Commusings: The Sentience Gap by Dr. Siva Mohan

Apr 02, 2022

Dear Commune Community,

Over the past six months, I have become intent on understanding physical mechanism for a few reasons. 

Instead of looking for “God” somewhere up above the clouds, I began to turn inward in hopes of glimpsing the metaphysical patterned in the physical. It may seem odd that I would find the cosmic intelligence of the universe through reading the data from my Oura ring – but, there it is – ultradian cycles, crests and troughs of deep and light sleep, REM and wakefulness. The yin-yang of life presenting on an app in the palm of my hand. Taoism studied nature closely, and now we have microscopes into our own. 

But, beyond my more philosophical pursuits, I wanted to “feel” better.  This notion itself has a double entendre. Indeed, like you, I want to launch myself daily out of bed like a clown from a circus canon – vibrant and energized. 

But I also wanted to “feel” better in the sense of refining my awareness of self (to the degree self exists). It’s too easy to take our own organism for granted – and pay no mind to its subtle shifts in energy. Upgrading our capacity to sense our body’s vicissitudes is directly related to our ability to thrive. 

For me, this process of enhancement combined technology-aided self-assessment with a cultivation of “sentience” – the topic of today’s essay by Dr. Siva Mohan. 

For example, when I “feel” a sense of light-headedness, I now know that this sensation is concomitant with hypoglycemia because my continuous glucose monitor tells me so. And, in turn, I may grab a handful of walnuts and blueberries. 

However, as Siva eloquently elucidates, our penchant to over-rely on technology can disengage us from our innate ability to deeply know ourselves. It’s a fascinating topic.

Always here at [email protected]and check my vitals on IG @jeffkrasno

In love, include me,
Jeff

 

The Sentience Gap

By Dr. Siva Mohan

 

In my recent interview on the Commune podcast, Jeff asked me what I thought of all the new technology to monitor our physiochemistry. He himself was wearing a continuous glucose monitor, and most everyone has a Fitbit, Oura ring, or some other health tracking app. 

My instinctive response was that this tech could be a distraction: All these devices give us so much data, and that gives us greater knowledge of our patterns, functions, and responses. But, does that really help us to feel well in life?

Does increased knowledge translate to greater awareness of what we NEED to feel good, or does it just put us in a cycle of overanalysis and self judgment? When we already have information overload and put so much pressure on ourselves in modern life, I’m not sure it’s beneficial to have more goals to achieve and more things to fix about ourselves.

Don’t get me wrong, I love data and tech. I just don’t want to be dependent on it. It’s great as a checkin or confirmation, but I also want to hear what my body is telling me, and have a strong connection to my inner guidance.

From what I see, those who rely heavily on data from external sources (devices and diagnostics) are missing awareness of energetics – both within and around themselves – and how to navigate the energetics of their lives to feel good.

All to say, knowledge does not equal awareness

Currently in the world of personal wellness, I see three approaches emerging as the most powerful: functional medicine, bioenergetics, and psychospiritual growth. Functional medicine investigates the root causes of disease and is focused on healing the physical body. Bioenenergetic devices (microcurrent, light and scalar wave technology) bring incredible healing impact, sometimes quite quickly. Psychospiritual (everything beyond your physical body) wellness practices are producing well-documented healing, especially where medicine fails, and can offer comprehensive and long-lasting wellbeing.

Yet, I feel there’s a bridge needed between these amazing approaches to wellness. To me, that gap is sentience — the capacity to experience feelings and sensations. Sentience is what allows us to sense what is going on within all parts of us and all around us.  

Sentience results in a new awareness, and for me, has brought a sense of clarity and guidance that in turn allows me to improve my physical, emotional, and spiritual health.

Functional medicine gives us incredible metrics and course correction tools. But if we cannot sense how the test results or interventions are manifesting in our bodies, we remain chasing numbers.

Bioenergetics have the potency to shift our patterns, but without sentience we don’t know which shifts are truly needed. With so many possible shifts in the rapidly expanding field of bioenergetic tech, we could spend half of every day using bioenergetic machines. Our awareness needs to guide which is best for us, and when.

Spiritual growth practices increase many kinds of awareness and intuitive capacity. Often, however, this does not translate into choices that are healthier.

