The Zen of Sensation.

     I have been really focused in the past year on sense input and how that has helped me stay as close to the here and now as possible. It has been an interesting journey and I cannot help feel that perhaps a lot of other things might have fallen in place if, when I was younger, had been trained to notice the patterns that sense input ignites. But it’s all good because the way I came to it is the only way I could have!

     Something dropped in when I was in the middle of a one day retreat at Stillpoint in Detroit. Geri Larkin was leading the retreat and she always had us doing walking meditation as a part of the day’s activities. We used to do walking meditation outside and this was in the dead of winter. Cold, dark, wet, and my resistance was nothing short of phenomenal that day. A running commentary in my head was despising reality. 

     So there we were in a big circle, walking as quickly as possible in the snow, and trying to stay focused on the breath that was coming out in huge clouds. I remember my nose was running and I had no tissues. My hands hurt from the cold. We finally came back in to the relative warmth of the sitting room and I returned to my meditation cushion. As I faced the wall and heard the bell there was a sudden insight that dropped in about cold. Not about being cold. Not the story about being cold. Not the emotional structure that despised being cold.

Just Cold. The sensation of cold.

     My skin was tight, I had tightness in my arms and chest. My mind felt compressed as though heavier and dense.


At that time there was no story. Just sensation.

     Slowly the story returned. Almost without me noticing it. Conditioned mind started a story about the way cold was impacting how I experienced where I was emotionally. It wasn’t long before I was miserable again. Later I did some recording and listening about my experience. This is what I discovered. (Instruction for recording and listening is on the Living Compassion website.)

     The first thing I experienced was sensation. So when I stepped out on a cold day there would be a sensation of cold. Then instead of staying with the sensation I would immediately label the sensation and then attach a thought and emotional meaning to the sensation.

     So, sensation turned into thought, emotion, and story about as quickly as it takes to read this. Except cold was just cold. Cold as a sensation means nothing. The body knows when  it’s too cold. Or hot. Or whatever. So what’s up with the story and the drama? We have been conditioned to believe that we have to attach a meaning to a sensation. We have done this long enough that we tend to skip past the sensate world and move directly into story. The reality was that the sense of cold wasn’t a story. It was a sense. Anything else was an attached label. 

     The insight became a tool and a realization of how much of my actions had been driven by sense without me realizing it. 


     That the experience of cold was only that, being cold. The experience of being anything involving senses was just that. Hot, cold,  numb, hollow, full, or any other sense word were not indicators that anything had to done, anything needed fixing, or that being “cold” was an entire state of being instead of a discrete part of experience. We can have the sense and trust that, without emotion and story, we can still respond to what’s needed. Avoiding story based suffering. 

When cold be cold. 

Love to hear how this is for you. 

Be well,




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