An explorer once roamed deeply into a vast unseen world, discovering territory he claimed is for us all.
His travels took him farther than anyone before, revealing a view no one else saw or knew. He did this while sitting quietly under a tree. So the story goes.
Thankfully, he was a kind and compassionate man, motivated to explore for everyone's wellbeing.
And gratefully he left us a bread crumb trail so we all can make this journey too.
What's most important about this trail is not the man who marked it, but the way that it was made.
Would finding your way to this wellness trail interest you?
Then read on.
Bring into your mind an image of your feet, standing firmly on the ground. Just see your feet standing on the ground, that’s all.
Now, imagine lifting your eyes from your feet, to look out and see a string of ocean islands, moving away from where you stand, straight out towards the ocean horizon line.
Concentrate on your image for long enough until you begin to notice something else stir inside of you.
Now, pay attention to the sensation(s) that have stirred, as this is what will soon become your guide. [1: read]
Now, try the imagery out, and then when done, come back to continue on below.
We see, what at first we see—in this case, you began with your sturdy feet, and then your island string visualized in the waters of your mind.
And as we steady ourselves in seeing, we soon come to sense, and then later feel, what is at first unseen. [2: read]
In this case, the unseen is the connective earth that your island string is embedded in, the same earth that supports your actual feet. Remove the water from your visualized island string, and the islands become the peaks of a mountain range rising up from the plains below. See what I mean?
Pause and reflect on this for a moment more. There is a vital subtlety here.
With that in mind, continue on, by recalling your initial seeing of the separate islands of your string, in other words put the ocean waters back in place.
You 'knew' the deeper unseen connective earth must be there, you had a sense for it even though you did not stop to notice that you did. There was a natural order in place held within your visualization and so no thought about it occurred to you.
Seeing in our usual way, the unseen truth can go unrecognized, until we broaden our awareness to include what’s already there, what we already ‘know’ is true, though we just don’t stop to notice that we do. [3: read]
So, see your island string again, but this time stay connected to what your fuller knowing knows, that the earth beneath your feet continues on under the water, and see what you can sense about the whole ocean scene now.
Can you sense the presence of the unseen now?
Reflect on any changes in your sensing from how you first experienced seeing your island string.
The change that comes from broadening our awareness, teaches us how to explore the bread crumb trail left by that compassionate man.
Finding how to explore the bread crumb trail, we come to sense, then feel, then know what is at first unseen, learning to understand more of what is already part of a whole.
Let's consider that your island string is a metaphor for the territory found by the man sitting under the tree, a sequence of four shorelines he found for all of us to sense, then feel, then understand and finally know.
Here is the sequence of what he found:
The first island is that of suffering, but not yours nor mine nor any ones in particular, only that it exits.
From traveling on the second island, the origins for suffering came into view, and then from that, a new understanding to know, too.
Arriving on the third island, having understood the impersonal fact of suffering, and then next its origins, the explorer came to know the end of suffering, too.
His travels on the fourth island, which he also open-heartedly explored, brought into view what more he needed to understand and know, which is a way to bring the first three islands into a whole.
While the island metaphor is mine, he called these four truths the Four Noble Truths. And the nobility is for us all.
Each island has much territory to explore, and come to know, which includes the ocean swims, where concentrated effort and steadiness is what keeps you afloat. And it's here that making good use of the flow of your breath can keep you present, and aware as you sense, and then feel, and then understand to come to know so much more.
Would a journey like this be worth your time?
If so, you do not need to claim allegiance or adherence to anyone or anything, nor even learn a new language or cultural identity, nor relinquish anything you do not wish to relinquish, unless you feel a readiness to do so, and even then, you will need to do nothing more.
All that is needed is to begin an exploration from where you stand, letting your internal observation be your guide, much like the man who sat under a tree.
All you do is jump into the waters of your mind, and swim to explore your own island string. [4: read]
Congratulations, you've just begun, if you hadn't already before, a mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is occurring the moment you pay full attention to what is happening right now. This is a central skill needed to develop clearer insights within your own embodied-mind, and it begins by turning into your inside world.
Here, the word 'feel' and 'sense' are two different phases of a sequential process of experiencing. 'Feel' is a word we use to label specific experiences we are aware of. For example, "I feel tired” or "I feel hungry” or "I feel irritated, I feel sad, or happy, or mad”. But, before we 'feel' we first must 'sense' that something is there that we then name with a feeling word. See what I mean? You can learn about that right here.
We have different ways of 'knowing': a) cognitively; b) memory; c) intuitively; d) bodily (and in different parts of our body, too -- heart, gut, throat, limbs, pelvis, etc.). All of these 'knowing' ways work differently, feed each other, and change how we behave or decide, accordingly.
Here’s a link to a free 'Four Noble Truths', by Buddhist Ajahn Sumedho: The Four Noble Truths