Philosophy and science begin with the enigma we are to ourselves. One mystery that continues to fascinate us is our own perceptual prowess. Its relevance to the practice of holistic somatic therapy cannot be overestimated. Indeed, it is not much of an exaggeration to say that perception is everything. As any experienced practitioner will attest, the better your perceptual skills become the better practitioner you become. Unfortunately, the kind of perceptual vitality and acumen required to master a holistic practice such as Rolfing, biodynamic craniosacral therapy, or energy healing is a highly refined art that is neither easy to articulate nor teach.
The practice of holistic somatic therapy requires holistic eyes. It is not enough to be able to determine and list somatic dysfunctions. In order to facilitate appropriate global change, you also must be able to perceive how individual somatic dysfunctions relate to the whole and are expressions of the morphological imperative of the whole person. There is a profoundly important difference between the perceptual skills required to determine that a muscle is short or that a femur is externally rotated and the perceptual skills required to perceive wholeness or a client’s morphological imperative. It is easy enough to see that one shoulder is lower than another, but how do you see its significance in relationship to the whole person? How do you perceive thwarts to wholeness? How do you perceive integration? In the midst of the many problems, structural and otherwise, that a client can manifest, how do you perceive the morphological imperative that is living to express itself? Central to the practice of holistic somatic therapy is the ability to perceive such qualities as integration, wholeness, and thwarts to wholeness. But perceiving these qualities is of a different order than perceiving the redness of an apple or the chirping of a bird. Although it is not usually recognized for what it is, this different order of perception is part of our everyday experience. To pick an extreme example: have you ever experienced a sense of dread before the occurrence of an unpredictable but impending disaster? We don’t know how we perceived it, but we perceived it nonetheless. The best we seem to be able to say is that we felt it. The ability to perceive such occurrences seems to rely on some mysterious faculty of sensing other than our five senses. The same mysterious faculty of sensing seems to be at work when we perceive qualities such as integration, wholeness, thwarts to wholeness, organic unity, and the body’s morphological imperative. But if we don’t perceive these qualities with our senses alone, how do we perceive them? What is the nature of this kind of perception?
A Short Phenomenology of Perception
The first step toward answering these important questions requires an elucidation of the nature of perception in general. To this end, we will draw on the insights of phenomenology and its discovery of intentionality to illuminate the dimensions of perception that are relevant to our discussion.
One of the more amazing feats of our consciousness is found in the remarkable way we perceive the world. We humans do not perceive with our senses alone. In a very real way, our mind is also an organ of perception. We perceive by means of an integration of mind and senses. As a result, our perception of the objects of our world is cognitive and interpretive. Because of our great conceptual abilities, we are capable of what has come to be called aspect-seeing. We not only see objects in the context of a foreground and background, we also see these objects as something. We see this thing as a chair, or that thing as a tree, and that as a mountain, etc.
Perhaps you remember reading the comic section of the newspaper as a child and enjoying the various word and visual puzzles. Often there were drawings that, on first inspection, looked like a random bunch of squiggles and lines. But the caption directed you to find a figure, perhaps a cat, in the drawing. As you looked more carefully, suddenly the apparently meaningless squiggles congealed into the figure of a cat. Finding the cat in the squiggles is coming to see something as something – something that was not purely available to the senses alone.
When you saw the cat, you didn’t add the cat to the drawing or see something that was hidden behind the drawing. No new lines were added to the drawing. By means of an integration of the sensory and cognitive, you suddenly saw what was there all along. Your intentionality shifted and you saw the cat by means of the concept cat. You didn’t see and then formulate the concept. Having the concept is what rendered the cat visible. It brought forth your perception. In a sense, you had to focus not only your eyes but also your understanding to perceive the cat. At the same time, it is important to understand that when you first saw the drawing as a bunch of squiggles you were also seeing it as something – as a bunch of squiggles.
This simple example of seeing the cat in the drawing contains an important insight: every act of perception, whether looking, listening, smelling, tasting, or touching, is also already an act of understanding. Just as light illuminates the darkness by showing us aspects of what is already there, our very act of looking or hearing or smelling makes the world appear. By actively seeking meaning, as if it were a searchlight extending out beyond itself, our perceptual-understanding highlights aspects of reality, thereby making it possible for these aspects to be perceived as something. By bringing forth particular aspects of our autochthonous reality, this interpretive activity of perceptual-highlighting renders the human world perceivable.
