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Reclaiming Vitality and Presence

Sensory Awareness as a Practice for Life
Paperback Book
North Atlantic
April, 2007
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Banyen's Description: 

This enlargement, with new photographs, of Sensory Awareness: The Rediscovery of Experiencing (first published in 1974), offers an updated, enhanced, and fuller guidebook for newcomers, beginning students, and “veteran” students alike. The book beautifully weaves together in one volume the voices of Charlotte Selver and Charles Brooks, two unique and inspiring teachers who collaborated for some thirty years in co-leading classes and workshops in the deceptively simple yet profound study known as Sensory Awareness. The unique type of somatic reeducation they offered has been an important force in the development of the Human Potential Movement, Humanistic Psychology, and various types of now popular mind/body disciplines.

In our work of Sensory Awareness, we experiment with all the simple activities of daily life, all the things which we have been doing since we were born, or which we have learned in our earliest infancy, such as walking, standing, sitting, lying, moving, resting, seeing, speaking, listening, et cetera. As Elsa Gindler said, “Life is the Playground for our work.”…

Although practicing Sensory Awareness often has therapeutic effects, it would be a misunderstanding to think of our work as therapy. Our purpose is not to make living healthier, but to make it more conscious; not to make it happier, but to let it come more into accord with our nature. The more we arrive at our original nature, the more we discover that healthier and happier living and relating comes about by itself.

In his foreword, Norman Fischer, former abbot of Zen Center of San Francisco, writes: “To be part of the earth, to love it, to experience it, not as an object outside the self, but as the essence of what the self is, connected, intimate, vibrant, and alive, overflowing with life and with the essential kindness that is life’s salient characteristic—to teach, explore, and demonstrate that in living: this was Charlotte and Charles’ work over the many years of their marriage and association in the Sensory Awareness movement…

“Their classes, which they often gave together, were always new experiences (‘experiments, not exercises,’ Charlotte would always point out); always an astonishing (this was a word that Charlotte used frequently) insight or appreciation for some usually overlooked aspect of sensory perception. Charlotte and Charles loved life and were constantly amazed by its possibilities.

“This was what they explored in their classes, which were improvisational, quiet, but intense. This was what they called ‘the work.’…

Like Zen, Sensory Awareness focuses on perception, in the recognition that it is only through the full experiencing of our organic life that we can grasp the deepest and most important human truths… Each time I attended a Sensory Awareness class or workshop, I came away with a sense of wonder at the simple fact of being alive. Charlotte and Charles, as far as I could tell, went further than anyone ever had, in exploring and expanding the Buddhist teachings of mindfulness.”

Publisher’s Description: 

This book captures the essence of Charlotte Selvers practice of Sensory Awareness like no other publication. It is an invitation to experience life firsthand again, as we did when we were children. In a culture where we have grown accustomed to accumulating knowledge from teachers and experts, it is rare to find a book that actually invites us to trust our own senses again. It is the authors intent to give back to the reader authority over his or her own experience and learning processes.

Much of the book focuses on reviving the senses in order to open the mind and body to direct learning. The book imitates an actual Sensory Awareness class, involving the reader as a student, guiding him or her along a journey with and through the senses to a way of living that is in accordance with the natural functioning of the human organism in its environment.

The range of explorations include a renewed connection to the support of the earth as a foundation for trust; the central role of gravity for our health and for finding orientation in life; a study of breathing that promotes health and vitality; and connecting and interacting with other people. A handbook to a more genuine and connected way of living, the work is also a beautifully crafted account of Sensory Awareness, showing these profound teachers at work with their students and with the reader.

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