be mindful

MINDFULNESS THROUGH THE SENSES

You are no stranger to “mindfulness” if you have been reading our blogs. The simple practice of paying attention to the present, non-judgmentally, and open-heartedly, has so many benefits! However, as someone rightly pointed out:-

“Mindfulness isn’t difficult, we just need to remember to do it.” 
― Sharon Salzberg

In everyday life, it becomes difficult to be mindful; or, to come back to the present. You remain caught in the struggle of day to day tasks… and not to mention, day to day worries. It helps immensely to have some simple anchors that bring your attention back to the present. One such anchor is the breath. You carry your breath wherever you go. Taking a couple of breaths mindfully is a simple, effective way of reconnecting to the present. Similarly, another anchor that is readily available is your body. The body almost goes through all your emotions along with your mind. Yet, as humans we are not conditioned to paying attention to our bodies. To reconnect to the present, you can reconnect to what you feel within your body in that moment. Yet another anchor is through your 5 senses.

 

The 5 Senses – An Anchor to Reconnect to the Present

Your senses are your window to the world; you experience life through your senses. Yet, in your everyday routine, you remain busy making meaning of whatever you see, hear, smell, taste and touch. This is necessary and an essential part of survival! However, if you think about it, every sensory experience is so rich on its own. There is a unique quality to each of your senses. Keeping this in mind, the following section describes a mindfulness exercise that involves paying attention to one sense at a time. This exercise is more on the lines of meditation. In your day to day life, you can simply reconnect with your present through any one sense, like paying attention to the sounds around you, or the sights before you. However, when you have some more time, or are sitting to meditate, you can try this exercise.

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A Tour of the 5 Senses – A Meditation Exercise

This exercise involves isolating one sense at a time and paying attention to whatever comes into your awareness through that sense. Throughout this exercise, remember that the idea is not to be able to detect. For, example, you do not have to necessarily detect a particular smell, or taste. Rather, it is just to be present to whatever sensation is there in the present moment. Certain senses would be more obvious, certain others might be more neutral, depending on what your present circumstances are, and that’s completely okay.

You could begin the exercise by taking a few deep, slow breaths.

Start with any one sense; for example, you could bring your awareness to the sense of vision. You could focus on any one object that you see around you. Try to simply watch it without labeling it. Notice whatever catches your visual attention. It could be sensations of color, brightness, shape, form, etc. You could even try this one with your eyes closed. With your eyes closed you can probably sense some light. Be aware of it. There might be sensations of color, light or dark shades, of brightness. There might even be sensations of shapes or contours. Try not to get caught in any commentary or analysis of what you see. Instead, simply rest your awareness upon your experience of vision for a few minutes.

It is important that you don’t move too quickly to the next sense. Spending 3-4 minutes with each sense is a good way to begin. Don’t worry about the timing being exact. When you get an internal sense that a few minutes have passed, you can move on to the next sense.

After a few minutes, gently shift your attention from your vision to your hearing. Open yourself up to all the sounds around you. Perhaps you will be aware of more sounds than usual. You might notice the unique quality of different sounds. Some of you might even hear sounds from within your body. Stay with these sounds for a few minutes.

Once you have spent a few minutes with your hearing, gently move your attention to your sense of taste.  Sense the taste within your mouth, just as it is right now. You might sense sweetness or bitterness, or it could even be a neutral taste. It doesn’t matter what the sensation is. Simply rest your awareness of whatever it is that you sense, even if it is a neutral one. If you notice after some time that you have begun to analyse the taste, or that you are thinking about the taste, gently come back to simply sensing it, for whatever it is.

When it is time for your fourth sense, isolate your sense of smell, and bring your awareness to it. Again, you might smell something specific, or something more neutral. It doesn’t matter what you smell, as long as you stay open to and aware of your experience. If no smell comes into awareness, you can even be with your breath.

Lastly, let your attention shift to the sense of touch. Pay attention to whatever sense of contact, or touch comes into your awareness – the touch of the fan breeze, your body in contact with the floor, your clothes against your skin.  You might be aware of temperature, or the texture of different surfaces that you are in contact with. Stay with sensations of touch.

To end the exercise, you can take a few deep breaths if you wish to, and open your eyes.

Add your own touch to this exercise:-

If you are new to mindfulness and meditation, perhaps you could begin with just two senses. Pick any two, spend a few minutes meditating on each and see how you feel. Once you get used to it, you can try different senses, or try adding more senses one at a time. You can also pick your own sequence of the 5 senses, depending on what you feel like trying.

Mindfulness is a simple practice that can gently ease off the stress in your day to day life. Read more mindfulness blogs here, and feel free to share any thoughts, feedback, or even any mindfulness practices that you follow 🙂

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Image CreditLori Branham

Post contributed by: Malini Krishnan

Malini is a Clinical Psychologist and she conducts Individual Counseling at Inner Space.

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