There is more to seeing than meets the eye, as a clever philosopher once said. But, aspect-seeing is not limited to the eyes alone. All of our senses are dominated by it. We hear that sound as a train whistle, feel that sensation as the edge of a knife, taste that morsel as a steamed carrot, smell that odor as gasoline fumes, and so forth. Furthermore, aspect-seeing should not be considered as some sort of an illusion contributed by our mind and arbitrarily imposed on reality. Aspect-seeing reveals aspects of reality that would go unperceived were we dependent on our senses alone. At the same time, we should not lose sight of the fact that our perception of aspects are largely conventional. What aspects we perceive depend on what our senses permit us to actually see, the contexts in which they appear, our needs, our linguistic habits, and what we and our culture deem important and significant at the time, as well as the nascent forms, figures, and regularities that arise from the autochthonous reality of which we are a part and in which we participate.
As the explication of aspect-seeing clearly demonstrates, we are much less passive receivers of incoming data and much more active interrogators reaching out, and groping for variegated contours of meaning or sense. True, we first have to receive the object of perception. But also embedded in every act of perception is an unspoken question, “What is that?” If an object is familiar, you typically do not notice your interrogating orientation. But if it is an unfamiliar object, you easily recognize your attempt to figure out what you are looking at. Recall the above example of finding the cat. Once you understood there was a cat to be found, you were able to shift your intention/understanding to see it.
This never-ending activity of looking for meaning and sense, of perceiving aspects, of being solicited by a world and directing ourselves toward a world, is known in the practice of phenomenology as intentionality. As a way to characterize the meaning-bearing intentional capacity of consciousness, phenomenologists say that consciousness is always the consciousness of something. Intentionality is an essential structure of every form of consciousness. Intention, therefore, is just one example of intentionality. Daydreaming, anger, fear, sadness, lust, problem-solving, hope, faith, charity, forgiveness, feelings, negotiation, abstract thinking (indeed, all forms of thinking), gardening, perception, and so on are all forms of intentionality.
Ordinarily, we take no notice of the intentional capacity of consciousness. When you see a flower you are aware of the flower, but not of your attending to it. Nor do we often attended to the fact that we are attending to something. But, intentionality can be easily discovered in experience. Our example of finding the cat in the drawing demonstrates the workings of intentionality. All that was required to see the cat was the simple act of intending to see a cat.
Perceiving with Feeling
With this discussion of intentionality and aspect-seeing behind us, let’s begin our investigation into feeling-perception with an example. Have you ever experienced entering a room full of people and suddenly knowing something is not quite right? You clearly know something is amiss, but how you know is something of a puzzle. You don’t know it because you deduced it from any behavioral cues. You don’t know it because you saw it, heard it, smelled it, tasted it, or touched it. Somehow you just know. When most people are asked how they know such things, they usually don’t what to say. They don’t know how they know. Perceiving the things of the world by means of our senses seems straightforward and commonplace. But perceiving that something is amiss, while commonplace, is hardly straightforward. Part of the reason we have trouble understanding this kind of perception is because it doesn’t seem to involve any of our five senses in the way ordinary perception does. Keeping in mind that perception is the integration of the cognitive and sensory, we can say that we perceive a flower with our eyes, hear a sound with our ears, smell an odor with our nose, relish a strawberry with our sense of taste, and feel a rough cloth with our sense of touch. But with what sense or senses do we perceive that something is amiss? It is tempting to say that we know such things by means of intuition. But while this answer is not entirely off the mark, it is not very illuminating because we don’t really understand what intuition is. As a result, the answer ends up explaining one baffling phenomenon in terms of another. A related, more satisfying answer is that we just feel it. Although it does not sound like much of an advance over the appeal to intuition, when we look more closely at our feeling nature, it turns out that it is actually a form of perception just as capable of disclosing aspects of reality as any of our five senses. Loosely speaking, just as our eyes reveal to us the redness of an apple or our ears reveal the piercing sound of a bell, so too our feeling-perception reveals certain qualities of our situation that would not otherwise be available to us. Our feeling nature perceives actual qualities inherent to our situation. The threatening or dangerous quality is there in the room and we perceive it by means of our feeling. Unlike the fear that this quality might arouse in us, it is not a subjective state that we project onto the situation. It is an objective quality of the situation that we perceive by means of feeling.
If the claim that we can perceive objective qualities of a situation by means of feeling seems somewhat bizarre, it is probably due to embracing the unexamined assumption that feelings by their very nature are subjective and nothing as subjective as feelings can make any claim to objectivity. In order to see through the limitations of this assumption, we need to look at some examples of feelings that are truly subjective to see how they differ from feelings that reveal objective qualities of a situation.
