Using Your Senses To Access The Present Moment
By Mardi Rogers
Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of ‘Coming to our senses’ (and many other great mindfulness books), describes mindfulness as “Paying attention in your life as if it really mattered.” And when you think about it, what really matters more?
The only problem, of course, is that often the last thing your mind wants to do is ‘pay attention.’ I’m sure you’ll agree you mind would often rather be elsewhere – thinking about upcoming plans, or memories from the past – pretty much preferring to be anywhere but the here and now.
So while the practice of mindfulness and paying attention might sound simple, in practical terms it takes some direction, dedication and intention to steer the mind towards the present moment – which is where your life is really happening. Luckily, however, we have inbuilt ‘tools’ to help us – and your 5 senses can be used anytime to bring you instantly into the present moment.
So, next time you find yourself scattered, and in need of some present moment awareness, try one of these simple mindfulness practices using your senses. Be curious, and have some fun with them 🙂
Sense Mindfulness Meditations
Take some time to close your eyes, open your ears, and explore the ‘soundscape’ around you. When you stop and listen deeply you’ll find a wealth of sounds around, and maybe even within you (have you ever tried to hear the sound of your heartbeat?). As you listen you may find yourself absorbed into the vibration of sound, and become part of it.
You can do this at home – where you may think there’s not much going on, only to discover a hive of activity- or while you’re out and about. It only takes a few moments to tune in and explore the world around you through your hearing sense, but try to experience the sounds directly, rather than naming, analysing ‘what’ the sound is, or judging it as pleasant or unpleasant. See if you can experience each sound as the sound itself, not the labels you normally place on it.
Linked with touch I invite you to tune into your physical (not emotional) feelings. While sitting in stillness start to explore the physical sensations that your body is experiencing. It might be the feeling of your feet on the floor, your bottom on your chair, maybe you can feel the fabric of your clothing against your skin.
You can also practice exploring sensation within – like directing your complete attention to your fingertips or palms you’ll often be able to feel a tingling sensation. You may even be able to tune in the the sensations of life throughout your body. Explore the sensations of being alive!
How often do you truly see your environment? So often we’re so focused on or task at hand we don’t see the forest for the trees. So for a few minutes practise really ‘seeing’ your environment. You might like to do this out in nature, or simply in your living room.
Explore with your eyes, maybe see how far your peripheral vision can reach without moving. Druing the exercise again trying to be completely mindful by discouraging any thoughts/labels/judgements about what you see, and see if you can practise having the direct experience of the objects.
We have opportunities everyday, with every meal or snack to practise mindfulness. In groups I regularly invite attendees to join me for a ‘mindfulness of sultana’ meditation – spending 5-10mins experiencing just one sultana. When you tune into the tastes and smells of your food and drinks it can become a mindful enjoyable eating experience.
So often we mindlessly run through the process of eating and drinking – often only really tasting the first sip or bite. So as a mindfulness practice try using your next cuppa, cake, or meal as a mindful meditation. Be silent and explore all the tastes, textures and smells on offer.
Have fun with these and see how much more enjoyment the simple things in life can bring 🙂