That ticking next to my bed:
I’m reassured to believe it is my watch.
The breathing I hear—
Some is mine.
Some is my beloved’s.
I’m glad I know it is her there.

With eyes closed,
I hear clicks, creaks and thumps.
No worries, because I recognize
Thermostat, furnace, house movement,
Cat jumping, furry feet on wood floor,
The sliding sound, if I recall correctly, is the back door.
I assume someone I know let the cat out.
How do I know?

A sharp pain in my foot—
If someone were close, I might think they had pinched me.
But I didn’t hear anybody near my foot,
So I assume we are alone and a nerve has fired for no good reason.

Outside at night I’m not disturbed by the large metallic booming sounds,
Since I know there is a railroad yard over yonder down the hill.

How much I calm myself by assuming sounds and sensations are what I think they are.
How marvelously I assume the nature of my world based on how I believe it to be.

If we are very still with our eyes closed, it becomes clearer how we make sense of the world with memory, association, imagination and assumptions. Much of the time we don’t even notice what we hear. Sounds give a sense of space and awareness of events we may not see, but the familiar ones fade out of awareness. They nevertheless fill out our nearby world, and we assume we know what is going on.

With five or six senses working together, we can get a detailed impression of our environment. The sense impressions usually blend to make a coherent whole. Our creation of this view is so convincing that we take it as real, objective and true. We easily mistake our assumptions for reality. If we want to experience life directly in its suchness, we need to know when we are making up stuff—when our past experience forms our present experience via assumptions. 

Try being very still with your eyes closed and just listening to the sounds that reach you. Feel the sounds and notice when you are labeling them and when you are making assumptions about them. Watch your mind change direction when new sounds occur. Open your awareness to the soft or familiar sounds that you normally ignore.

Try this with each sense. Isolate it as much as you can for a while, and observe how it contributes to your awareness.  

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© 2003 Tom Barrett