Let’s begin by noticing that we use the word feeling to cover a wide variety of experiences. Of our emotions we say we feel sad or angry. We feel bodily sensations such as pains, tickles, and itches. When we are moody, we say we feel bored or blasé. When we have a premonition or intuition, we say we feel certain the time is right or feel that the solution to a problem is to be found in a particular this direction. We feel justified in making a demand. We feel tired or out of sorts. We feel hungry or full. We feel danger in a situation or have a good feeling about what is happening. All of these examples are part of our feeling nature and examples of what we mean by subjective states.
Our feelings are merely subjective when they express something about us and do not make any claim to be true for others. The merely subjective cannot be universalized. If I am feeling tired and upset while listening to a piece of music you are finding thrilling, you would rightly dismiss my dislike of the music as subjective. Suppose someone close to you died while you were listening to the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth symphony, The Ode to Joy. You probably would not be able to listen to it again without feeling sad. In such a case, the sadness belongs to you not to the music and your response is entirely subjective. The fact that the music makes you sad does not mean the music is actually sad. It means the music seems sad to you because you are projecting your personal feelings onto it. Or imagine a situation in which you like chocolate ice cream and I like vanilla. There can be no real dispute as to which flavor is the best, because we are only expressing our subjective preferences. These examples of the merely subjective are quite different from perceiving that something is amiss by means of feeling. When your feelings are merely subjective, they say something about you. When you perceive with your feelings, they say something about your surroundings, what is not you. Since we experience the disclosive power of feeling differently from how we experience the disclosive power of sight, this point is not always easy to grasp at first. When you see a flower in the garden, most of the time you see it as other than yourself and “over there.” When you perceive that something is amiss, you feel it “over here” and in yourself. There is no distance between you and it. You feel it as if it were your own feeling. One of the critical differences between perceiving with feeling and, say, perceiving with your eyes is that feeling-perception is always non-dualistic and participatory. As a result, since we experience the quality of the room in ourselves, we often misconstrue it as nothing more than our own subjective response and dismiss it as having no objective validity.
It takes a little practice to learn how to distinguish between feelings that are merely subjective and feelings that reveal a quality of your surroundings. Perhaps you have experienced having a pleasant conversation when suddenly you feel as though something went terribly wrong. You don’t see any indications in the other person’s face; you just feel something is off. But since the way you know it is by feeling it in yourself, you may miss the fact that you are actually feeling the other person’s upset and misapprehend what you are feeling as belonging to you alone. If you do not attend to your experience appropriately, you may even think that you are the problem. But instead, if you bring the feeling into reflective awareness and ask yourself, “Is this me or am I perceiving something that is not me?”, you would quickly realize that you are neither in the grips of the merely subjective nor projecting your subjective state onto the situation. With further reflection, you would come to see that you are actually perceiving an objective quality with your feelings.
Also, it is worth pointing out that making this critical distinction becomes easier the freer you become of your own conflicts and fixations. If you were already in a tizzy before beginning the conversation, it will be more difficult to sort out which feelings are disclosive and which are merely subjective. But with practice, the distinction eventually becomes much clearer in your experience and you easily recognize whether you are projecting your subjective state onto the situation or perceiving objective qualities with your feeling nature.
Consider some other examples of how we perceive with our feeling nature. Can you recall some particularly memorable experiences with nature? Perhaps you went on a hike with friends on a beautiful spring day. Against a spacious blue sky, do you remember how the world was bursting with light and color and how you felt as you and your friends gave yourselves completely to the surroundings? Everyone perceived this day in the same way. All agreed that it was wondrous. This agreement as to what everyone’s feeling nature revealed is no different, in principle, than the agreement that the car you were driving was a black SUV.
Try another feeling experiment. Recall some memorable moments from your past and notice how each memory is often saturated with different subtle feelings, which you are now feeling. Although these feelings are almost impossible to put into words, they are good examples of how we perceive with feeling. Look carefully and you will see that they are not examples of merely subjective feelings. They do not just happen to accompany your memories, and you are not projecting them onto these times. Rather, they are the objective qualities of those times in your life which you perceived with your feeling nature and are now recalling-feeling. Just as you can remember the blue sweater you were wearing at the time, thanks to your feeling nature, you also can remember-feel these poignant qualities that characterized your situation.
