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Mark Foote

Post title:  "The true person, breathing to their heels"

(Mar 31 2012 at 12:40 PM)



Here's the description Gautama the Buddha gave of the practice I am calling "waking up and falling asleep":

"(Anyone) knowing and seeing eye as it really is, knowing and seeing material shapes, visual consciousness, impact on the eye as it really is, and knowing, seeing as it really is the experience, whether pleasant, painful, or neither painful nor pleasant, that arises conditioned by impact on the eye, is not attached to the eye nor to material shapes nor to visual consciousness nor to impact on the eye; and that experience, whether pleasant, painful, or neither painful nor pleasant, that arises conditioned by impact on the eye- neither to that is (such a one) attached. (Such a one's) physical anxieties decrease, and mental anxieties decrease, and bodily torments and mental torments and bodily fevers decrease, and mental fevers decrease. (Such a one) experiences happiness of body and happiness of mind. (repeated for ear, nose, tongue, body, and mind)."

(Majjhima-Nikaya 149, Pali Text Society volume 3 pg 337-338, ©Pali Text Society)

At first glance, not a lot like "Waking Up and Falling Asleep", but I believe they are the same.

I have this question: where does the impact that Gautama mentions (in connection with consciousness) take place, and how does that engender feeling? Does consciousness of contact between a sense organ and sense object take place in the sense organ, so that consciousness of contact between the eye and a visual object generates consciousness in the eye?

I think not. If so, what happens when there are multiple sense contacts- I myself experience consciousness as a unitary phenomena, not as multiple consciousnesses happening at the same time. My sense of place in connection with consciousness may shift with multiple contacts in my senses, but my experience of consciousness itself is that it happens at one place at a time, one place after another if you will.

Impact from consciousness in the body I believe is the source of the "hypnagogic myoclonic twitch", which is the involuntary jerk that many people experience as they are dropping off to sleep. This is hypothesized to be a result of the loss of motor control and the association (in the mind) of the loss of motor control with falling. When I sit, I am looking to let go of any action whatsoever, just like falling asleep; I experience subtle contractions in the paired muscles of posture that occur in connection with the sense of place associated with consciousness. This is a hypnic jerk phenomena, that contributes to the alignment of the spine and through the alignment of the spine, to the ability to feel connected with the sense organs.

Moshe Feldenkrais wrote about finding support for the lower spine so that the breath could be continued through shifts in posture. To that end, he recommended exercises to experience the basic motions of pitch, yaw, and roll while sitting on a chair. Hypnic phenomena connected with the place of occurrence of consciousness can initiate all three of these basic motions, as necessary for the support of the lower spine in the movement of breath- and do so solely as a result of the place of occurrence of consciousness from moment to moment.

Sometimes I recall a Chinese adage that describes the ability to feel that can develop, as the place of occurrence of consciousness responds to the necessity of breath in a given posture or carriage: "the true person, breathing to their heels".

I would say the trick is to relax and let go of action until the place of occurrence of consciousness comes forward; as the Gautamid said:

"... making self-surrender (one's) object of thought, (one) lays hold of concentration, lays hold of one-pointedness of mind." (SN V 2 , Pali Text Society volume 5 pg 175-176, ©Pali Text Society)

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