How can one create pleasantness that lasts beyond fleeting experiences? Sadhguru discusses the connection between sensory perception and the energy system.

Sadhguru: A rich man died, and a neighbor asked Shankaran Pillai, “What has he left behind?” Shankaran Pillai laughed and said, “Every penny of it.” Every penny, every trinket, every little thing – all that we gather will be of no consequence. The only thing that matters is what we make out of the life within us. When you are life-oriented, you will find that neither desire nor attachments are of any consequence. You will know there is no time for anger or hatred. Once you realize the precious nature of your existence, to be pleasant, to be loving, to be joyful, will be a natural outcome.

Unfortunately, most human beings struggle to experience even a little bit of peace or joy in their lives. Let’s look at why they have not established this as their quality from a technical perspective. We want to approach it technically – not philosophically, not poetically, not romantically – because when it comes to technology, you just have to learn how to use it. If you do, it will work for you, no matter who you are. Poetry goes over most people’s heads. Romance is often short-lived. But technology is reliable.

Stimulus and Samskara

How do all the experiences of life enter us? If you breathe in cool air, how do you know that it is cool? Whether you touch, smell, taste, see, or hear something, essentially, it first touches your sense organs. From there, the neurological system instantaneously takes it to your brain and creates a pleasant or unpleasant experience. This pleasantness or unpleasantness does not result from outside stimuli alone. It also depends on how you are at that given moment. For example, if you are in a frustrated, disturbed mood, and someone plays some nice music, it will further enrage you. Pleasant music is not always perceived as pleasant – you must be ready for it.

This pleasantness or unpleasantness does not result from outside stimuli alone. It also depends on how you are at that given moment.

There are basically two contributing factors to how you experience something. One is the nature of the stimulus. Another is how you are at this point of time, which in turn depends on the impressions that you have taken in until now, or in other words, it depends on your samskara or karmic substance. If at this moment, your karma is frustration, someone could do whatever pleasant things they want for you; you would anyway spit at them. If external stimuli and karmic substance cooperate, pleasantness happens. When a stimulus touches the sense organ and further travels through the neurological system, it almost instantaneously triggers certain processes. Beyond your neurological system, there is the pranamaya kosha or energy body, which is even more elaborate than the neurological system – but it moves, I would say, a hundred times slower than the neurological system.

Neurological pleasantness occurs when, for example, you see the sunrise. A certain sensory input comes in, gets transmitted through the neurological system, and creates a certain experience. Usually, people just think “Wow” or something like that for a moment and quickly move on to the next thing.

Holding On to Experiences

Since most people do not hold on to any experience for long enough, they never establish pleasantness on an energy level. Many pleasant things may have happened in your life until now, but if you look back, how long did you stay with any given experience? Most people cannot hold on to any experience for a substantial amount of time. Only an extremely small percentage of the world population are able to even sit in one place for a few hours at a stretch without talking to anyone, without texting anyone, without browsing the internet. Today, the greatest distraction comes from a single source: your mobile phone. Earlier, the sources of distraction were more varied – people, things, thoughts, and emotions. Since they mostly come from one source now, they are relatively easy to handle. If we take away your phone, you will be almost meditative, on the verge of transcending the mind!

Normally, if you are able to hold on to any beautiful experience – whether it is a taste, smell, vision, sound, or touch – for twenty-four minutes, it will pervade your entire pranic system.

So, let’s say, you watch the sunrise and feel wonderful for a moment, it means you experience sensory or neurological pleasantness. For that to become a part of your life energies, you need to hold on to that pleasantness for some time. For lack of exact measure, I would say it travels through the energy system at least a hundred times slower than the neurological impulses do. Normally, if you are able to hold on to any beautiful experience – whether it is a taste, smell, vision, sound, or touch – for twenty-four minutes, it will pervade your entire pranic system.

That has not happened to most human beings because of the active nature of the mind. Modern medicine has studied the mind based on behavior, chemistry, and neurological impulses. But none of these findings will give you a real picture of the nature of the mind. There is a physical body, which is an accumulation that you have gathered from the earth. There is a mental body, which is also an accumulation, but one of information. And there is consciousness, which is a dimension beyond the body and mind.

Noticing the Simple Things

The mind is a certain activity of consciousness. Consciousness performs activity depending upon the karmic information you have gathered. Or in other words, consciousness performs activity based upon the sensory inputs you have gathered from the outside. The next time you wake up early enough, simply watch the sunrise, without saying “Wow, I love it!” or taking a picture and sending it to ten other people or anything like that. Everywhere on the planet, sunrise is happening without fail – there is no need to put it on social media for everyone!

After a few morsels, how many of you are still tasting the food? After two minutes of sunrise, how many of you are still enjoying it? After a few minutes of music, how many of you are still feeling its tingle?

There are many factors involved in creating a pleasant experience: there is karmic information, there is a certain type of stimulus, and there is a certain chemistry – I will not go into all of that. To bring you to a state of pleasantness is not easy! Many conditions have to be satisfied. Your husband or your wife must do what you expect him or her to; your children must excel in school; your bank balance should be great; the stock market should be skyrocketing – so many things. The sun rising in the morning is not good enough for most people. When these aspects coincide and create a pleasant experience, you must hold on to it somehow for twenty-four minutes.

The reason why most human beings have failed to be blissful is because they do not notice simple things. To give you an example, when I came to United States for the first time, I saw that particularly in schools and summer camps – which is where we used to conduct our Bhava Spandana programs before we built the Isha Institute of Inner-sciences – everywhere, there were choking emergencies. I can understand if someone drowns in the pool. We are not made like fish – we have to learn to swim; otherwise we may drown. But why would people choke on food? The main reason is that they are talking so much while eating. When speech comes out while food goes in, it is bound to go wrong. Obviously you cannot do both at the same time. All you have to do is eat quietly and enjoy your food. After a few morsels, how many of you are still tasting the food? After two minutes of sunrise, how many of you are still enjoying it? After a few minutes of music, how many of you are still feeling its tingle?

If you stay with the pleasantness of a sensory experience for a sufficient amount of time, it will travel from the neurological system into your pranamaya kosha or energy system. Once pleasantness sweeps through the pranamaya kosha – be it in the form of love, joy, or bliss – that will become the quality of the life energies that pervade your system. Once your life energies become pleasant, being blissful will come naturally. You do not have to do anything to be blissful. Bliss is not a goal by itself – it is your very nature.

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A version of this article was originally published in Isha Forest Flower in November 2016. Download as PDF on a “name your price, no minimum” basis or subscribe to the print version.