Seeing with All the Senses as One Sense
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Seeing Anew: Exploring Perception

Coming Back to Our Senses

In some ways this is where this book began, and this was probably sparked by my recommitment around my 40th birthday to my life mission of coming into direct multisensory communion with nature.

.Reawakening the senses, direct perception what does this have to do with seeing? Numerous Krishnamurti quotes indicated that it has everything to do with seeing. Krishnamurti insisted if we're not seeing with our ears, our nose, our hearts, all our senses together than we are not really seeing. To see with only the eyes, is for Krishnamurti, to not really see.

The bible admonishes for those who have eyes to see and ears to listen. Jesus cautions us against trying to remove the splinter in another's eye, when we have a timber in our own.

Don Juan is incredulous that Carlos Castaneda assumes one can see only with one's eyes.
Henry David Thoreau must keep his senses alive and ready for whatever might be met out in nature.
The senses of children are unprofaned. Their whole body is one sense; they take a physical pleasure in riding on a rail, they love to teeter. So does the unviolated, the unsophisticated mind derive an inexpressible pleasure from the simplest exercise of thoughts.
Journal, July 7, 1851

I must walk with more frees senses. It as bad to "study" stars and clouds as flowers and stones. I must let my senses wander as my thoughts, my eyes see without looking. I have the habit of attention to such excess that my senses get no rest, but suffer from a constant strain. Be not preoccupied with looking. Go not to the object; let it come to you.

When I have found myself ever looking down and confining my gaze to the flowers, I have thought it might be well to get into the habit of observing the clouds as a corrective; but no! That study would be just as bad. What I need is not to look at all, but a true sauntering of the eye!

My pulse must beat with Nature. After a hard day's work without a thought, turning my very brain into a mere tool, only in the quiet of the evening do I so far recover my senses as to hear the cricket, which in fact has been chirping all day.

We live but a fraction of our life. Why do we not let on the flood, raise the gates, and set all our wheels in motion? Those that hath ears to hear, let them hear. Employ your senses.

See, hear, smell, taste, while all the senses are fresh and pure as in a late evening when the whole body is one sense, and imbibes delight through every pore. We must store up none of the life in our gift; it is as fatal as to husband our breath. We must live all of our life.

I love the nature, I love the landscape - it is cheerfully, musically earnest. I love to see a sandy road cutting through a pitch pine wood, I love to hear the wind howl, I love the sweet fragrance of clover, I love to drink the water of the meadow or the river I pass the day on, I love to sit on the withered grass.

Let Nature feel your pulse" to see "if your sensuous existence is sound "Feel your senses with the best that the land affords "what your senses hourly perceive, commonest events, every-day phenomena.

Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and open yourself to the influences of each. Whatever addresses them, as the flavor of these berries, or the lowing of that cow... each sight and sound and scent and flavor -- intoxicates with a healthy intoxication Let them be your only diet drink. Be blown on by all the winds. Open all your pores and bathe in all the tides of Nature, in all her streams and oceans, at all seasons"

When we walk, we naturally go to the fields and woods: what would become of us, if we walked only in a garden or a mall? Of course it is of no use to direct our steps to the woods, if they do not carry us thither.

I am alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit. In my afternoon walk I would fain forget all my morning occupations and my obligations to society. But it sometimes happens that I cannot easily shake off the village. The thought of some work will run in my head and I am not where my body is, - I am out of my senses.

In my walks I would fain return to my senses. What business have I in the woods, if I am thinking of something out of the woods? I suspect myself, and cannot help a shudder, when I find myself so implicated even in what are called good works, - for this may sometimes happen.

"We need pray for no higher heaven than the pure senses can furnish, a purely sensuous life. Our present senses are but the rudiments of what they are destined to become.
A Week, "Friday"

August 17, 1851
For a day or two it has been quite cool, a coolness that was felt even when sitting by an open window in a thin coat on the west side of the house in the morning, and you naturally sought the sun at that hour. The coolness concentrated your thought, however.

As I could not command a sunny window, I went abroad on the morning of the fifteenth and lay in the sun in the fields in my thin coat, though it was rather cool even there. I feel as if the coolness would do me good. If it only makes my life more pensive! Why should pensiveness be akin to sadness?

