In “The Natural Way to Draw”, Kimon Nicolaides offered three exercises for the would-be artist; they were:
- contour drawing, drawing with the pencil continuously on the paper, looking only at the subject/object;
- gesture drawing, where the pencil moves freely (and copiously) to capture the gesture and the weight of the subject/object;
- drawing from memory.
In “Shikantaza and Gautama the Buddha’s ‘Pleasant Way of Living’”, I walked through Gautama’s description of the feeling of each of the initial concentrative states. In the description he gave, there’s an alternation between the experience of some central object (the “soap-ball”, the “plants… born in water”), and the experience of a surface of some kind (the “pool with a spring”, the “cloth… wrapt from head to foot”). In addition to the four initial states of concentration that alternate between these two modalities, Gautama described something he termed the “survey sign”, an overview of marks, characteristics, or signs that can be recalled from memory to attend to a concentration.
The neuroscientist Olaf Blanke noted that particular combinations of disabilities in the senses associated with the feeling of self can give rise to different kinds of out-of-body experience, which makes it plausible to me that particular coordinations of these same senses might give rise to the different modalities of concentration Gautama described.
In several of my recent writings, I talk about how involuntary activity in the body sustains pressure in the “fluid ball” of the abdomen (“fluid ball”, from D. L. Bartilink); I believe, based on my own experience, that support for posture from that pressure can be realized at any point in the body, as an autonomic response in the movement of breath.
The sense of balance is closely tied to the activity that generates and sustains pressure in the “fluid ball”, and the senses of touch and weight are closely allied with the support provided by the “fluid ball”.
For me, the distinction of the senses in concentration really has three particulars, very similar to the particulars outlined by Nicolaides:
- experience of the location of awareness in the three planes, regardless of the object in awareness;
- experience of the parts of the body and of weight, with no part left out;
- recall of patterns in the distinction of the senses (including the mind).
It’s possible to experience support from the “fluid ball” exactly as a sensation or perception that sustains the “fluid ball” takes place. In fact, I would say such a simultaneity is a normal part of everyday life, and underlies any induction of concentration. The simultaneity feeds on itself when the circumstances are appropriate, and exercises in the distinction of the senses and the recall of signs are really only intended to allow an openness to such a simultaneity.
copyright 2016 Mark A. Foote