In the 1960’s, famous psychologist Frederick Salomon Perls said; “lose your mind and come to your senses”. This statement is so profound and resonant once the full meaning is grasped, the perfect springboard with which to start talking about the senses.
What does this mean, to lose one’s mind and come to one’s senses? For us, this is the most important step in our spiritual evolution, which is inevitable for us all – to stop identifying with our minds. In doing so, we arrive at the present, and the vehicle that will take us all the way there – to the present – is our senses.
We love this quote from Eckhart Tolle, on how it feels to be fully present; “In the stillness of your presence, you can feel your own formless and timeless reality as the unmanifested life that animates your physical form. You can then feel the same life deep within every other human and every other creature. You look beyond the veil of form and separation. This is the realisation of oneness. This is love.”
Love is attention. And therefore, love is diving deeply into our senses to experience the essence of being and the truth, rather than come to a mind-based definition of truth which is likely very far from what it is.
We as humans are incredibly lucky, beyond what most of us acknowledge, to have the senses we do. We often take them for granted, associate our ability to feel with pain, and mostly don’t connect with our senses fully in order to get the most out of them. Most people are aware of five senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch – when in fact we receive input from two more senses…
“The vestibular sense, or movement and balance sense, gives us information about where our head and body are in space. It allows us to stay upright while we sit, stand, and walk.
Proprioception, or body awareness sense, tells us where our body parts are relative to each other. It also gives us information about how much force to use in certain activities, allowing us to crack open an egg without crushing it in our hands.”
Fascinating! And most activities require us to use multiple senses at the same time. We would, however, like to explore here how one would best experience one sense at a time, in order to fully appreciate that sense in its pure form and come to a clearer understanding of the particular wisdom each sense can offer.
Vision perception is merely the eye’s ability to interpret the environment using light reflected by the objects in its surroundings. Of course, the eye belongs to the beholder, whose interpretations are filtered also through the mind. This makes things interesting, and reveals how biased we as humans can be and how our minds and the experiences that have shaped us colour everything we see. Speaking of colour – colours can affect our behaviour and mood, because certain emotions and ideas are linked to colour. In order to come to a greater awareness of how different colours affect us, we need to focus on one at a time and choose colours with intention so that they may become a tool for well-being. There are practical ways we can train and sharpen our sense of sight, by doing certain exercises every day and in so doing, we bring focus back the great gift of vision. Once a day, you can train your eye by warming your eyes, rolling your eyes, focusing on objects one at a time and massaging your temples. You can also do a meditation where you drop into the present through your sight, taking each object in with childlike curiosity as if it were totally new, and worth your undivided attention.
There is so much to be said about hearing, or auditory perception. What a miraculous sense, to perceive sounds by detecting vibrations. If all the universe is energy vibrating at different frequencies, it gives a new meaning to our sense of hearing. There are many ways we can ‘drop into’ this sense in order to improve our hearing, and dive fully into it, to receive the specific wisdom it offers. One way is to listen to different types of music – in particular genres like Jazz, made up of several layers of different sounds with many instruments. Listening to alternating genres is also helpful, as this will introduce the ear to different elements that are distinct from one another. And did you know there are specific yoga poses that can help with hearing by increasing circulation and therefore improve nerve function? (i.e. tree pose, lotus pose, cobra pose, and triangle pose) Meditation in a public place by breathing deeply and focusing on each sound is a powerful way of further awakening and bringing you into your sense of hearing. There are other ways, we invite you to explore!
And then there is the gift of smell, the most sensitive of our five traditional senses. The process of smell is very complex and layered. Our olfactory sense also has a very close relationship with your emotions and memories, which is why at times a simple smell can transport you back to the past like no other sense is able to. And each person has their own associations. It would be an interesting exercise to drop into smell, focus on different odours and journal about what feelings and memories come up in order to come to a better understanding of how smell can affect your feeling body and actions. A way to improve this sense is to smell powerful scents on a daily basis in order to engage your nose receptors. And then there is intentional use of certain natural smells for well-being / as therapy. As smell has such a strong link to our emotions and the past, essential oils – for instance – can be used as an effective tool for healing, another example of nature’s medicine. Ever noticed how smelling a sweet, fresh orange can make your feel instantly more energetic and happier, or how smelling a bunch of lavender makes you feel more relaxed and calmer?
There are few experiences more satisfying than a symphony of beautiful flavours transported and translated to us by our taste buds. It should come as no surprise that there is also a strong link connecting taste with emotion and in turn, our evolution. There are many ways to drop into our sense of taste; stimulating your taste buds by experimenting with diet, trying new recipes, spices and foods you don’t normally eat, using only fresh ingredients and therefore staying away from processed foods that can negatively affect your sense of taste, etc. Try a meditation using food and taste, as the vehicle that takes you into a greater state of presence – by closing your eyes and tasting different foods with different flavours and textures, one by one. ‘Listen’ to each ingredient, experience the subtle and not so subtle flavours of each, and chew slowly so that the experience of the sense turns into a real, fully-fledged journey.
Touch is the sense that directly connects our bodies to our environments and each other. So often to we take it for granted. But, being conscious about what we are touching helps awaken our brains and stimulates our sensory recognition pattern. The degree of engagement we have with our sense of touch and each other is a choice, and can affect our sense of connection, or lack thereof, to our human experience. ‘Earthing’, for instance, brings us into connection with Mother Earth and has a host of benefits. And human touch is essential to our well-being – it helps us feel connected to others, reduces anxiety, is a way to bond with our loved ones and children, lowers blood pressure, gives us a more positive outlook, and gives us the sensory feedback we actually crave.
Here is a great meditation from Doyouyoga.com to awaken and stimulate this miraculous sense:
“Sit with your eyes closed and explore movement in your body to some music; try rocking forward and back, side to side, circles, figure eight, spirals… After a couple of minutes slowly find total stillness.
Then slowly begin massaging yourself one body part at a time, starting with a foot and ending with the face. While massaging, use the body movements we just explored. Try to use your whole body when you massage yourself, not just your hands. Pour your body weight into the parts of the body that you massage.
You can even pound on your chest when you get there; pounding on the chest really helps improve self-confidence. At the end sit still and enjoy the amazing sensations.”
Stay tuned for another post which will explore the additional senses most of us are not aware of and how to train those.
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