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Lesson 4




Imagine all things and creatures as the cells of a single living being.

All are but parts of one stupendous whole,

Whose body Nature is and God the soul.

                                                 ~Alexander Pope




We have curious abilities when it comes to our senses. We are geared for both specific and holistic sensing. On the one hand, we have the ability to sense all kinds of things in our environment very individually and very specifically. You can teach yourself to pick out the song of a single bird out of the morning cacophony of feathered conversation in a forest. I remember my feeling of accomplishment the first time I managed to single out and follow the viola part in a string quartet. On the other hand, we can also use these same senses of ours to expand our awareness into the hidden, but accessible, wholeness of which we are a part.


Alexander Pope’s wonderful quote above touches on this essential wholeness of all life. When you work consciously with energy you are automatically inviting this level of life’s organization into your consciousness. You might start by getting a feeling connection with a small, very specific place on your body, but as you relax your attention and settle into a neutral state in which you are not trying to direct the process, you can find yourself being drawn into the exerience of being a part of something bigger. In this week’s lesson, we are going to spend time with this aspect of our energy practices.


Native people acknowledge their participation in the web of life with the words, “All my relations,” as they enter ceremonial space. They are acknowledging that each of us is a body contained within other, greater bodies. You might be accustomed to thinking of yourself as just good old you, independent and splendidly isolated from all others. But look again: you are also part of a family, a genetic line, a tribe, a race, an ethnicity, a nationality, a language group, a set of people with a common experience, perhaps a religious persuasion, a minority status, a profession or career path, a particular generation marked by a certain common history, challenges and experiences. Ultimately, we are all part of the greater whole of humanity and the family of all sentient beings. Each of these greater bodies is evolving and growing, just like we are as individuals.


Two Exercises for Holstic Sensing

These exercises are designed to “stretch” your senses. I taught myself to do this first one at the retreat center where I lived and worked for many years. The natural pools there flow with hot and cold water from springs that come straight out of deep subterranean aquifers. The water is both fresh and ancient.


Start with a Round of Energetically Balanced Breathing

Here is a short, useful breathing exercise, a good warm up for any of the other meditative exercises you will find in this course. This cycle consists of three slow, conscious breaths in each of these four modes:

  • IN through your nose and OUT through your nose—three times;

  • IN through your nose and OUT through your mouth—three times;

  • IN through your mouth and OUT through your nose—three times;

  • IN through your mouth and OUT through your mouth—three times.

Holistic Sensing Exercise 1: “Touch Water”

  1. Submerge your body in water. While it is great to do this in the ocean, in a lake, river or natural spring, you can also do this at home in your bathtub. (If all you have is a shower, it’s time to activate your imagination!)

  2. Feel the water on your skin. Feel it touching the entire surface of your body. Stay for a moment with the experience of the water touching you all over. Let it in.

  3. Now reverse the experience: now it is you who are touching the water. Touch it and feel that connection, not just with your hands but with every part of your body. Close your eyes and spend a couple of minutes touching the water with your entire skin surface.

  4. Extend your senses into the water around you. Let your senses blend and elongate into the molecules of the water.

  5. Call to mind that this very water that you are touching is but a tiny portion of the vast body of water that circulates throughout the Earth.

  6. Feel your way into that vast body of water. Extend your awareness out into the ocean or lake or river you are in. Extend it into the stream coming to you through the faucet of your bathtub (or up through the nozzle of your shower) into the pipeline from the reservoir that is fed by wells and springs coming up from ancient aquifers, underground lakes and streams. Reflect on how all water is interconnected throughout the earth, existing in all its various states, from the water in your body to the flowing water of the planet’s rivers, oceans, lakes and streams, to the water contained in glaciers and polar icecaps, and to the water of the endless cycles of vapor and clouds and rain. Water, water everywhere!

  7. Through the water that is surrounding and permeating your body, reach out and touch all water.

  8. Spend five to ten minutes with what comes up in you as you do this.

  9. Take note of your experiences.


Here is an audio walk-through of this exercise:


Holistic Sensing Exercise 2: “Touch Air, Breathe Sky”

  1. This is a good one to try with no clothing on. Sitting or lying comfortably, Let it touch you all over.

  2. As in the previous exercise, reverse the sensation. Now it is you who are touching the air. Touch the air with your entire skin surface. Spend two minutes touching the air with your skin surface.

  3. Bring your attention to the tip of your nose. Imagine for a moment that you are a tiny being, perched there, at the tip of your nose. From this vantage point, follow the movement of air into your body and back out.

  4. Feel what happens as the air comes into your body, touching your inner spaces.

  5. Move your awareness back to the surface of your body and again touch air.

  6. Call to mind that you are touching a miniscule portion of the vast sea of air that makes up the atmosphere of our planet. You are breathing in bits of sky, aren’t you? The very same air that is touching you is also touching everything and everyone on the surface of this planet. You are at this moment touching the same vast body of air, a piece of the same sky, as someone in Wichita, Kansas or Kuala Lampur! As consciously as you can, Touch this air that we all share.

  7. Spend five to ten minutes with what comes forward in your consciousness. Don’t analyze what comes.

  8. Take note of your experiences.








Homework Reflection:

What are you aware of being part of, like a cell in a greater body? List as many of these larger wholes that you are a part of—you might want to see what this looks like if you draw it—perhaps beginning with your family, ethnic and national group. From there, go on to groupings you are a conscious part of, including people with whom you share a common experience. Let your imagination go to work.


A Bonus Exercise to Try:

As a warm up to our first exercise in this lesson, we had a short breathing exercise called “Energetically Balanced Beathing.” Here is a variation of that exercise that will explain what you see in that illustration (if you try it):


Combining Energetically Balanced Breathing and Physical Gesture

An excellent way to enhance the effect of this practice is to introduce some physical movement or gesture that follows the energy movement as you progress through the four modes of breathing. This is a moving gesture of gathering energy from both Heaven and Earth into your Heart and then sending it out into the world. Try this:

  1. Use your hands to trace the movement of energy into your heart center as you breathe in.

  2. Bring your hands together at your heart.

  3. Pause there briefly before following the outward-moving energetic ripple of your exhalation back out into the space around you as you exhale.

  4. Pause there briefly before following the next breath in.

  5. Continue in this mode through a 12-breath cycle.


​In next week’s lesson, we will take up the big issue of grounding, not only from the stand point of our contact with the earth, but in the wider sense of what it takes to become a grounded person. When you are ready to shove off into a new lesson, click here.


Click here for the "Touch Water" Exercise:

Touch Water ExerciseJim Gilkeson
00:00 / 17:46

Click here for the "Touch Air" Exercise:

Touch Air Breath SkyJim Gilkeson
00:00 / 10:55

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