Active Sensing with your Senses at Play
"We need silence to be able to touch souls."
- Mother Teresa
There have been many articles and workshops regarding active-listening; however, what about active-sensing?
This challenge will begin your adventure into active sensing. What information are you missing each day because you are not taking the time to actively smell, hear, touch, see or taste? What would it look like if you began to give yourself permission to take the extra time for additional sensory input? How much more radiant and vibrant would your life be? How would it feel to totally embrace each moment and allow for a few minutes of silence to gather info from your five senses?
Each time you enter a new environment or meet a new person, take the time to take three conscious breaths and let your senses flow and appreciate and be grateful for that moment.
A butterfly’s sense of taste is on their feet, a cricket’s sense of hearing is on its legs and a snake’s sense of smell starts in its jawbone.
Which sense do you primarily rely on? Which sense would you like to experience more? There have been many surveys concerning which sense most people are afraid of losing…and it is their sight.
Did you know:
Starfish have 5 eyes
Spiders have 8-12 eyes
Horseshoe crabs have 10 eyes
Boxed jellyfish have 24 eyes
Scallops have 100 eyes
Chiton (mollusks) have 1,000 eyes
I have 2 prosthetic eyes and do not consider myself as living in the dark. Every day I try to engage my five senses to understand my surroundings and conversations.
As a totally blind person, I can tell you on my good days I find my environment intimate and sensual. This is because I create my space to enhance my other senses. For example, my couches have some type of texture with a soft plush blanket for comfort. I usually have a scented candle or essential oil diffuser going. When I am creatively writing I listen to folk rock music and when I am cooking, I like to listen to some heavy metal. I also use scented lotions that relax me during the day. What do you do to enhance your senses?
Try to engage your five senses. Increase your social and emotional intelligence by becoming present and self-aware of what you are missing in each moment by not active-sensing your way through the day. Ask yourself:
How does this environment emotionally make me feel?
What do I see, smell and sense energetically and physically as I walk into this environment?
What are three things I can do to this environment to make it successful so I can thrive in it each day?
Download my Active-Sensing 21 Day Challenge Here. Try to make it a game with your family…like a sensory treasure hunt.
Here are five short reads of how I go through a day using my five senses. You can tell that my sense of smell is particularly important to me since it is the longest read. Make sure you read the article on how I view the pandemic through my senses.
Sense of Hearing
Even though our ear has the three smallest bones in our body, it is the sense that overwhelms me the most. Since I depend on my hearing due to my blindness, it is extremely easy for me to get on noise overload. Even though we are sleeping, our ears are processing sound, but our brain ignores it. Maybe if my ears did that when I was awake, then I would not get on noise overload!
Have you ever used a sound machine or app on your phone to go to sleep or for relaxation? What type of sounds do you find relaxing? I would rather listen to music than the TV. Pay attention to what sounds you like and do not throughout the day. Do you get on noise overload? For me, I just have to take a 10-minute time out in a quiet room to ground myself before I re-enter the family chaos. What is your strategy for noise overload?
Have you ever thought about how many different ways there may be to hear? Did you know that snakes hear through their jawbone since they do not have ears? We know hearing can be related to our sense of taste and smell since it is using the same cranial nerves, but what about seeing if we can hear through touch or texture. Can you hear through sight? For example, rain magnifies sounds while snow smothers sound. Our hearing and vision signals travel at different speeds to our brain and can relate in a slight delay of comprehending a sound through hearing. It is amazing how all our five senses work together to provide us with a unique experience, and it is even more amazing that each person may have a different memory for that exact same experience.
Sense of Sight
According to a US Government survey in 2018, people feared losing their sight the most out of all the senses.
I am blessed I have the luxury of knowing what colors and objects look like since I had some vision up until my early 20’s. Now that I am totally blind when I am considering a color I tend to think more in textures or energy. For example, I painted my living room an Easter green and my adjoining kitchen a sprout green color. I love the energy of bright colors and the green reminded me of being outside with my feet in the grass. To be honest, my kids make fun of me because I love everything to be color coordinated and love textures. I just laugh because who do they come to for colors…me!
