A Reverie On The SensesJun 26, 2018
Guest Post by Kaia Svien, MS
The sun shines not on us, but in us.
The river flows not past, but through
us, thrilling, tingling, vibrating every
fiber and cell of the substance of our
bodies, making them glide and sing.
Ah, the delight of waking up the senses!
Many of our senses can easily fall out of awareness and lie dormant, unnoticed. When one is rushing out the door in the morning, wondering if there is enough gas in the tank, already a little late for the next event, who can take in the beauty of the sunrise? When anxiety is jerking the mind through a series of worst case scenarios because of the latest problem at work, who smells the lasagna baking in the oven? Or numb and tired from insomnia, it’s hard for the hands to feel nourished by the soft warm nestling of the cat in the lap.
And all this time, the dear thinking mind, hoping to perfect us, commandeering most of our attention, is housed in the body. This body, like a precious instrument and each sense, another string on a lute or node on a flute.
Sight nourishing us with images of Life’s beauties and the seasons’ glories- colors, forms, faces, places we cherish.
Smell creating powerful and haunting aromas that leave us tingling with anticipation and falling in love again with places and people that abound in our memories.
Taste feasting us on astounding and delectable flavors from all the world’s cuisines. Pulling us back in time to other meals, other times of connection.
Hearing gilding our ears with exquisite harmonies that can transport us to other realms as we listen, carry us into deep union with others as we sing, and delight our hearts with recognizable voices and sounds we resonate to.
Touch gifting us with the physical sensations of relationship to wind, fire, earth and air; to heartbeat, intuition, breath; to embraces with other beings.
In each moment of life, our experiences can be augmented by multiple layers of being that our senses are ready to deliver. In the hard moments, the feel of the earth under our feet, the vastness of a rosy sunrise opening a day full of grief, the sounds of children laughing after a hard day at the office, can console us by reminding us that life continues to unfold, to flow.
Ways to Awaken the Senses
Deepen your ability to live in the present moment more readily instead of reliving the past or attempting to orchestrate the best future.
By noticing the information that each sense is bringing us, we come into the present and then can be truly available to ourselves just as we are. The quality of the light in the room, a favorite photo or object we see; the sounds of the clock, the birds outside, our breath, the feel of the posture the body is in, the way the chair or cushion support us, the sense of the rug beneath our feet, and the like help us center ourselves in this moment. Ah, we are home when we do this.
Treat yourself to a soothing experience that won’t take anything out of your wallet or add anything to your body weight. Here’s one way:
- Recall a pleasant time from anywhere in your past.
- Dip into this memory via whichever sense or senses have recorded it most vividly. Maybe it is hearing that carries you back to a favorite concert, or the feel of lake water around your shoulders as you paddled in a pond at moonlight.
- Amplify the memory that comes to you by wondering about what your other senses hold. Try picturing the cellist’s hands moving at the concert or listen for frogs serenading you as you swam in the pond and so on.
- Call on your imagination to create some kind of movie of this memory.
- Once you have a movie in mind, replay it a couple of times. Slow it down in the replays so that it lasts longer.
- If you like, imagine transporting this memory to your heart where it can shine like a jewel among other happy memories.
Celebrate the Pearls of Your Senses
We’re coming to recognize that putting little “pearls” of being into a day full of doing changes so much for us. These pearls offer gifts of additional states of consciousness instead of inhabiting only the mental engine that charges us nonstop to complete measurable tasks. These tiny moments of being add dimensions to our existence that are a source of contentment, joy, and love of life.
Here are some ideas for sensory pearls you can string into your day:
- Choose five minutes of some wordless music that you find soothing to put on your sound source.
- Lie down comfortably nearby.
- Imagine your body to be a sonorous flute through which the music is being played.
- If you like, do this with a friend nearby, maybe holding hands.
- Seat yourself somewhere with a pleasant view.
- Spend a couple minutes sending your vision out beyond the one-dimensional read of whatever is in front of you. The one-dimensional read is what you usually see when you are rushing or the mind is otherwise occupied.
