Eventually, I'm going to write a book on what it is to be a "Sensual Contemplative". I adopted the description immediately upon reading the following passage from my friend James Corrigan's book, An Introduction To Awareness, while in the bathtub one morning:
It is interesting to note that so-called Transcendentalists--poets, essayists, and philosophers--have historically been the most minutely detailed and intimately connected observers of, and celebrants of, life; rather than the most geekish analyzers of its 'transcendental' structure. One thinks of a Whitman, Emerson, Thoreau, or Dickenson, not as engineers hard-pressed to reverse-engineer existence, but rather deeply contemplative and sensual individuals who wanted nothing more than to savor and celebrate the intricate flavors of, and their curiosity toward, existence. Their goal was not to "get to the bottom" of it, but to fully engage it, in contradistinction to those around them who saw themselves as separate and apart from "Nature".
I remember getting an "aha" chill from my head to my toes, in spite of the hot water. Never mind all the distinguished company--I knew I had found the taste of my own calling in James' adjectives. Full engagement does seem to be the point of living, here.
Writing about it is sometimes incredibly difficult. A million repeated attempts still can't capture the essence of This in its entirety--all I do is split myself a million times--and a certain astonishing loveliness lies in the fact that I can do just that, and remain whole.
I'll save the most juicy stuff for that book. But beauty has been much on my mind, so let me do a quick, loose sketch...
Sensuality is "bodying" in awareness, of and with all available senses. Sensuality is commonly associated with "sexuality" (the advertised variety), and although everything sexual is indeed included in what I am trying to describe, there is a deeper, wider field of experience in which genitalia are but minor conduits of erogenous energy. The world, in fact, is full of an intimacy both erotic and altruistic, desiring and giving at once, born when one is willing to be a union of total fullness and utter individuation.
There is heightened physical sensation, as well as deep sensitivity to shifting thought/feeling arising in and through cells and organs. I think of this motion as a sort of energetic language, in which all elements of oneself are in flowing communication--local physical organism, environment, and beyond--as far "out" or "in" as one is willing to extend. Boundaries between the sense-pathways loosen, and a kind of synesthesia (joining of senses) can happen.
Contemplation is far more than thinking or mentally processing data. It is intricately entwined with sensuality in that it is actively listening, tasting and opening within the field, the entire presence of self-in-moment. It dilates and contracts like the pupil of an eye, effortlessly, unplanned. Logical thought happens, a pale shadow of the larger intuition and cross-languaging going on. Ideas appear, but always shimmering with the countless threads connecting them to everything else. Contemplating is being completely present to what is. What is, in spite of all the varying elements, is one, incredibly obvious non-thing.
A "sensual contemplative" could simply be a human with a superhighway between the left and right hemispheres of the brain...or a mystic shaken out of the slumber of illusion...or a madwoman. All of these descriptions seem apt at one time or another. None of them can touch the act, the fact, the sacrifice and celebration of being, here. The point of all this deep feeling is the sheer beauty of it. Beauty is always the "trigger", the attraction, the embrace.
Again, I'm speaking of a different order of beauty than smoothness, symmetry, or waist-to-hip ratio. I'm talking about the sensation and awareness of beauty that precedes and outlives a judgment call. I'm talking about the gorgeousness that is literally in the eye of the beholder, a touch so deep that one is what one sees, hears, feels, smells--"I" and "That" express the same beauty...which is, after all, what we are. It is an active, dynamic principle, rather than a static wish or image "over there".
Full engagement--with suffering, joy, humanity, spirit--happens when I am subsumed in this beautiful ongoing stream, where the past is gone but always here, transforming, and the future never but always here, transforming. The motion is so eternal that it's still. The space behind is so vast that it allows for a perfectly earthy, intimately felt sense of location that I tend to call "me". How can this be? I don't know.