The appreciation of art is a wonderful activity in which to catch feeling-perception at work. Art is many things. Among all the arts perhaps music is best suited for displaying the subtle ineffable ebb and flow of human feeling. But at the deepest level great art is the exploration and manifestation of human freedom. A great work of art is about the freedom and creativity that brought the work of art into being. It bears upon its face in its creative origin. True, we need our senses to perceive art. But unless we are moved by what we perceive, we are not truly appreciating it. When we are moved by a piece of music, we do not project our feelings onto the music; we feel-perceive actual qualities in the music. Without our ability to feel-perceive these qualities, we could never fully appreciate music. The ears alone are not capable of revealing these qualities. And the mind alone is not capable of perceiving these qualities. It is only when our mind, senses, and feeling nature work together that we truly appreciate art. As we shall see, the ability to perceive wholeness and integration is very similar to aesthetic appreciation in that both require the integration of our cognitive, sensory, and feeling nature. Since poetry can exemplify that of which it speaks, it is often the best way to capture what it is like to feel-perceive the actual quality of our surroundings. For example, feel the simple beauty captured in the following line from a sonnet by L. Hunt (1832): “Catching your heart up with the feel of June.”(1). Or contemplate Winter’s cold bouquet of absence in Wallace Stevens’ famous poem, “The Snow Man.” (2)
One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine trees crusted with snow;
And have been cold a long time
To behold the junipers shagged with ice,
The spruces rough in the distant glitter
Of the January sun; and not to think
Of any misery in the sound of the wind,
In the sound of a few leaves,
Which is the sound of the land
Full of the same wind
That is blowing in the same bare place
For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.
If you know the mind of winter, the feelings you are now recalling did not just belong to you. They were not just your subjective state. If you gave yourself away completely, then you know that the feelings you felt at these times were the qualities of your surroundings. What these examples demonstrate is that by means of your feeling nature you perceive the properties of the situation or context in which you find yourself. You perceive how the surroundings actually feel.
Once More with Feeling
In order to explore more deeply how we perceive with our feeling nature, let’s engage in another feeling experiment. Imagine that you are working with a client with back pain. As a Rolfer, you more than likely begin your session with a visual inspection of your client in order to evaluate how well she appropriates gravity. Your training and years of experience in structural, functional, and other relevant forms of aspect-seeing have given you the perceptual skills necessary to make this kind of assessment. Since you studied Jan Sultan’s discovery of the Internal/External Typology, one of the first structural aspects you notice is that her morphology generally tends towards being an external type. As you continue your assessment, you notice that she doesn’t have clear centerline, that her pelvis is right rotated, her sacrum is posteriorly torsioned, there is strain in the left, abdominal region. As you assess her psychobiological orientation, you sense that she is grounded, and that she comports herself with confidence and ease. At the same time, you feel a sense of withdrawal and sadness in her chest. Then you notice that she is tired at the same time you feel that her cranium is in trouble.
In order to bring the information gleaned from your assessment to a more full-bodied perception of her living form, you begin the next phase of your session by letting your client’s body show you its problems. As she lies supine on your table, you gently place your hands on her head using your favorite vault hold and just wait. Your job, at this point, is not to have a job. You wait and do nothing. You are no longer actively trying to assess your client’s structure, function, energy, or psychobiological intentionality. You don’t even think about trying to change her for the better. Instead, you shift your orientation from trying to accomplish results and evaluating structure to an orientation of allowing what is to show itself. You simply get out of the way by dropping your self. In the vernacular of Zen, you return to zero and become one with your client. By returning to zero, you simultaneously expand your perceptual field and open a loving space.
