Senses open, returning to now
The fragrance of white tea is the feeling of existing in the mists that float over waters; the scent of peony is the scent of the absence of negativity: a lack of confusion, doubt, and darkness; to smell a rose is to teach your soul to skip; a nut and a wood together is a walk over fallen Autumn leaves; the touch of jasmine is a night’s dream under the nomad’s moon.” -C. Joybell C
Now that spring is officially upon us and daffodils are blooming (even here in The North East!), our thoughts turn to nature, to getting out more, to our parks and our gardens. I’ve just finished reading a book by Nark Coleman called Awake in the Wild: Mindfulness in Nature as a Path of Self Discovery. The book , almost literally, invites us to take a walk into our senses, to -as Kabat-Zinn says, “come to our senses”, to come out of autopilot and into the body and to use the senses as a place to stay present and be grounded.
When you are stressed, tired or anxious, notice how this plays out in and on your body; your senses literally tighten and close down. You compress. You become like James Joyce’s Mr Duffy who “lived a few feet away from his body”. But you can decompress, return to a felt experience of having your “senses open, returning to now”. This type of practice encourages you to open out again, to recognise, turn towards and befriend your difficulties, with a kindly embodied and sensory awareness, grounding in the here and now, so we “taste the dharma” (Buddha, attrib.)
Together, mind and body form one powerful communication system looped into a continual interaction. We are often aware of what we are communicating externally, but we may be less in touch with what’s going on inside and how this in turn relates in a continual connection. Even though our minds and bodies do interconnect and communicate with us all the time, we may not always pay attention to the messages!
Most of us are fortunate enough to have five senses: sight, sound, touch, smell and taste. Everyone’s sense system is totally unique to them because people experience things differently. This forms part of what we call ‘our map of the world’. Imagine eating an apple, with all of the sounds, tastes, smells and sights associated with it. If you try this activity with a friend and compare notes, you’ll find out just how much this can vary between two people.
If you start to tap into your senses and really connect with them, far more information becomes available to you. This will become apparent in your internal state as well as externally, in the way you communicate and connect with others and the world at large; you literally become “one”.
You can also take advantage of your senses to become more mindful and to savour the moment. This not only enables you to make the most of each moment but can also ground you and help you to tune in to what’s really happening as it happens. You’ll notice the experience in a very different way. Whether it’s something simple like washing your hands, watching rainfall, kissing your partner goodbye as you go to work, drinking a cup of tea or just looking out of a window – the world of your sense offers itself to you, time and time again.
A simple practice
- Breathe in, breathe out
- Become more aware of your soothing breathing
- What are your thoughts?
- What feelings do you have?
- What do you see, what do you notice happening right now, without needing to judge or qualify it?
- What do you hear happening right now?
- What can you smell happening right now?
- What can you taste?
- What are you touching? How does that feel?
- Where is your body right now?
- What’s happening inside you right now?
- Recognise the sensory world around you as it is right now, grounding and being in this moment
- Senses open, return to now
Ah, not to be cut off/Not through the slightest partition/Shut out from the law of the stars./The inner-what is it?/If not intensified sky