Selected Correspondence Vineeto
Sensation and Sensuousness
RESPONDENT: [Vineeto]: ‘Today I find it strange that none of all the ‘oh so wise’ spiritual teachers really were able to make a distinction between sensations and feelings.’ Vineeto, Selected Correspondence, Feelings 2
Barry Long has been teaching this for years.
It is also obvious to any moderately intelligent child or adult.
VINEETO: The complete quote was from a correspondence about the difference between Vipassana and actualism. Buddhist teachings are particularly vague about the difference between sensations and feelings. For Buddhists both feelings and sensations are unwanted responses from ‘the body’ that need to be transcended and one is taught to watch them in order to dissociate oneself from both one’s unwanted affective and sensate bodily reactions. To put your snippet in context –
As for Barry Long – he has blurred the distinction between sensations and affective feelings despite your affirmation that ‘this distinction also obvious to any moderately intelligent child or adult’. He taught that love is a sensation, which is pure nonsense. In a deliberate distortion of common sense Barry Long has arbitrarily chosen to label the desirable feelings ‘sensation’ and the undesirable feelings ‘emotion’, completely ignoring the fact that love is an emotion and, in the case of Enlightenment, an all-consuming passion.
Buddhists label both feelings and sensations as ‘feelings’ from which one should watchfully distance oneself in order to become one’s eternal Higher Self. Vis –
Practicing actualism, however, one becomes more and more sensuously aware of being alive as the affective filters that overlay the senses are being investigated and removed, i.e. as less affective feelings intrude, then more sensuous sensations are able to become evident. When no fear, desire, aggression or feelings of nurture interferes with me sensately experiencing the world around me, then the magic and abundance of this actual physical world we all live in becomes stunningly apparent in its utter exquisite deliciousness.
RESPONDENT: I think the main problem for me and also probably for most people is to overcome the habit of following emotions or impulses that habitually arise in one’s psyche. For a simple example if I sense an itch on my arm I usually scratch the itch instead of paying attention to the itch, investigating the sensation behind it. I think the itch is a good example because, at least in my case, when I start paying attention to it the itch intensifies before it goes away. Likewise when I feel unappreciated at work I tend to compensate with food or sometimes (especially in the past year) meditation!!! I would feel really calm and good after Vipassana. Chocolate and coffee with ice cream make me feel great, too. Speaking of which I have to run to the kitchen to brew us a couple of cups of this ‘divine’ liquid.
VINEETO: This question of yours fits in with the issue of the other letter about Vipassana, so I will combine the two letters. Today I find it strange that none of all the ‘oh so wise’ spiritual teachers really were able to make a distinction between sensations and feelings. I myself only learned to be precise when I came across Actual Freedom, and now the difference seems so obvious that I don’t know how I could have ever mixed the two! Peter has already explained the difference very well in his letter to No. 3 the other day:
Sensations are everything we perceive with our senses – touch, smell, taste, colour, form, sound, itch, pain, moisture, temperature, sexual pleasure, etc.
Feelings are affective reactions to our surroundings.
When you have chocolate and coffee with ice-cream you mix sensation and feeling, the pleasure of the senses tasting sweet and bitter and then, consequently, you are ‘feeling’ good. But one doesn’t need ‘feeling’ to fully enjoy a cup of coffee with ice-cream, on the contrary, ‘me’ as a feeling identity acts as a buffer to the intensity of the sensate pleasure. ‘Feeling’ is only there as long as a ‘me’ is alive. ‘I’ am feelings and feelings are ‘me’, ‘I’ am fear and fear is ‘me’, ‘I’ am love and love is ‘me’. Check it out for yourself. You might find that you are conscious of the sensation and a split second later you have a feeling – or mixed feelings – about it. But in that split second you were aware only of the physical sensation. (...)
VINEETO to No 7: Now, back to Richard’s expression:
You see a flower, you become conscious that you see the flower; you become conscious of its form, colours, smell, moving in the breeze and then you become conscious of the delight of your perception, of you being able to see, smell and know about it too. You are conscious of your being conscious. That’s it.