The clarity and safety of this clearing makes it possible for the being of your client to wordlessly reveal her troubles to you. As you continue to create this loving space, you often close your eyes as a way to see more clearly and to encourage more and more aspects of your client’s problems to show themselves to you. In order to further expand and deepen your perception, you take your hands off your client’s head and feel-perceive her whole body and energy field with your whole body and energy field. After a time, a perspective begins to come into focus and you finally get your first glimpse of a unified pattern of distortion and its relation to the whole: you perceive a cranial shutdown, the lack of a clear center line, a bulging out of the energy field around the lower left region of the abdomen coupled with feelings of sadness and anger saturating an intensely held strain in the peritoneal sac around the descending colon that torsions the sacrum, rotates the entire pelvis right, pulls the sigmoid colon is too anterior, and also causes strain in the medial collateral ligaments of the right knee. As often happens, when your eyes are closed, your mind starts to drift as if you were in the first stages of sleep. Suddenly, a compelling image of your client being traumatized appears and with the image comes the conviction that she was ten years old when the incident occurred. Notice how all the information you gleaned finally congealed into a unified perception of her structural, functional, energetic, and psychobiological way of being. Although this process of shifting your intentionality was more complicated than finding a cat in the drawing; it is, nevertheless, the same process. In the first phase, you were actively engaged in the process of evaluation. Much of the information you gathered about your client was the direct result of actively engaging in aspect-seeing, which involved the integration of the cognitive and sensory. Recall how you saw that your client was a external type, for example. Before you learned the Internal/External Typology, you probably would have noticed how the pelvis was too posterior, how the lumbar and thoracic spines were too flat, how the legs were valgus, and so on. But you wouldn’t have grasped the significance of what you saw for the whole structure. You probably would have seen these aspects as individual structural curiosities. You wouldn’t have understood that what you were seeing was an expression of the morphological type known as the external type. But now when you look at your client, you clearly see that she is an external type. As a result, you understand the complicated array of strain patterns with which she struggles in relation to her morphological imperative.
Toward the end of this first phase, you also began to perceive aspects of her psychobiological intentionality by means of feeling. You felt and saw the confidence in her comportment, while at the same time, sensing her withdrawal, sadness, anger, tiredness, as well as the effect of these aspects on her cranium. This kind of aspect-seeing (or more precisely, aspect-feeling or feeling as) in which you perceive the emotional meaning of a person’s bearing and structure requires not just the integration of the sensory and the cognitive, but also, the integration of your feeling nature. When you can feel aspects as well as see them, your ability to read your client’s emotional and psychobiological orientation is much more accurate than when you deduce them from visual patterns displayed by your client’s body.
In the second phase of your evaluation, you began to rely less on your senses and more on your feeling nature to perceive what was going on with your client. Much of the same information appeared, but more of it came to you through your feelings. There is no question, much of what you perceive as a holistic practitioner comes from your senses, or to be more precise, from the integration of the sensory and the cognitive. But not all. Notice that you can see without your eyes and feel without your hands. You often closed your eyes in order to perceive more clearly, for example. Since you felt what is happening in the lower abdomen and pelvis while your hands were on your client’s cranium, you were not feeling with your hands alone. Add to these considerations that you can feel more by not touching your client, and it is clear that you are not perceiving with your senses only – you are also perceiving with your feeling nature. When you perceive your client’s structural problems and her comportment as sad and angry, you are see-feeling by means of the integration of your cognitive, sensory, and feeling nature. Aspect-seeing and aspect-feeling both involve the cognitive.
Let’s look more closely at what we actually experience when we perceive with our feeling nature. Whether you touch your client or remove your hands from her body, when you allow what is to show itself, you often feel in your own body where the problems are in your client’s body. Where your client has a problem in her body, typically, you feel a kind of pressure or fullness in the same place in your body. As you continue to attend to what is showing itself to you, the vague sense of pressure begins to come into focus and you begin to feel-see it as an emotional, energetic, and structural distortion in the descending colon that affects the pelvis and right knee. If you close your eyes, you may also notice that you also see in your mind’s eye the same pattern of distortion.
The more you know, the more aspects you perceive. Aspect-seeing and aspect-feeling are enriched by knowledge and an open heart. The better you know anatomy and the freer you are of emotional fixations and conflicts, the better you are able to perceive the details of what is being shown to you. In this example, if you didn’t know the anatomy of the organs, the vague sense of pressure would remain vague sense of pressure indicating a problem somewhere in the left lower region of the abdomen. But since you do know the anatomy of this region of the body, you see-feel more detail.
As strange as it may sound, your energy field is part of your feeling nature. You not only feel with your whole body, you also feel with your energy field. You feel in your own energy field the place where your client’s energy is distorted. The more familiar you become with the energy patterns that are part of your clients’ problems, the more clearly you feel them.
Even though both involve a cognitive dimension, you may recall that we noted an important difference between perceiving with your eyes and perceiving with your feeling nature. When you perceived your client as an external morphological type, you perceived her as other than yourself and “over there.” When you felt your client’s structural, energetic, and emotional difficulties, you felt all of these aspects as “over here” and in yourself. There was no distance between you and these aspects of your client. You felt them as if they were your own, because your way of knowing them is by feeling them in yourself and because feeling-perception is non-dualistic, participatory, and not based on reflective thinking.
