As miraculous as the human brain is, it would be worthless without the senses that connect us to the outside word. Any time you use one of the five senses—touch, sight, hearing, smell, or taste—you are receiving messages directly from the world around you. Together, they give us our perception of the world and our personal conception of reality. The sum of the messages we receive through the senses and process through the brain are all we have to make sense of the universe and our place within it. For that reason, we must take care to develop and use our senses well.
The Five That Make You Alive
Every creature on earth has been given the senses they need to make their way in the natural world. We know that some animals have senses that exceed ours, such as insects that can see ultraviolet light and bats that can use sonar to echolocate within their environment. But the senses we have are exactly perfect for us, the right combination of senses that allow us to speak and sing and create in unique ways.
Unfortunately, however, our senses have become a bit dulled in our modern society. This is partly because we simply do not need our senses in the ways that we needed them before. In the past, our lives depended on keeping our senses sharp as we searched for food and avoided predators and other dangers in the environment. Also, our senses have become so bombarded with information that we have to tune some of it out; our world is very noisy and overflowing with media competing for our attention.
Five Senses Mindfulness Meditation
The key to using your senses in the modern world is concentration and mindfulness. This is not easy, given the busy informational world we live in, but it is important for using our brains well since our senses are how we input information into the brain. If our senses are not fully functioning, we are not operating our brain with a full access to the information it needs. To cope with our world, it is necessary to develop the skill of concentration and mindfulness, which allows us to focus on certain sensory information while letting other information go temporarily. Here is an exercise that can help you begin to develop that important skill:
- Find a relatively quiet place, preferably a quiet place in nature or a park.
- Sit comfortably, either on a bench or on the ground, and close your eyes.
- First, look carefully all around you, noticing the shape and color of everything around you. Avoid the tendency to name or analyze anything; just see the colors and shapes as a young child might, without judgement.
- Now, close your eyes and begin to focus one at a time on each of the other senses. First, what do you feel on your skin? Perhaps you feel a light breeze or the sun beating down on you. Maybe you feel the grass beneath you or the texture of the bench beneath you. Slowly and carefully notice every sensation being perceived by your skin, including temperatures and textures.
- Now, notice what you are taking in through your sense of smell. Can you smell the leaves or the grass? Are there any other smells, manmade or natural, that you perceive?
- Move on to your sense of hearing. What subtle sounds can you hear that you might never have heard? Can you hear the gentle murmur of leaves rustling? The sound of wind through the trees? How about the sound of your own breath?
- Finally, you can even focus on your sense of taste. First, perceive the taste of your own saliva. Is it sweet? Bitter? Salty? What do you notice? Then, open you mouth a bit and taste the air. What messages is it bringing you from nature?
The Sixth Sense
After you have awakened the five senses, then you can concentrate on developing your sixth sense, your energy sense. This is the sense that allows you to feel things beyond what the typical five senses offer us. When completely developed, this sense allows you very accurate intuition since intuition is just the ability to sense the energetic ebb and flow that underlies all of creation. To begin the development of this sense, I recommend that you begin with simple energy meditation, such as the one I introduced earlier on Patheos, and then work up to more advanced energy study, such as that taught in the more advanced steps of Brain Education.
This Is Your Gift to Use
Your senses are a precious gift given to you to help you understand the cosmos, so be sure that you are not wasting that gift. Doing otherwise is like always keeping the blinds drawn on your window to the world. You deserve a full picture of life, so start opening up your senses today.