When the Human Condition is in operation, when ‘I’ interfere in the pure seeing of the flower, there is evaluation, feeling, choice, complaint, desire, hope, sadness, anger, etc. You can slowly, slowly become aware of all those emotions in operation, interfering and destroying the pure delight of living in this perfect universe. This ‘I’ is nothing but feelings, beliefs, emotions and instinctual passions, filtering everything that you see, hear, smell, touch, taste and think. When you dismantle the ‘I’ by examining everything that is not actual then you can be here, in this moment, in this place, eyes seeing, ears hearing and brain thinking. Everything else is but a passionate fantasy and imagination.
VINEETO: How are you doing in hot New Jersey? We’ve had now almost a week of that heavy tropical rain that pounds on the roofs, splashes on to trees and roads in bucket loads, with the sound of waterfalls all around when it starts pouring. It makes me even more comfortable in the nice warm den at home. And whenever the sun comes out after these heavy rainfalls, all the leaves are strewn with dazzling rainbow-coloured drops and everything is shiningly green. The world is washed again sparkling clean.
There was some issue in your last letter that I have not answered fully and I thought it worth explaining it a bit more.
RESPONDENT: Is it easy for you to differentiate between the feeling of love and dependency and the sensation of fulfilment, freedom and happiness that comes when two people share intimacy?
VINEETO: Also you had asked No 8 a similar question –
Sensation is the purely sensate message that the brain receives from the senses – eyes, ears, nose, tongue and touch.
And on senses from The Actual Freedom Trust Library –
My perception of sensations has drastically changed in the last few years. It has moved away from ‘sensational’ intense sensate experiences, which were mostly accompanied by emotions, to an overall increased and unpolluted awareness of pleasurable aliveness as a sensate human being. Sensation and sensuousness today is the more and more prevalent attentiveness of the ongoing delight that my senses exude – the temperature on the skin, the warmth in the stomach from the last cup of coffee, the remnant of bitter and honey taste in the mouth, the subtle ‘click’ of the radiator switching on, the hum of the fridge, the colourful scenes outside the window, cool fingers on warm face...
When one stops to observe, there is a myriad of sensations happening each moment and usually we don’t bother noticing because we are so busy feeling and thinking something else. But then, what can be more thrilling than sensately feeling alive, just sitting or lying on the couch, or tasting some food, listening to the sounds of the night, the clock ticking away ...
Our senses are usually strictly filtered by the censor in the primitive brain and one only perceives a small percentage of the incoming sensual information. Further, the preoccupation of ‘me’, the instinctual identity, with emotions and beliefs makes pure sensate experiencing a rarity. The psychological self in the neo-cortex and the instinctual self in the amygdala are programmed to give a feeling interpretation of all sensual input. In order to avoid merely suppressing one’s emotions one has to roll up one’s sleeves and progressively deprogram one’s brain so as to be able to more freely experience the delight of one’s senses without the suffocating layer of feelings and emotions.
RESPONDENT: Is it easy for you to differentiate between the feeling of love and dependency and the sensation of fulfilment, freedom and happiness that comes when two people share intimacy?
VINEETO: The feeling of love is clearly a feeling of the ‘good’ category. When in love, every sensate experience with the other is experienced and interpreted according to the pink glasses of romance, lust, need, longing, nurture, dependency and belonging.
But what you call the ‘sensation of fulfilment, freedom and happiness’ is also a feeling, not a sensation. Those feelings are the felicitous/ innocuous feelings of the ‘happy and harmless’ category that we actualists aim for whenever possible.
As Richard explained in his recent letter to No 8, no-one with a self still intact can live without feelings – so we actualists opt for and concentrate on the felicitous/ innocuous feelings whenever possible and remove the obstacles to enjoying those felicitous/ innocuous feelings. As such, to ‘differentiate between pure sensations and feelings constructed around simple sensations of the body’ is particularly significant, when one’s sensations are accompanied by either the ostensibly ‘good’ feelings like love, gratitude, longing, bitter-sweetness or beauty, or ‘bad’ feelings like resentment, fear, disgust, aversion, complaint or apprehension. The aim is to incrementally free one’s experiencing of the sensual input from the shackles of emotions and instinctual passions and to facilitate a sensate-only experience known as a Pure Consciousness Experience.
