“The Yogis put their students through a very arduous course of practice and exercises designed to develop their powers of perception. To many this would appear to be merely a development of the senses, which might appear odd in view of the fact that the Yogis are constantly preaching the folly of being governed and ruled by the senses. But there is nothing paradoxical about all this, for the Yogis, while preaching the folly of sense life, and manifesting the teachings in their lives, nevertheless believe in all exercises calculated to ‘sharpen’ the mind, and develop it to a keen state and condition. They see a great difference between having a sharpened perception, on the one hand, and being a slave to the senses on the other.” ~William Walker Atkinson
The dictionary has two basic definitions for perception. It can simply mean to become aware of things using the senses, or it can mean a way of interpreting those impressions we receive through the senses.
For the spiritual student, it is important to develop both, but especially the second one. Why should you develop sensory perception when spiritual teachers tell us the physical senses are unreliable? You might say it has to do with the old saying, “know thy enemy”.
As far as the physical senses go, it is reasonable and logical to wish to develop them, even if we don’t want to completely rely on them to given us a true picture of reality. We all know that we can see better with two eyes than with one. You need two eyes to get depth perception so you can judge distances, height, and so on.
I once had a dog who became blind in one eye when he was old. This made it difficult for him to make such judgments, so when he went into the back yard, he would almost always head down hill because it was easier on his old legs. But when he turned around to go the other way, he would often get stuck because he couldn’t climb up the steep hill. He couldn’t see that if he simply walked straight ahead on flat ground for about twenty feet, he would come to an area was the hill was much less steep and he could easily climb it. His life was made difficult by partial lose of one sense: eyesight.
To develop our spiritual senses, but totally ignore the physical would be like trying to see using only one eye. With a few exceptions, we all have two eyes, so we should use both. Likewise, we have both physical and spiritual senses, so we should make use of both, and not give up one in favor of the other. This is where the interpreting part of perception comes in. What we think we see with the physical eyes, for example, is not what is really there. We think we see a solid tree, but it is really just a strong vortex of energy.
While living a sensual life is opposed by spiritual teachers, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use your physical senses when appropriate. You simply have to realize that the physical senses are limited, and therefore not completely reliable.
When Jesus confronted Satan, the Evil One tried to use one of his most powerful tools against Jesus: intellect. By arguing intelligently and logically, Satan thought he could defeat Jesus as he had done with many others. But Jesus was not only a spiritual master, he also had well developed senses and a well developed mind. Satan could not defeat him because Jesus was able to use intelligence just as well as Satan could.
So it is good for spiritual people to develop and make use of their perception and their physical senses, body, and mind. We simply have to remind ourselves regularly that the body is not what we are, it is merely a tool we are using. The same is true of the senses of the body and the brain-mind (not the higher soul-mind which is the true Self).
So eat healthy; workout at the health club, walk, run, or otherwise exercise the body; read, study, talk to people, and otherwise strengthen the brain-mind, but never put them ahead of the spirit and soul.