Buddhist psychology looks closely at the nature of consciousness experience and interdependence through teachings on what is referred to as dependent arising. Within this teaching we find a progression of several concepts including contact, feeling, craving, and grasping. Breaking down our experience into these four components can be a useful exercise to help us feel more grounded and present in our daily lives.
“Contact” refers to conscious awareness of an object as we perceive it through our senses. Put simply: I am conscious. I can see and smell. I can see and smell a red flower.
“Feeling” is what arises after contact. Feeling may include experiences of happy, painful, or neutral.
“Craving” may arise if our feelings are pleasant and we seek to sustain them. Craving out of fear may arise when we face unpleasant things and experience a cascade of negative thoughts or feelings while craving a different state or experience.
“Grasping” can include several types, but most often we see grasping to sense pleasure or views. When we attempt to hold very tightly onto pleasant things or strive to feel only what is pleasant, we are grasping. Likewise, when we hold very tightly to an idea or view, we are again grasping.
Breaking down our experiences into these components might seem like a bit much. However, there is wisdom in slowing down and truth in this description of our moment-to-moment experience.
Practice Making Contact
All of our experiences begin with contact. Practice being more aware of making contact throughout your day by being mindful of your contact with each new task or experience and becoming aware of feeling, craving, and grasping. Ask yourself:
What am I contacting at this moment?
What am I feeling as I make contact?
Am I craving more or wishing my experience to be different?
Am I grasping onto certain ideas or views of what should or should not be?
Points of contact can be integrated into our daily awareness to help us feel grounded and present. As we become more aware of our conscious perception, we can take note of our feelings. We can notice if we are craving or grasping to maintain our experience or escape it, rather than seeing it for what it is and being fully present. When we slow down to contact our experience in this way, we can begin a process of developing greater awareness that can lead to increasing freedom as we observe our mind and moment-to-moment contact.
Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.
Visit us at lindquistpsych.com
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