- Notice curves and turn, ups and down, ins and outs. Let your eyes follow as they take in your surroundings.
Kinesthetic Pearl (two strategies)
1. Notice Movement
- Drop into recognizing that you are- all of life is- at its essence,
- Invite your center of energy to descend from your brain into your body.
- Choose a large bone, a big muscle, or an organ to focus on.
- Imagine that you can sense the oscillation that is the essence of this entity.
- Let the awareness of this oscillation teach you something about the essence of life on planet earth.
2. Notice Your Interaction With Nature
- Either sitting or walking slowly outdoors, bring your attention to what’s going on outside your body regarding all the sensations you’re receiving from nature.
- Let yourself trace the outlines of your body as you notice the contact with the air or with a substance like the ground you are walking upon or an object like a chair you are sitting on.
- Notice whatever touches you- warmth of the sun, coolness of a breeze, the difference between walking on asphalt or earth. When the mind wanders, in a friendly manner, train yourself to return again and again to the relationship you are having with the tactile sensation.
- If the season allows, take yourself on a tour of a garden during which all you do is sniff vigorously.
- After sitting down to eat, lift your plate or bowl up to your nose and make an olfactory tour of all that is on it. This pearl will aid digestion as you are letting the gastric juices know just how to line up for what’s coming their way.
- Select one of your favorite foods to focus on.
- Step into slow motion for this process.
- As you bring a bite-sized piece of this food to your mouth, notice how the mouth naturally forms itself to receive this particular food. For example, maybe your tongue comes out or maybe the lips purse.
- Hold the piece of food between your upper palate and your tongue for a moment and notice whatever taste experience is available. Does that taste pervade your mouth? Is it localized? What else?
- Choose which molars get to crunch down on the food and place it accordingly between them.
- Be totally “there” as you slowly close your jaws, noting how the taste makes its way through your mouth.
- Continue to chew at a minimal pace, available to the release of other gustatory revelations, until the food has been swallowed.
- Survey your mouth for any tastes that remain.
A Pearl of Deep Awakening
- Find a peaceful place to sit comfortably outside.
- Breathe into your body slowly and fully for at least two minutes. Recognize it as the source of all the richness that your senses enliven you with.
- Begin to gaze in a relaxed manner around yourself. Combine your visual and kinesthetic channels to allow you to “feel” the dimensions of what you are looking at. For example, travel visually in and out of the rooflines of a house, knowing the feel of roof tile and the touch of stucco. Let your eyes inform you about the unfurling energy potent in the rhubarb plant, become the wings of the bird at the bath that is flicking off excess water, or be the stiff branches of a bush that resist the breeze.
- After an initial journey through your surroundings, let yourself return to a compelling scene and ask yourself playfully what it may be signifying about your life right now. For example, what is unfurling in you with the dynamism the rhubarb plant is experiencing? Returning to the birdbath, wonder about what you may be ready to release from your body or habits. Watching those stiff branches that can’t really bend with the breeze, scan your body for a body part, an attitude, a belief that is resisting the flow that other parts of you are engaged in.
You’ll find that experiencing these pearls will start your imagination singing. You’ll create more and more of your own. Notice how the “quality” of your life begins to change.
Kaia Svien, MS, is a mindfulness meditation instructor, author, spiritual advisor, social justice activist, and European American Elder. A former adjunct professor in the Holistic Health Studies Master's program at the College of St Catherine, she has been an educator for forty-two years, working in diverse settings including the University of Minnesota, five hospitals, two women’s prisons, and Buddhist meditation centers.
Contact Kaia: MindfulnessForChangingTimes.com
Studies support that time in nature can help turn off the stress nervous system and increase the relaxation response as the nervous system is rebalanced. This induces physical changes like lowered blood pressure and increased heart rate variability (HRV). Increased HRV is a positive marker for general health and wellness. Learn more.>>>