But this description raises an apparent problem. It seems to contradict the analysis of intentionality in which it is claimed that consciousness is always the consciousness of something. Central to the analysis of intentionality is the implied difference between the consciousness of an object and the object of consciousness. But since there is no distance between you and what you feel-perceive, it seems as though the difference between the object of your feeling-perception (your client’s structural, energetic, and emotional aspects) and your feeling-perception of the object has disappeared. To say it differently, since we perceive these aspects in ourselves, there is no distance between these aspects and our perception of them. If there is no distance, then it seems as though the difference between the consciousness of something and the something of which we are conscious simply collapses. But if you bring the whole complex of what you are feeling into reflective awareness, you rather quickly realize that the lack of distance is not the same as the loss of difference, and that there is a clear difference between you and the object of your feeling-perception.
If you continue to allow what is to show itself, the whole pattern of distortion and its relationship to the whole comes into clearer focus and you see-visualize-feel it as a unified gestalt. Since your client has emotional issues, you feel her anger or sadness in yourself and it will saturate your perception of and be a part of the unified gestalt. The unified gestalt that constitutes your perception of your client is the result of integrating the cognitive with your sensory and feeling nature. At one and the same time, you are one with her condition because you feel it and separate from her condition because you see it. Simultaneously, you feel your client’s distortions in yourself and see them in her body. Your perception of your client’s condition is not a matter of having two different perceptions, one in yourself and one of her “over there”. Rather, your perception is one integrated unified gestalt in which you are both one with your client and separate from your client.
In Search of the Human Sensorium
Although we have elucidated the nature of feeling-perception, we still don’t know what part of our anatomy or mind is responsible for this kind of perception. We perceive a rose with our eyes, hear a sound with our ears, smell an odor with our nose, relish an apple with our sense of taste, and feel a rough edge with our sense of touch. But with what sense or senses do we perceive a client’s energy and emotional patterns, thwarts to wholeness, or that something is amiss? Whatever this perceptual system is, it consists of the integration of our sensory, cognitive, feeling nature, and energetic field. While it is clear that it must involve the brain and nervous system (the senses) as well as what we call mind, it is also clear that it surpasses these systems. Unlike our eyes and ears, it has no specific location. We are driven to the conclusion that this perceptual system is none other than our body-mind and the field around it. For want of a better term, we can call it the somatic field.
If asked where the seat of perception is or which system is responsible for perception, without much hesitation, most people would probably answer that the sensorium is the brain and nervous system. For humans and other vertebrates, this answer seems like reasonable one. But our excursion into feeling led us to the startling conclusion that our perceptual abilities are greater and more expansive than we suspected. They encompass not only our feeling nature and whole body, including the brain and nervous system, but extend into the field around our bodies. If this observation is correct, we must also conclude that the human sensorium is the somatic field.
Our phenomenological excursion into the nature of perception has revealed that the human sensorium is our body-mind-energy complex. It has also given us a way to understand how we perceive that something is amiss upon entering a room and how we perceive a client’s energy and emotional patterns, and wholeness and thwarts to wholeness. It turns out that the answer to our question of how we perceive these seemingly extrasensory qualities is the simple one we suggested at the very beginning of our investigation. We perceive these qualities by feeling them. As we have seen, there is more to perception than what is given to the senses. Seeing something as this or that particular kind of thing is the contribution our mind makes to perception. As the elucidation of intentionality demonstrated, human perception involves the integration of the sensory and the cognitive. But, it also demonstrated some important aspects of perception that are often missed and seldom properly appreciated. Not only does perception involve the integration of our feeling nature, but also our feeling nature is capable of perceiving aspects of reality that would otherwise not be available to us.
In addition, our feeling nature is not only deeply intertwined with and embedded in all our states of awareness, it is also what we share with all living creatures. It is how other forms of life, especially those without a brain or nervous system, perceive their world. Furthermore, what we recognize in ourselves as consciousness is a highly evolved elaboration of the same feeling nature that all life shares.
Our feeling nature is a non-dualistic, participatory way of knowing that is not founded in thinking. It permeates every dimension of our being and every level of awareness and is fully integrated with our sensory and cognitive nature. Even though we regularly take no notice of it because our consciousness is dominated by our reflective “I-am-self,” it is always there bringing us into unity with our surroundings and revealing the greater ocean of sentience of which we are a part. On a beautiful autumn day, if you give yourself completely to your surroundings, you become one with everything and see-feel its wondrous quality. If you give yourself away completely, then you know that the feelings you are feeling not only reveal the qualities of the surroundings, but are also how the surroundings feel to themselves.
The Disclosive Power of Feeling[:]