This is where the diagram of the grey and green arrows – ‘What am I’ vs. ‘Who am I’ – comes in. ‘What am I’ is experienced through the senses and through ‘self’-less thinking and reflection. To free one’s senses of any distorting restriction created by feelings and emotions increases the possibility for experiencing ‘what’ I am. To investigate each emotion when it occurs, to question its underlying moral, ethical and spiritual principles is to decrease the impact of ‘who am I’ on the sensual experiencing. The same goes for reflective and contemplative thought. The more I investigate and eliminate my emotions, the less impact they have on my thinking and the more clear and sensible thinking will become.
The serendipitous cycle of decreasing the identity and increasing sensate delight...
RESPONDENT: Thanks for the response, it was very interesting, especially the part where you discuss real and spiritual. My concern though was about abstract concepts and if they exist in the real or actual world.
VINEETO: The real world is chock-a-block full of abstract concepts and passionate imaginations, whereas by stepping into the actual world any abstract cerebral-only concepts are instantaneously supplanted by sensuous and sensual information and the sensibility of reflective thought that is stripped of social morals and ethics and freed from instinctual passions. And when it comes to understanding and experiencing the vastness of this infinite and eternal universe or the fact that we are speeding on a rotating globe in the middle of nowhere, then abstract concepts fail miserably – one can only stand in wonder at the endless delight and perfection, abundance and sparkling diversity.
RESPONDENT: Another question I have if it is possible for the human brain to operate without these concepts.
Our brain works with information, it’s a computing organ. Not at all similar with a computer in design or internal operation, but still it’s some sort of computing device. The brain is processing information and information is in some sense abstract. Even if information needs some kind of physical entity to exist it is still not physical in its nature. All our senses are detecting information from the nature surrounding us.
VINEETO: The information that the brain processes is information that is obtained by the physical senses and, as such, the information is directly related to the physical material world – smell, touch, sound, vision and taste. The brain works like a big fast biofeedback computer, processing the sensual information about the physical world via millions of neural connections and switches. The process of clear and pure thinking, i.e. without an interfering and ‘self’-centric interpreting identity, is remarkably simple, straightforward and effective.
The reason why our sensual information is not being perceived in such a pure and clear way is because of our animal instinctual passions and the culturally imposed ethical and moral conditioning – the Human Condition. The way human beings usually process sensual information is primarily instinctual and the result is that the information is ‘abstracted’, separated from its physical sensual source, generalized, theorized, symbolized, conceptualized, intellectualized, idealized, scanned by moral/ethical evaluation and topped up with plenty of intuition and imagination. As such, the initial sensory information is, usually without noticing, removed from physical facts, edited, twisted and adjusted to the rules of our cerebral-abstract and affective-metaphysical world of belief, opinion, viewpoint and theory. To illustrate the nature of the physical process that gives rise to the emotionalising of incoming sensory input it is useful to look at the findings of empirical science –
What LeDoux has investigated is valid for every sensory input – the information is already filtered and distorted at the gateway, causing us to instinctually react to our sensory experience before we are aware of what has happened. This split-second later awareness is then experienced as an emotion or feeling, leaving scant opportunity for any sensible thought-process to even begin to happen.
The actualism method of asking oneself ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive’ is designed to dismantle the social and instinctual programming that interprets and distorts, imagines and conceptualizes, and, given diligence and perseverance, one then starts perceiving things as they are, and, even more wondrously, starts seeing people as they are. Then the sensual information is not distorted by a fearful, sorrowful and malicious program, our identity, but is very concrete, direct and intimate, ever fresh and utterly fascinating. Reflective thought, as opposed to abstract concepts, will always instil practical application and down-to-earth sensibility into the biofeedback loop of the information and thinking process and therefore integrate a constant flow of physical sensual information.
