Direct Experience

In the West, the tendency to filter all of our feelings and senses through our mind, our thinking, is so pervasive that we scarcely imagine life beyond our idea of things. And yet, we do have the capacity to experience life directly, without labelling, commentary or instruction.

Developing this capacity is a central skill of Kum Nye, which in turn liberates us from suffering. “Labelling is the source of suffering,” says Rinpoche Tarthang Tulku. Labelling — the practice of defining experience as good or bad, right or wrong,  mine or not mine — results in attachment: clinging to or resisting that which presents itself. It isn’t that we lack the capacity to experience life directly, it is simply hidden behind the constancy of habits learned from infancy and reinforced just about everywhere. When we do have a glimpse of direct experience, the world takes on a magical glow, our energy grows: we feel connected to life.

How do we begin to experience life more directly? The keys are relaxation, present centeredness, and body centeredness.

The first goal of Kum Nye is relaxation, achieved through mindfulness of body and senses. Relaxation is also the practice of making no effort. Imagine not being able to swim, and then being cast into water. At first you might thrash wildly to stay afloat, but if you relax, you’ll float, you’ll discover that no effort is required. In fact,you’d discover that effort makes things worse.

The sense that we must ‘keep ourselves afloat’ occurs at the neuromuscular level, beyond conscious awareness. The gestures and movements of Kum Nye release tensions at this deep level, and we gradually learn to float in our internal experience. This deep relaxation is supported by a certain kind of warm curious interest in the body, achieved by loosening up our ideas about feelings, and contacting feelings directly. Our tendencies are to label certain sensations and then feel aversion or attachment to specific feelings and to their perceived external or internal causes. What does this look like? We say that we feel sad or anxious or uncomfortable, for example. And yet, when we contact the sensations themselves, with open curiosity, we might sense warmth or tingling or a feeling of weight. Kum Nye involves stimulating and then sitting with feeling, very gradually opening energy channels and over time, opening up our ability to experience life directly.

We discover that feelings have information and wisdom and when we contact them in this way, they provide energy. This energy flows to the heart, and our hearts become the driving force of our lives, open without any need to define. The second and third  aspects of Kum Bye practice leading towards direct experience are present centeredness, and body centeredness. The physical or movement aspects of Kum Nye train the mind to be in the body, and in the heart. Many disciplines advocate staying in the present, but we all know the mind jumps constantly from past to future, through fears and fantasy. We also know that we tend to limit our attention on the body’s lower energy fields, simply because they are denser.

This is the nature of the mind, and yet, we can gradually train the mind to be interested in the present phenomena of the body, or more accurately, the energy fields within the body. As we touch to these fields, they naturally bring themselves into balance; no effort is required of us beyond loving attention. And when the mind finds its home in the body, it ceases to be so restless, and we discover a dynamic stillness and clarity of purpose. We become whole.

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