How would it feel if you went into your living room with your eyes closed and felt around with your hands to assess the energy of that room? Forgetting the color scheme of your living room or office space, with your eyes closed, what might you change or envision it looking like if your sense of sight was gone?
Now let us talk about our third eye and that gut feeling you get. If your third eye chakra is blocked or under/overactive you may have inner ear problems, migraines, poor memory, not able to remember dreams, suffering from PTSD…
I have learned to rely on my third eye/intuition since I do not have physical sight. Did you know that there have been studies done and the consensus is that your gut is your second brain. There has been some new research and diagnosis for stomach migraines. I tend to emotionally eat and gravitate to sugary foods. This is not feeding my second brain – my gut – which fuels my third eye. When I am in this state of emotionally eating I do not rely on my intuition/gut feeling because it is not being fed healthy foods. For example, last week we went grocery shopping and bought many healthy foods. I was tired and had an ear infection in both ears and I did not feel like cooking. We ate a lot of fast foods and I splurged on cream filled churros for about two days which made me very sluggish and tired over the weekend. I was not productive and regretted it by Monday when I woke up with the “Monday Morning Blues”.
To feed our third eye eat purple colored foods such as berries, plums, eggplant, purple cabbage, kale; nuts, seeds, salmon, Omega 3’s and Dark chocolate – my favorite. Try centergizing your most important sight (your intuition) by changing your diet.
Sense of Smell
On a personal level, for me, smell is an important sense. My children make fun of me because when I am given something, the first thing I do is smell it. According to the Aroma Company, smells can trigger up to 75% of our emotion. Everyday Health.com says that our nose cells are renewed about every 30-60 days. Research shows that 80% of our taste comes from smell. What scents do you think you are missing out on because you are visually tasting instead of really smelling which requires all your senses?
For me, the scent of peppermint, lemon, cinnamon, fresh bread baking and a rosemary tree are relaxing. The other day after a thunderstorm, I stepped outside to breathe in the scent of rain, wet dirt and grass which centergized my grounding with mother earth. While I am creating this blog post to energize my thought process I am diffusing citrus essential oils. When I am meditating I use more subtle scents like frankincense, sage, sandalwood or vanilla. When I have a headache, I make a cup of hot Earl Grey tea and breathe in its scent while I hold the warm cup to my cheek. Today after my shower, I went through the ritual of massaging a rose scented lotion on my skin. What are some of your favorite scents and what type of emotions does it create for you? Have you created a ritual of scents and not even given it another thought of why?
Did you know that our sense of smell is the first one to become active in the womb? Smell is closely related to memories and can be one of the first senses to be lost. Last Sunday after my mentoring session, I walked into my daughter’s home, and I was struck with the scent of poopy diapers. This triggered a childhood memory of changing my brother’s diaper at the age of four. I inhaled lemon essential oil to rid the poopy scent. Changing poopy diapers as a totally blind grandma frustrates me because I go through about half a box of wet wipes to make sure I have it all clean. Afterwards I use my blood orange hand sanitizer which calms my frustrated nerves.
Smells can even impact you on a romantic level. It is thought that kissing is a primal reaction to determining a compatible relationship through the smell and taste of the kiss. There are companies that even claim to have products that will enhance our own pheromones levels. Can you describe the scent of your loved one? If you were blind folded could you pick out her/his scent? For me, when I am dating it is all about the person’s voice and scent. What about you?
