Where Buddhism Meets Gendlin

Month: April 2009

Gut Feelings

I’m reading a book called ‘Gut Feelings’ at the moment. An enjoyable read by Gerd Gigerenzer. I find it interesting that in my first couple of chapters there is no mention of the body. There is lots of mention of a certain organ in the body; that is, the brain. So, how does he define ‘gut feelings’? He uses ‘gut feeling,’ ‘intuition’ and ‘hunch’ interchangeably (p.16) “to refer to a judgment

  1. that appears quickly in consciousness,
  2. whose underlying reasons we are not fully aware of, and
  3. is strong enough to act upon.”

This is pretty good, and there are lots of good cognitive psych stories in the book, good experiments, supporting the theory that much that is important about us and our decision-making goes on out of sight. However, I thought, “Can this be, that he doesn’t know about Gendlin’s ‘felt sense’ and that he doesn’t include the body below the neck in this ‘intuition’ field?” I’ll read on and let you know, but when I go to the index, there is no entry for ‘body.’ (And no mention of Gendlin anywhere.)

This is strange to me, especially when in other places I’ve read of the discovery of ‘brain’ cells in the heart and in the stomach; in other words, in the gut. But most of all, because mindfulness of the body produces a direct realisation of the role of the body below the neck in intuitive life.

Senses Portals for the MInd

In the classical summary of the processes which make up a human, the Buddha didn’t include the six senses in the first ‘aggregate’, the body. The later Theravadans made the senses more physical than they were in the early suttas, says Sue Hamilton in her Identity and Experience: the Constitution of the Human Being According to Early Buddhism. The senses in the early Buddhist literature are not contacted via the aggregate called the ‘body.’

This makes sense to me. When at any time of the day I do a simple exercise to find my presence, it goes something like this: “Firstly, relax the body. Next, relax the breath. And, now, relax the senses.” When I get to this ‘senses’ part, I notice that this automatically means an entry into the kind of ‘space’ that we call ‘the mind,’ not more into the so-called physical body. When I rest into this resultant ‘spaciousness’ curiously, I can notice that ‘the senses’ are all there in the space together; they aren’t separated in their conventional channels – they interpenetrate. One way of saying this might be to say: they partake of the same source, a unified ground state of consciousness.

This brings a new perspective on the injunction to ‘guard the senses.’ The senses need to be guarded because they are so directly portals to the spacious, luminous mind, the ‘citta.’ As such, the senses may be thought of as a liminal space which is neither body, nor non-body. Hence, they get a mention as domains of awareness in the citta, not as functions of the body.

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