Color of My Mom's Eyes

While preparing training materials for the first full Presence Care training, I have been spending some time with Charlotte Selver, the grande dame of sensory awareness. Through reading her,  I become aware more and more of the deadness that permeates most of the moments in my life. I can see how the thinking mind keeps interceding to deaden the full impact of raw experience, resulting in a never ending string of missed opportunities to live life fully. And with that dim realization, a subtle sadness, a subconscious longing for what is so close, and yet not taken. 

I like this article from Charlotte, on Learning Through Sensing
When I meet a person I can just look at her or him, but I can also see this person. That means my ability to react can be aroused by what I see or meet or do or whatever, or it can also stay sleeping and stay on the surface. [...] Let's say a massage therapist comes to our course and she thinks: "This is now a work in which we go further into touching, and that's another kind of skill which I'm interested in." She is mistaken. Everything we do is being in touch or coming in touch, be it massage or speaking or solving a difficult problem or having a great deal of fun. The question is to which degree I am burning for something, so to say. Am I there for this very situation or person and what are the consequences of this encounter? 
The more you build on repetition and division of different fields, the more you misunderstand the work which we are doing. Whatever we do embraces the whole universe, if you want so. The question is how we do it. If it is poor, it's poor. You will feel it, and it will guide you to fuller participation. Because in the moment you feel it is not quite satisfying to you, you are already on the way to more contact. So anything which you would feel is not quite it, leads you more to it. […] Every moment offers itself in its own way, and the question is how I answer it. In any given situation we can learn how to come more full-hearted and more open into contact, answering in the way we can already answer. If this isn't understood, the work isn't understood. It doesn't matter whether the situation is easy or difficult. Whatever is coming about needs to be met with the possibilities you have at the moment to greet it. Then you can learn. If you are not present nobody can help you. But if you feel it, then the next move would be to allow that which would make more contact possible. However, very often we are too lazy to allow that or we are too vain; or we have to do it correct in the first place, so we insist that this is right no matter what we feel. When you learn to let go of these old patterns and meet what you feel now, perfectly new, you will be grateful to feel where you hold yourself back. When you permit a pure heart and don't reproach yourself in any way, then you can learn through sensing. You will feel, "Here I am not open." And you would then allow little changes. And you would feel then, "It's still not open enough," and you would again allow a change, and then you would feel, "My, it's too open now." Then you would go a little bit back. It's a delightful way of learning. 
This is not about modifying or controlling yourself. You are already beautifully created. Only you can live so that the creation which you are is recognizable. One doesn't know who you are, and you don't know who you are, because you are so full of habits and what other people have told you. There's a certain relationship which we have to have with our inner functioning. That of respect and that of wonder. When we are quiet enough and positive enough that we can follow these fine indications inside which lead us to more functioning, we will find out what precious abilities we have which we usually don't use. The organism has these innate possibilities of renewing relationships, of balancing out, of healing, of recreating. This is not what we do, but these are properties of the organism since birth - they are inborn, inbuilt. Only we push them down as though they don't exist. We cover them by layers of habits and ideas, and spoil these very beautiful capacities. On top of that we learn new things which drive us even further away from our nature.
You have to come into a state of curiosity and deep interest for that which gradually may emerge out of the sum of many conditionings. It needs no criticism. It needs willingness to allow changes. It needs respect for something which is your nature but which you have not yet permitted it entirely. You may then feel that you don't want to repeat what somebody else told you to be right. You will know that, "this is what I really have to say." "This is what I really have to do." "This is how I connect with another person." "This is how I approach my task." 
No matter how difficult it is you can be present for something and learn from that - all day long, from morning 'til evening. Even when you go to the bathroom you can be fully present for what is happening. Each of your cells could be participating in what you happen to do or whom you happen to meet in the moment, if you really understand the organism as a living entity that is you, if you understand that every cell has mind. Every cell is sensitive. You could say you are all mind. You are all intelligent. (Well, not quite yet but maybe soon.) Even your teeth are mind. Even your rectum is mind. Everything's mind. Wouldn't that be a more animated life? Do you realize it's right next door? From one moment to the other it can happen, you can wake up more. You can allow a new connection. You can try again and again. Persistence is very important. Each time you come a little closer. What we do is not important in a way, although it is very important. But it is important that you see it as an example for everything you do. And as such it is important how you do it.
This morning, wiping my hands with a towel, I realized I had never really felt what it's like to have one's fingers rubbed with a piece of cloth. Not a big deal by itself, but an indicator of a much larger problem, including what happens when in relationships with other people. Relating to my children, relating to a girlfriend, relating to a client, the brain mind at its best gets fully engaged, and also the heart sometimes when the emotion come rushing. But the rest of the senses gets brushed aside.

A mindful touch practitioner once told me the story of a woman she had been working with, and whose Mom was close to dying. Her client had never really noticed the color of her mom's eyes until that one time she was guided in a mindful touch practice with her Mom. And the daughter all of a sudden realized "My mom's eyes are green! I never knew." What color is your mom's eyes? Do you know?

I am afraid to admit that I have never really looked into my mother's eyes.  Next time I fly over to visit her, I want to bring all of myself. I want to know the color of her eyes.


  1. what a wonderful reminder. It is so true that we miss so much. I often have that feeling that I am not really there, not really connecting. Recently I have been reading a book on Contemplative Photography and felt amazed at how its simple exercises brought me right into contact with simple things in a vivid way. How easy it is to slip over this and live a half-lived life.

  2. Thank you for the introduction to Charlotte Selver - so many wise people I haven't met before! Although the experience with the towel can be an indicator of a larger problem, on the positive side, I think each new awareness like that could be seen as another petal unfolding as the bud of our consciousness opens - a process that feels much too slow and hard to accelerate, but perhaps happening at just the right speed. My impatient thinking mind has trouble accepting progress one little step at a time.

  3. Carole, thank you. I do think that being an artist is mostly about capturing things as they are really sensed, and not as what we think they are. That goes for writing also.

  4. David, I was introduced to Charlotte Selver by Ruth Denison. Ruth was a student of Charlotte. I invite you to discover her other writings on the sensoryawareness website. There is also a wonderful video of her I share in this blog a while ago (just go to the tag Charlotte Selver and it should come up).

  5. Thank you for this article and your inspiring blog!


  6. I was once obsessed with iridology and thus I notice "eyes" all the time. I notice much more than color -- I see the marbled quality of their iris.

    I use to be into NLP (Neurolinguistic Programming) and because of that I watch peoples eye movements in ways I never did before.

    I use to be Oriental Medical Doctor (acupuncturist and herbalist) and notice the quality of people's tongues even as they talk.

    My list could go on. Even when being "mindful" we are usually only looking at what we expect to see. Broadening our vision also often requires broadening our understanding. Otherwise, even when "mindful", we are still hypnotized by the familiar.

  7. Thanks for your sharing, Sabio. And I agree that mindfulness is not enough. Wisdom is what allows us to recognize what is really there. U Tejaniya talks very convincingly about this.

  8. Wisdom and knowledge. The mental life is such a balance of skills -- no easy answers, eh?