One of the most direct, effective ways we can feel more connected is by tuning into our senses – sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. We tend to take them for granted, but people who lose one or more of these senses, whether through an accident or illness, suddenly realise how much their felt presence in the world relies on their sensory awareness. When we are busy, rushing from one task to the next, constantly bombarded with noise and stimulation, it’s easy for our senses to become dulled. It’s like a self-protective mechanism which tries to prevent us from being overwhelmed. Unfortunately, this dulling of our senses leads to a more impoverished life, where countless opportunities for joy and appreciation are missed because we aren’t even aware of them.
In his book ‘Coming to our senses – Healing ourselves and the world through mindfulness’, Jon Kabat-Zinn writes:
‘The fact of the matter is that it is not so easy to come to our senses without practice. And as a rule, we are colossally out of practice. (…) We are colossally out of shape when it comes to perception and awareness, whether orientated outwardly or inwardly, or both.’
People who come to a mindfulness course or retreat often report seeing colours more brightly, tasting the food more, feeling more present in their bodies. They might have come to mindfulness because of serious stresses and difficulties in their lives, hoping to learn to deal with these more effectively, and are delighted to discover a whole world of sensory richness which previously they hadn’t even realised they were missing.
Yet coming to our senses is more than just an added bonus of mindfulness, like a free set of steak knives with our new super wonder cooker. It’s at the heart of living a mindful life. Over the coming weeks, we will explore our different senses, and how mindfulness can enrich these in our lives.
Weekly practice idea:
Pick one of your senses, and write down what it means to you. What would it be like to lose this sense? Think about the role it plays in your life, and how precious it is.