There is a certain fertile sadness which I would not avoid, but rather earnestly seek. It is positively joyful to me. It saves my life from being trivial. My life flows with a deeper current, no longer as a shallow and brawling stream, parched and shrunken by the summer heats. This coolness comes to condense the dews and clear the atmosphere. The stillness seems more deep and significant. Each sound seems to come from out a greater thoughtfulness in nature, as if nature had acquire some character and mind. The cricket, the gurgling stream, the rushing wind amid the trees, all speak to me soberly yet encouragingly of the steady onward progress of the universe. My heart leaps into my mouth at the sound of the wind in the woods. I, whose life was but yesterday so desultory and shallow, suddenly recover my spirits, my spirituality, through my hearing. I see a goldfinch go twittering through the still, louring day, and am reminded of the peeping flowch which will soon herald the thoughtful season. Ah! if I could so live that there should be no desultory moment in all my life! That in the trivial season, when small fruits are ripe, my fruits might be ripe also! That I could match nature always with my moods! That in each season when some part of nature especially flourishes, then a corresponding part of me may not fail to flourish!

Ah, I would walk, I would sit and sleep, with natural piety! What if I could pray aloud or to myself as I went along by the brooksides a cheerful prayer like the birds! For joy I could embrace the earth; I shall delight to be buried in it. And then to think of those I love among men, who will know that I love them though I tell them not! I sometimes feel as if I were rewarded merely for expecting better hours. I did not despair of worthier moods, and now I have occasion to be grateful for the flood of life that flowing over me. I am not so poor: I can smell the ripening apples; the very rills are deep; the autumnal flowers, the Tichostem dichotomum- not only its bright blue flower above the sand, but its strong wormwood scent which belongs to the season - feed my spirit, endear the earth to me, make me value myself and rejoice; the quivering of pigeons' wings reminds me of the tough fibre of the air which they rend. I thank you, God. I do not deserve anything. I am unworthy of the least regard; and yet I am made to rejoice. I am impure and worthless, and yet the world is gilded for my delight and holidays are prepared for me, and my path is strewn with flowers. It seems to me that I am more rewarded for my expectations than for anything I do or can do. Ah, I would not tread on a cricket in whose song is such a revelation, so soothing and cheering to my ear! Oh, keep my senses pure!

October, 1851
The witchhazel, here is in full blossom on this magical hillside, while its broad yellow leaves are falling. Some bushes are completely bare of leaves, and leather-colored they strew the ground. It is an extremely interesting plant--October and November's child, and yet reminds me of the very earliest spring. Its blossoms smell like the spring, like the willow catkins; by their color as well as fragrance they belong to the saffron dawn of the year, suggesting amid all these signs of Nature, by which she eternally flourishes, is untouched. It stands here in the shadow on the side of the hill, while the sunlight from over the top of the hill lights up its topmost sprays and yellow blossoms. Its spray, so jointed and angular, is not to be mistaken for any other. I lie on my back with joy under its boughs. While its leaves fall, its blossoms spring.

The noblest feature, the eye, is the fairest-colored, the jewel of the body.
Maine Woods, "Ktaadn"

One cannot perceive beauty but with a serene mind.

For one expansion of breath

To the heather

On a clear day.

Nature is a mutable cloud which is always and never the same. Ralph Waldo Emerson

A man doth best when he is most himself.
Journal, January 21st, 1852

Go not to any foreign theater for spectacles, but consider first that there is nothing which can delight or astonish the eyes, but you may discover it all in yourselves.
Reform Papers, "Reform and Reformers"

It is easier to discover another such a new world as Columbus did, than to go within one fold of this which we appear to know so well.
A Week, "Friday"

Every man has to learn the points of compass again as often as he awakes, whether from sleep or any abstraction. Not till we are lost, in other words, not till we have lost the world, do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations.
Walden, "Conclusion"

Only that day dawns to which we are awake. There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star. Walden, ‘Conclusion’