You can also look at the problem of abstracted thinking and feeling this way. ‘Who’ I think and feel I am is not a physical entity – ‘I’ experience myself as a meta-physical, psychological and psychic entity dwelling inside the flesh and blood body, looking out through the eyes, hearing through the ears, tasting with the tongue, feeling by touch, smelling through the nose. ‘Who’ I think and feel I am, as opposed to what I am, therefore always thinks and feels he or she is isolated from, and different in nature from, the physical world I actually live in. ‘I’ therefore can only gain a second-hand abstracted impression, via the physical senses of ‘my’ body, of what actually exists. ‘I’ am therefore always lost, always lonely, always frightened and always rely on cunning to get ‘my’ way.
In a pure consciousness experience there is no abstraction or disconnection between the sensorial input and what is being seen, heard, tasted, touched or smelt. In a pure consciousness experience the vibrant physicality of the universe becomes immediately apparent and the sensuous actuality of its perfection and purity is such that ‘I’ am not only made temporarily redundant but ‘I’ can be clearly seen for the spoiler ‘I’ am.
Actualism is the method and the process of coming to one’s senses, both literally and figuratively. (...)
RESPONDENT: So my concern really is, if our brain works with abstract ideal ideas or concepts, represented by neurons working with different patterns when firing. And if these abstract concept represents knowledge of the physical world intermingled with concepts representing experiences and knowledge about feelings, both our own and our fellow man, and also about accepted social behaviour. Is it then possible to separate or remove all of this or even parts of it and still have an operational brain?
VINEETO: Neurons do fire when emotions are triggered in the brain, this is something you can experience yourself quite easily the very next time you are emotional. However, just because there is more and more detailed physical evidence that maps some of our emotional and instinctual behaviour does not mean that this behaviour is unchangeable. Human beings can in fact learn to stop being a malicious and sorrowful entity by starting to investigate the entity in action. Eliminating the entity, and with it the automatic instinctual reactions, frees the brain for sensible and intelligent functioning when needed.
There are three ways we experience the world –
Cerebral interpretation and affective reaction are the only ways ‘I’, the psychological and psychic entity, can respond to the sensory information of the world around me. In order to directly experience the world around me, unimpeded by ‘my’ meta-physical concepts and emotional interpretations, it was vital that I inquired into the underlying emotions that were producing those elaborate concepts and beliefs in the first place. In order to make sense of the world around me, I developed a keen awareness towards my then permanently triggered emotional reactions and my uninterrupted flow of beliefs and imaginations. Slowly, slowly I was able to poke holes into this intricate web of emotions, affections, imagination, intuition, spiritual beliefs, truths, rights and wrongs and get glimpses of the astounding perfect actual world that lies beneath the human-made world of suffering, malice, fear and love.
The adventure is to find out that ‘I’ am not needed for the brain to think, and that the brain is perfectly equipped for the job it does – the sophisticated biofeedback process of thinking, reflecting, planning, communicating and also of being aware of itself in operation. ‘I’ am not needed to process information through eyes, ears, skin and nose – the senses and the brain are perfectly equipped to collect, process and make sense of that information, if required. The human body and brain is, as far as we know, the pinnacle of the development of animate life in the universe and everything operates wondrously and perfectly without ‘me’, the instinctually driven entity that is continuously interfering in the ongoing perfection with ‘my’ fears and desires, aggression and nurture, morals and ethics, concepts and imagination.
Yes, the more you remove parts of this ‘abstract ideal ideas or concepts, represented by neurons working with different patterns when firing’, the better the brain can operate and the more sensible you become. When you remember a Pure Consciousness Experience, as everyone had at least once in their lives, you will know, by direct experience, what clarity a non-cerebral, non-affective brain in operation is capable of. Freed from the crippling effect of instinctual passions and their resultant spiritual beliefs and meta-physical concepts one is able to be aware of the delightful process of the brain in operation ... ... or at rest, which I will do now.
Vineeto’s & Richard’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.