Feeling, Sensitivity and Consciousnes
Heartfulness eMagazine|March 20201
ROS PEARMAIN, Ph.D., has been integrating the fields of psychology, psychotherapy and spirituality, through both practical and philosophical approaches, for over 40 years. Here she explores the way a spiritual practice opens up the levels of feeling and sensitivity, as we expand into deeper and deeper levels of consciousness, and how our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies are integrated through the heart.
ROS PEARMAIN, Ph.D

The great divide between scientific and mystical views of reality lands on the question of our subjective awareness. Measures can be made of physiological and behavioural effects of meditation practices, but it is much harder to demonstrate objectively the transformative experiences that a seeker may undergo in a disciplined practice over years.

Ultimately it comes down to how someone feels. This domain of feeling is so extraordinary and intricate in our subjectivity, and yet it has often been quite disregarded as the source of our capacity to orientate and connect with our environment. The word “feeling” is ambiguous in the English language. It includes both emotions and the more diffuse area of perception. In its medieval origins it meant the physical sensation of touch through experience or perception. Touch remains the most helpful way of capturing the lived experience of feeling as we encounter daily life. The domain of feeling is continuously flowing through a shifting synthesis of qualities and textures as an overall array of diffuse meaning coloring and sculpting our responses and moods.

Music is a primordial expression of such feeling. Within our current dominant scientific discourse, the fact that such a feeling array is informing us of much more than our physical and mental state is not yet articulated. Yet from the perspective of perennial philosophies, within the experience of feeling are all the domains of our subtle fields of consciousness.

Touch as a Core Sense

According to the philosophy of Rudolph Steiner, we have twelve senses in our makeup. The sense of touch is core. Through touch we are woken up to the world, and through the radiation of touch information throughout our system we are enlivened. We are reminded of our primordial separateness and our wish to connect through touch. Steiner said that without touch we would never become conscious of the Divine. When we touch something we are both so close and so far from it.

Sensitivity is our radar system. In the confusion of different information pathways in which we are ceaselessly immersed, sensitivity is our capacity to fine tune, to touch as it were, significant elements from the whole. So sensitivity is expressed in our fields of perception, and our capacity to notice – and further to notice what we notice. This perceptual capacity continues to develop throughout life. Specialists in any field become hyper-conscious of such elements as electric fields, or the way that patients’ skin color denotes subtle changes in health, or the way that plants signal malaise, or if notes played are offkey.

Discernment

The distinction to be made between scientific and metaphysical approaches to knowledge has been in the discernment of information. Spiritual traditions have confronted this issue by evolving specific protocols of practice, of directing attention, of cultivating a stringent observer and witness, and of purifying the filters of attachment and desires and egotism that cloud the lens of perception. Within Vedic philosophy, the higher realms of human consciousness involve a shift from thinking consciousness to a more direct feeling consciousness.

In the Heartfulness tradition of meditative practices, all the teachers have proposed that the realm of the divine is known through feeling, and this feeling connects the divine Reality with the whole field of humanity. It is an unimaginable realm. We can only conceive it as a kind of enormous filigree network of intensity which is absolutely soft and fine. It is at the most subtle level of our existence. One clear sign of a spiritually evolved person, a truly human person, is one who is consistently alert and sensitive to situations and others. So from this point of view, the journey of spiritual evolution is one of increasingly refining our tools of perception, our capacity to feel the faintest trace of something, and to glimpse its meaning directly.

Mind as Embodied Cognition

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