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Sensory Awareness: An Inquiry into Experience

Sensory Awareness is a practice of mindfulness that isn't about acquiring skills but is about developing freedom to sensitively explore and learn from your exploration.

This somatic practice involves sensing what is occurring in whatever you happen to be doing. Through the discipline of controlling your rampant mind, you recover your capacity to sense for yourself. The practice focuses on you as a total functioning person and on the development of your responsiveness toward life.

Charlotte Selver developed the practice based on the work of Elsa Gindler, who taught classes in movement and awareness in Germany in the early 1900s. Classes include no structured movements, guided images, or breathing exercises. Rather, the teacher outlines experiments in which you can become aware of sensations.

What is Sensory Awareness?

This somatic practice is an inquiry into experience. You let yourself be with what you are doing. For example, standing. What sensations do you feel when you stand? How can you stand without effort? You can learn to sense spontaneous readjustments of weight and balance.

Through this exploration you can learn how you restrict and hinder yourself in your daily activities. You don't attempt to change but allow change to occur naturally by letting your body assert its needs. You come to full presence, with equal aims of developing inner openness for your life processes and making sensitive contact with the environment. 

You can find a sense of what it's like to be on the way, to approach and arrive, not just to reach a goal. It requires patience, an interest in exploration, and a willingness not to make the practice into an exercise or let thinking crowd out sensing.

The teacher guides you (in a class or individual session) through simple sensory experiments. The goal is to help you "become more deeply attuned and responsive to the felt sensations and dynamics of gravity, breathing, balance, energy, movement, and more," according to The Sensory Awareness Foundation.

For more information, see Reclaiming Vitality and Presence by Charlotte Selver or Waking Up: The Work of Charlotte Selver by William C. Littlewood.

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