Love does not analyze its object. Journal, September 14th, 1841

Give me the obscure life, the cottage of the poor and humble, the workdays of the world, the barren fields, the smallest share of all things but poetic perception. Give me but the eyes to see the things which you possess.
Journal, August 28, 1851

Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business. Walden, "Where I lived"

The richest gifts we can bestow are the least marketable.
Correspondence, To R.W. Emerson, February 12, 1843

We need pray for no higher heaven than the pure senses can furnish, a purely sensuous life. Our present senses are but the rudiments of what they are destined to become. A Week, "Friday"


The man is blessed who every day is permitted to behold anything so pure and serene as the western sky at sunset, while revolutions vex the world.
Journal, December 27th, 1851

We see only as much as we possess."

It is vain to write on chosen themes. We must wait till they have kindled a flame in our minds. There must be the…generating force of love behind every effort destined to be successful"

A man has not seen a thing who has not felt it.

"The stones are happy, Concord River is happy, and I am happy too. When I took up a fragment of a walnut shell this morning I saw by its grain and composition, its form and color, etc., that it was made for happiness."

Till rising and gliding out I wander'd
Off by myself
In the mystical moist night-air, and
From time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.
Walt Whitman


Surely joy is the condition of life. Think of the young fry that leap on ponds, the myriads of insects ushered into being on a summer evening, the incessant note of the hyla with which the woods ring in the spring, the nonchalance of the butterfly carrying accident and change painted in a thousand hues upon its wings, the brook minnow stoutly stemming the current, or a sunset, nature's most gorgeous sight.


We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us. We loiter in winter while it is already spring. We are enabled to apprehend at what is sublime and noble only by the perpetual instilling and drenching of the reality which surrounds us. Above all we cannot afford not to live in the present

Be it life or death, we crave only reality. If we are really dying, let us hear the rattle in our throats and feel cold in the extremities; if we are alive, let us go about our business.

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in. I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is. Its thin current slides away, but eternity remains. I would drink deeper; fish in the sky, whose bottom is pebbly with stars. I cannot count one. I know not the first letter of the alphabet. I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.

If the day and the night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal, - that is your success. All nature is your congratulations and you have cause momentarily to bless yourself. The greatest gains and values are farthest from being appreciated. We easily come to doubt if they exist. We soon forget them. They are the highest reality. Perhaps the facts most astounding and most real are never communicated from person to person. The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and undescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star-dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.

Our customs turn the hour of sunset to a trivial time, we commonly sacrifice to supper this serene and sacred hour. It might be well if our repasts were taken out-of-doors, in view of the sunset and the rising stars; if, with our bread and butter, we took a slice of the red western sky. The air of the valleys at this hour is the distilled essence of all those fragrances which during the day have been filling and have been dispersed in the atmosphere.

I omit the unusual - the hurricanes and earthquakes-and describe the common. You may have the extraordinary for your province, if you will let me have the ordinary. Give me the obscure life, the cottage of the poor and humble, the workdays of the world, the barren fields, the smallest of all things but poetic perception. Give me but the eyes to see the things which you possess.

August 9, 2001 Daniella, a German friend who has spent a lot of time in India, shared a story with me after I told her I was working on a book on Seeing and perception and mentioned that one of the aspects was seeing with all the senses. She told me, "I have a story that I know you'll want to hear." I read somewhere and I've only seen it once, perhaps in some kind of an anthropological text, that human beings have the ability to perceive from the lower part of the leg. She then explained that one time when living in India she needed to go outside in the dark. A friend suggested that she take a torch (flashlight) with her, because "There are snakes." She declined his offer, because she wasn't concerned enough to bother. However, once outside after going a ways she was about to take another step when she felt something from her lower leg that backed her up. She went inside and got a torch and when she came back out cautiously she discovered a large cobra right where she almost stepped. She said the book suggested it was a primitive sense that we hardly ever have call to use these days.

A friend who lives in a canyon near where I use to live, told me that one evening he was walking down the path to his home with his four-year-old son riding on his shoulders. Suddenly, the boy cried out - "Snake! Daddy!" They both froze until they realized it was not in fact a snake, but a hose snaked across the sidewalk. There seems to be something deep in our brains that pays attention to snake profiles whenever they occur.

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