Sense of Taste
For me taste can be a complex experience. Since I have no sight, I smell the food first. If it gets past the smell test, then I will taste it and decide its texture. If I do not like its texture even if the taste is semi-ok, I will not eat it. I love to cook and for the longest time I would smell the spice to determine its flavor. Then I moved to braille labels. Since I use my hands a lot when cooking, I would get the braille labels dirty. Now, I use a recording pen and record the spice on a label which will read it back to me. I have to admit, one time I was making homemade chicken noodle soup. I thought I had grabbed minced onion, but I was not paying attention to the shape of the bottle – just its sound when I shook it. It happened to be green sprinkles for cupcakes. My kids witnessed me doing it and I explained it was just my magic ingredient. Once I served my family white colored corn instead of the yellow colored corn they were used to eating; just based on the visual color, they would not eat it. There was practically no difference in its taste.
According to the Mental Floss website, our brain is doing the tasting through the cranial nerves and taste buds receptors sending signals to our olfactory nerve bulb in the roof of our nose. Have you tried to taste through your sense of touch or hearing? What about that popcorn popping in the microwave – what sense of taste comes to your mouth? What about dipping your finger into a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough – what is your mouth anticipating while you bring your finger to it? Did you know that scientists have learned they can turn on and off tastes by manipulating certain brain cells? They have learned that sweet foods can block some pain and help you remember a specific memory while eating it. When I am emotionally eating, I go for the sweets. How about you? Your tongue consists of 8 muscles and is comprised of thousands of taste buds – even on the roof of your mouth and down your esophagus. So much is involved in tasting. What aspect of tasting are you not discovering because you are not paying attention to what your brain is relaying to you?
Sense of Touch
Our sense of touch is probably the most unrated. Our entire body is covered with touch and pain receptors. Have you thought about how many things you touched from the time you wake up, use the bathroom, and start your morning cup of coffee, or tea?
Our sense of touch starts to develop at just eight weeks old and by 32 weeks our entire body minus our head is processing touch. For me personally, touch is one of the most important senses along with someone’s tone of voice. It is amazing with just one touch we have the power to heal or harm. It is ruled by sensory and emotional pathways. Dr. David Linden, author of “Touch The Science of Hand, Heart and Mind”, puts it this way: “It’s not just that the context is different – it will actually feel different. The reason is because these emotional touch brain areas are getting information about the social context from other parts of the brain.” How intricate our mind is and how much emotion plays into how we give and take from each other. What emotion are you conveying if you rarely have physical contact with another person? When I cry I usually have a cat or dog coming over to lick my face or rub against it for comfort, or one of my grandchildren is handing me a tissue and rubbing my back. Those little gestures are what makes my family strong and empathic.
On the other hand, I will not touch reptiles or rodents because they give me the willies. Other than the obvious things like fire, what objects/things will you not touch and why? How can you heighten your sense of touch? Pay close attention to the emotion it is bringing to you and where in your body are you feeling that emotion. You might be surprised!
How to deal with your senses in a time of chaos
What a crazy world we are living in today. Chaos from the widespread pandemic, rioting in our beloved cities, and the economy… All these things are out of my control; however, I can control how I see the world.
Although I physically do not have my eyes anymore, my visual cortex still tries to process what it thinks I am seeing using my other senses, and the signal gets scrambled. If you could imagine looking through a moving kaleidoscope in black in white – that is what I see most of the time. This distorted imagery is like all the chaos happening all around us in the world today. I am on a medication to help with it since it was starting to affect my balance and concentration. My personal chakra coach told me eventually I will be able to control the visual distortion and see what I want to see…like roses or butterflies.
Our brain/mind are so magical, that at an early age we are taught to only use some of our senses to gather and process the world around us. What would it look like or feel like if you were restricted to seeing the pandemic through your sense of taste, smell, touch and hearing? Where in your body do you feel these emotions/sensations? Allow your body to recognize the emotion, process it in a healthy way and then move on to a positive action.
For me, the pandemic smells like hand sanitizer; I would be touching bubbles; it tastes like black licorice; sound like a high-pitched dog whistle; and it would look like a jigsaw puzzle. I feel it in my upper torso, and it feels achy. What does the pandemic feel like to you through your senses? Transforming each day through my senses at play, allows me a bigger and brighter sensation which humbles me and allows me to be more empathetic to the world. What about you?