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Coming to our Senses

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Consider for a moment: how do you know that you exist? Your existence probably seems so obvious to you, that you never consider whether it is a reality or an illusion. But how do you know for sure?

The philosopher Rene Descartes set out to prove his own existence to himself. But he found this was a difficult task. Nothing seemed to verify in a rational and reasonable way that he existed. But finally, he had his eureka moment. Cogito ergo sum, he declared: I think, therefore I am.

This sounds grand, but when we look into the nature of most of our thinking, it isn’t grand at all. A lot of it is worries about the future, compulsive planning, fears, regrets, thoughts of comparing ourselves to others, ruminating about a conversation we had or plan to have. And a great deal of this is unpleasant. What’s more, it takes us away from the experience of the present moment, the moment in which life is available to us. We could as easily say, I think therefore I am not—therefore I am not really alive, because I am caught in thinking, mistaking my thinking for my life.

One way to deal with this is to follow the advice of psychologist Fritz Perls, who suggested we “lose our mind and come to our senses.” Come back to your sense experience in the present moment. Feel the air coming in and out as you breathe. Feel the chair supporting you if you are seated. Notice what is happening with your body, both inside and on the skin. When we do this simple thing, even for just a few moments, we can feel much more grounded, and much more truly alive.

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