Sensitivity, space, and wonder
How do we transform sensitivity from a weakness into a honed skill?
Unconscious sensitivity opens us to being needlessly hurt, feeling paper cuts as deep wounds. Consciousness, though, requires sensitivity, the ability to sense what is present, exquisitely attuned to the wonder of the world as it is.
Sensitivity as a skill requires that we unlearn the way we have been taught to see: from our earliest age, we were all shown what can be pointed to and named: the things that fill space. We learn to label, and that naming creates knowing. Once we know, there is no mystery. We are certain of what something is, and that certainty, that naming, is a kind of ownership.
When we choose, consciously or habitually, to not-see something, we can safely imagine that it doesn’t exist. Many of our problems continue this way, with inertia. We ignore the homeless on the street, we ignore our own addictions. Once we see it, name it, own it, then we have the responsibility of that ownership: to take care.
There is another way of not-knowing; a conscious choice to see and not-name, which is a skill that allows us to see mysteries, see the unknown. Only from that state can we step away from glossing over surface appearances and open into greater awareness.
Sensing opening is the most challenging, most wonderful sensitivity. To see space, feel space, to reconcile the smallness of oneself in the vastness of the planet, the universe, the whole stretch of cosmic time— these are the sensations of psychedelics, of mythology, but are also always at our fingertips.
Why don’t we feel the scale of space-time? We can’t, it overwhelms us, it prevents our productivity, the personal goals and the global economy. We can focus on our small tasks at hand because we build our lives to the scale of our bodies: four walls, small screens, sidewalks wide enough for two people, roads wide enough for two cars. On that scale, we can see things rather than space. We see that there was work done by others, and that we have work to do ourselves.
We do this for time as well as space, dividing and filling the expanse of a lifetime into electronic calendars we keep close to touch at all times. When we keep this minute/minute (read that both ways) scale, our minds become accustomed to remembering the past, planning the future, working instead of feeling the now.
This is why we love to travel. We love nature, the bigness of it. We love beaches, the wide sweeps of the horizon. We love to get on a plane and fly above the clouds, have glimpses of the true scale of the planet. Cities are small. People are tiny. Clouds are enormous.
Feeling the magnitude of the universe is mind-boggling in the best way. We automatically relax, knowing that there is nothing any one of us can do to change the balance of the world. It will continue to turn with or without us. And this absolves us of work, but empowers us with sensitivity, perception, and wonder.