At the Gates of the Senses

THE SIX GATES of our senses are our eyes,
our ears,
our nose,
our tongue,
our skin and our faculty of perception, i.e. our mind sense which takes in mental data.

We are taking in information through these inputs continually. Not only are we registering vast numbers of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touch sensations and mental perceptions - we are processing them all as well. Most of it we don't register consciously because our attention is not on, say, the exact colour of the rain descending from the sky, but on what is engaging our general attention - a train of thought, the movement of traffic, or the dinner on our plate.

However that's all changed by meditation. Meditation enhances our ability to notice, making these unconscious inputs and processes available to consciousness. That's why when you meditate, you notice so much more, accessing a new kind of enjoyment of the senses - see, even, that rain has a colour, and that what seems grey to our normal mind actually contains tiny rainbows and subtle misty shades.

One reason why we don't perceive the world more as it is, as artists and poets do on their good days, is our indulgence in deeply ingrained patterns of habit. Meditation helps cut through the habitual ways we employ our attention when we walk, when we talk, when we look at our phone and sit in a crowded train.

But there are other ways, more direct ways as well.

For example: Just stop being so distracted - in everything you do.

Let's focus on
walking. You're walking along a city street. It's mid morning, and you are on your way to meeting someone in a café. You have to use the metro, cross roads and negotiate your way through pavements crowded with shoppers, couples, straggling groups of tourists and power walking suits. As you walk you become self aware and notice you are looking at everything. You are checking those people passing - the attractive, the interesting, the repellent, the odd, the ones that remind you of… or it's something they're wearing, that they are carrying. Many are in your way, and you dodge around them through the crowds. You scan the store displays and bus-side adverts, images and words you have seen many times. You read them again. Your eyes dart and flash as you force march, cutting every corner. The metro, the bus, the pavement, stairways bridges and underpasses all pass briefly by your stare. You seem to be making sure it is still all there.

You can trust that it is. That constant check can be reduced by say 95%, and you can relax and use your time creating healthy karma. All you really need to do is keep your wits about you and your eyes on the pavement ahead. Your peripheral awareness and your good sense will do the rest. It is totally safe. Do it, and you will be amazed how much you pick up from your environment with hardly a glance. You will be more aware of others than before, despite your not examining them, and your subconscious antennae will seek out naturally any extra information you need. You will learn to trust this. Lift your gaze only when you actually need to see, to cross a road or read a sign. At other times, stay settled in your feelings and thoughts. Full mindfulness of the four
satipatthanas, walking meditation and reflection are real possibilities. When you're not anxiously checking a thousand occurrences a minute, energy becomes buoyant and fresh.