Coming back to “the big, loud, present, bright world”
After I’d asked one of my meditation students to try a mindful eating exercise, she wrote about how during the exercise the food became “her everything” and said that this reminded her “of how life looks when I am able to shut out the whirring thoughts and just pay attention to the now — the big, loud, present, bright world comes forth when before it was in the background.”
Her mentioning how “the big, loud, present, bright world comes forth when before it was in the background” reminds me of times that I’ve been reading outdoors, and after a period of complete immersion in the world of words I’ll come back to sensory reality and find myself astonished by how bright, and vivid, and rich, and fascinating everything is.
Now I love reading, and I consider myself to have a rich inner world, but there’s just a huge difference in sensory bandwidth between the world of thought and the world of sensory experience.
I notice this as well when I’m moving from distracted thought to being present. I’ll be driving, say, and realize that I’ve drifted into rumination, and when I come back the real world just seems so vivid. I also have a strong sense of the thought-world involving qualities of heaviness and tightness, compared to a relative lightness and open relaxation in the sensory realm.
I notice the same thing when I’m walking, and I switch from thinking to being aware of my body and the world through which it’s moving.
I think it’s worth noticing these contrasts and allowing ourselves to be fascinated by them. It’s also worth valuing and rejoicing in the richness and fullness of the sensory world, and developing the intention to keep revisiting it as often as possible. Often we get so caught up in thinking for so long that we almost forget how to be aware of our sensory experience.