Not even my wellness heroes are free of the pressures of modern life, or choosing to navigate their lives with sentience. When I studied in India with the Ayurveda pioneer, Dr. Vasant Lad, I noticed how overscheduled he was, and saw the signs of depletion. I asked him about it, and he said it was a conscious choice to martyr his health for his dharma — that he was aware of his mortality and wanted to have as great of an impact as he could, and was choosing to prioritize his wellness work over his personal health. 

I wondered if I would choose the same as my mentor, and that was when I decided not to. I want to feel as good as possible, alongside my dharmic path. I want to embody what I teach as much as I can. I’m not optimally healthy and may never be. But I am content, love my lifestyle, and continue to make shifts as I listen to my own body. 

For me, wellness is not reaching for perfection, but rather for what feels more healing. What feels more healing is individual, and changing. This is why to know what feels healing, we need sentience. 

So how do we build this sentience, this awareness? 

By practicing feeling, and living in accordance with what we feel. 

This also happens to be my working definition of self love. As we listen to what our bodies are saying, what our emotions are saying, what our inner voices are saying, and respond in kind with adjustments, we love ourselves. It’s similar to when a child tells you what they need, and you respond to meet the need, and the child feels loved. 

We feel our way into a lifestyle that gives us feedback and thus guidance on how to best engage with modalities such as functional medicine, bioenergetics, and spiritual growth.

When I consider the ways to develop this practice of sentient living, there are two clear paths. One, the practice of sensing energy and patterns, which I present through the lens of Ayurveda. Two, plant medicines — ethno-entheogens. I’m not talking about a DMT vape pen here, but conscious use of plant medicines to cultivate sentience.

Mother Earth has given us beautiful tools to connect with ourselves, each other, and Nature. Every ancient culture used plant medicines to heal body, psyche, and spirit. While Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine rely on herbal medicines for physical healing, shamanic healing practices are quite conversant in psychospiritual healing via plant medicines. Tobacco, mushrooms, marijuana, ayahuasca, san pedro, and peyote are just a few of the incredible psycho-centric healing plants in their lexicon. The one thing all these plants have in common is a direct increase in sentience

(Side note: How you use plants matters. Your intention matters. Plants are living beings, and modern science continues to confirm the existence of plant consciousness and relationships. When we approach them as such, we’re in a loving union with wise and powerful teachers who have and will be around much longer than us. They continue to guide us even after a ceremony with the increase in our sentience.)

In my Commune course, Living Well with Ayurveda, I provide a starting place for sentience. We begin a conscious practice of feeling the energetics in different parts of ourselves and in our lives. We feel, and we understand what our feelings are revealing through the framework of energetic patterns. Then, we respond in a way that starts to shift those patterns toward what would feel healing to us. 

Feel, think, choose, shift, repeat. 

In this way we change the patterns we experience. The idea is that we get better at feeling, better at choosing based on that real time feedback from ourselves, and the result is that our bodies and lives feel better and better. Simple, but powerful. 

My life feels damn good, and when it doesn’t, I know and I shift. My sentience guides me.

So what does this look like, in practice, on a daily basis? 

Here’s a simple sentience-building practice I use frequently: 

Find a comfortable seat and close your eyes. Bring your awareness first to your breath, and start to observe. What qualities are you feeling in the breath? Is it tight? Is it smooth? Is it staggered? Just observe qualities. Don’t judge. 

Then gently bring the awareness you had on your breath to your spine. As you continue to breath, bring your awareness to the first place you feel tension along the spine. Direct your breath there. Imagine each inhale filling that entire area with space and life force. With the exhale, keep releasing the tension down the spine into the earth.

After a minute or two of focusing on that area, re-observe. Has the pattern shifted? Does the area feel a little more expanded and a little less tense?

Congratulations, you just practiced sentience. You felt, and in that feeling, you assessed. Then, you targeted a healing response and you shifted a pattern in real time.

The next time you are faced with a challenge to your wellness, consider consciously adding sentience – conscious awareness – into your healing process. Instead of brain versus heart, let’s step forward with the sentience defining the direction and the mind strategizing how to best get there

In this way, we are approaching wellness with all parts of us doing what they do best.  

 


Dr. Siva is a big picture person. An integrationist. A pattern seer. As a U.N. Social Affairs Officer and working globally with private clients for over 10 years, Dr. Siva realized that even educated, active people are missing the basics of wellness. With an MD and a background in behavior change and education, Siva presents an empowering East-West Mind-Body version of Ayurveda. She guides her audience to build self awareness, emotional wellness, and clean life energetics. Learn more at ayurvedabysiva.com

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