Sensibility and sense – (indriya)

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Blog post Xmas 2016

In the Yoga philosophy a great deal of importance is placed on the subject of the senses. This is quite a big subject in the Yoga philosophy and something I have studied several times but only recently started to feel like I have a more solid understanding of.

Our traditional western view is that we ‘take in’ information through the senses. We receive sense data, process it in our brains and by this means we understand the world.

In the teachings of Yoga and Samkhya our senses are the portal between us and the world around us and it’s a 2 way street. Energy moves between us and the world around us. Something of our energy extends out into the world and something of the worlds’ energy is taken into us.

The Yoga texts talk of all sensory input as ‘food’. It is said that all sensory exchange between us and the world works in same way as the process of eating. We reach out for something, we eat it, we digest it and there is waste.

Now you may think “How can this be the same? When I open my eyes I can’t choose what I see in the same way as I choose what I have for lunch” – good point! Bear with me!

We may not feel as though we have the same degree of choice about what we ingest through the senses as we do around what we choose to eat however we can use this idea to better understand the relationship we have with the world around us.

According to Auyrveda (the ‘sister’ philosophy of Yoga) food can act on our system in 4 main ways- it can nourish, stimulate (enkindle), poison or be medicine. If we overlay these way of understanding or maybe even categorising ‘food’ for the other senses we can begin to get a better idea of how useful this is. Take for example smells – we will all have smells that we can think of as welcome and comforting, that offer the promise of providing nourishment in some way, there are smells which are stimulating or invigorating, unpleasant and best avoided and soothing and calming. Each of these will trigger the appropriate response.


Ok so why am I writing about this??

At this time of year we are now past the cusp of restraint and the Christmas machine is running at full steam. Unless you live in a cave its quite hard not have your senses filled with Christmas related ‘stuff’ – the smell of mince pies, twinkling lights, cold weather, the ever present Christmas music in any and all shops. Even if you love Xmas it’s easy to get stuffed full of all this Christmas stimulus and by the time we get to the big day we can’t wait to get the tree down and get back to normal!

We are nourished by this time as it can connect us with the people we love the most in the world and we can get a little over stimulated  (sometimes this can almost get to the point of serious over stimulation or even being poisoned by excess) and then reach out for the medicine of ‘back to normal’.

As with most things Yoga related this understanding is NOT presented from a perspective of finger wagging. It’s just an observation of how things are. Understanding clearly how things are allows us freedom within ourselves to interact with the world from a place of understanding.

I guess the reason I chose this subject for this blog is that it’s sometimes hard to feel as if we are choosing to ‘do xmas’ and almost as if we have to do Xmas because the Xmas machine is ultimately more powerful than all of us!

Overall I love Xmas- I don’t like shopping but I like sending presents to my family, I don’t like the adverts on the TV but I love watching feature length cartoons on the sofa in the middle of the afternoon, I don’t like being cold but I love wrapping up and going out for walks in the wind!

Reach out for the things you want and don’t reach out for anything else. brides from russia Remember the senses work 2 ways we can only take in as much as we as reach for- cultivate a centre of being settled and a lot of the sense stuff being thrown at you can be like dust blowing by!


Have a wonderful Xmas