When thinking of our senses most people think of five – sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. There are many more senses than what was taught in school. What about equilibrium (keeping your balance), proprioception (know where your body parts are relative to other parts – close your eyes and touch your nose), hunger (body detects when you need to eat) and many more.
The reality is if you want to expand your senses you first have to be aware of them. This allows you to see your world in a new way on a daily bases. Start small and build until we are open to the world around us. Many times the chatter of our televisions, radios, sounds of our man made environment all of which result in noise pollution drowning out our natural awareness of our other senses. When eating most people eat on the go while in the car or grabbing fast food and quickly eating in front of the television. How many people sit down at a table and eat at a slower pace noticing the color, texture, smells and sounds of the eating experience. How many people stop to feel the temperature of the food as it touches their tongue? The experience is quite different when you slow down and eat in a mindful manner.
Think about when you have an itch on the bottom of your foot, you can reach down and scratch the exact spot on the foot without even looking. What about thermoception – your ability to sense hot and cold. Your brain is responsible for this sense as it monitors your inner temperature letting you know when to throw a blanket over your body, put socks on or remove a sweater. We unconsciously know what to do.
When listening to your environment we ignore many sounds due to the vibrations that we become familiar with in our surroundings. Sound is really only the body interpreting the vibrations in the world around us. Just think of people living near a railroad track, a busy highway, an airport, a busy city – they eventually ignore the loud sounds in their environment. I live near a train track. When the Amtrak train roars across the track my floor, doors, china cabinet shake for a few seconds as it speeds past. After living here for over a year I no longer notice, even when it travels late at night and the vibration passes through a quiet house. Yet, when someone visits me, the loud train rambling on the tracks makes them question how I can ignore it. I don’t ignore it because it no longer is on my radar. Just think about the sounds in your own environment, do others bring it to your attention? Stop and listen to your home with no other distractions except the sound of the refrigerator humming and possibly the furnace or air conditioner. What do you hear? Is there anything that you notice now that you have blocked out over time? Does this mean that we are not affected by the sounds, not necessarily. They could be affecting our unconscious and causing us to be a little anxious or tense without our awareness. Maybe this is what we really need to pay attention to. Just a thought.
I began to focus on the smaller things – the sound of the leaf as it drops to the ground, the dripping of water as it hits the ground, the sound of the wind rustling the leaves which reminds me of the faint sound of chimes, the sound of snow or dried leaves crunching under foot. Recently I began to record the sounds to add into a meditation video. The sounds of our environments are individual. Birds chirping in upstate New York are not the same sounds as birds chirping in the Amazon. How would we know if people in other areas did not make these sounds available to us or if we didn’t visit other locations. Even though I focus on mindful living, I know I am limited by where I have visited and my surroundings. My body and mind are capable of so much more awareness. This is also true of the people I meet and learn from and this is why I reach out to people all over the world to broaden my own knowledge and perception of the world.
Edward O. Wilson speaks to this in the YouTube video below.
If you are like me after watching this video you will begin to wonder what else you are missing around you and want to pay attention to the world we share with plants, animals, and all of nature. Add some play into your life, remember how in inquisitive and interested as you were when a child.
What can you do today to open up your senses to become inquisitive to the expansive universe around you? Can you turn off the television and sit in the natural sounds of your environment for five minutes, fifteen, twenty? Walk barefoot to open up your senses in your feet? When you sit down for your meal sit at the table, take in the color, scent, texture/shape of your food. As you place the food on your fork/spoon listen for the sound of the different items – soft versus a piece of meat, hard item. As the food touches your mouth – feel it on your lip, tongue, roof of your mouth, teeth as you chew. As you swallow take a moment to appreciate the nutrition this food provides to your body. This can be one of many new ways of viewing your world. After trying it at dinner, why not try the same process when walking – touch a tree, feel the ground under your feet, listen to the sounds of the forest. What about when showering – feel the water flow over your body, the silkiness of the soap on your hair, the feel of the water rushing over your feet, the warmth of the water, the sounds of the water as it flows from the shower head. This is only a small part of what you can do to slow down, appreciate life and your senses to include those you weren’t even aware of.
I think to live life to its fullest and enjoy the journey through the natural ebbs and flows, we should learn to appreciate our intricacies of our bodies, our environment, and the natural world around us. Then we can live a life of full of appreciation, we can open our senses and become the actively, creative individuals were were meant to be.
Light and Love,