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use our senses in most types of meditation.
- We gain
benefits from sensory awareness.
- The techniques
of sensory awareness.
use our senses in most types of meditation. Those types of meditation
include mindfulness, concentration, movement, etc. But we can also
meditate on the senses themselves -- their input and their means of
perceiving "reality." As with mindfulness meditation, we can practice
sensory awareness during our everyday life, but we will experience a
greater depth and intensity if we set aside some time specifically to
dwell on the senses.
benefits from sensory awareness. These are generally the same
benefits which we acquire from mindfulness meditation: we acquire
more information; we perceive more accurately; we increase our
understanding of the physical body; we learn to "live in the moment."
(Those benefits are explained in the chapter on mindfulness.) When we
develop sensory awareness, our senses become more acute; we notice
more details and nuances and the uniqueness of the individual objects
around us. We experience more pleasure from the objects of perception
and from the energized sense-organs themselves (perhaps as a tingling
sensation in the eyes or ears, for example). We become able to derive
that pleasure from subtler stimuli; hence, our preference might
change from loud, thumping rock music to subtler classical music
which requires greater attentiveness and perceptiveness but rewards
us with a meditative serenity and a stimulation of our higher
chakras. When our use our senses to connect more fully with our
environment, we are establishing a warm, nourishing contact with our
body, our human identity, and the physical world.
of sensory awareness.
- Have a non-verbal experience. In many types of meditation, we
enter a state in which we experience things directly and
intimately rather than merely thinking about them. In sensory
awareness, too, we perceive objects themselves rather than the
labels which we would attach to them; to hear a sound is not the
same as to think, "the chirping of a chickadee." Our senses
operate in a non-verbal world; in sensory awareness exercises, we
enter that world as fascinated observers who are quietly exploring
the lushness of perception -- without identifying, comparing, or
using the other functions of the word-oriented analytical function of mind.
- Proceed at a leisurely pace. Much of our sensory
"mindlessness" occurs because our actions are quick. At that pace,
we are processing only superficial sensory data; for example, we
pick up a pen to write, and we experience it simply as a utensil
for a task. We must be in this state in order to concentrate on
the task; a profound sensory experience (of pen in hand) would be
a time-consuming distraction. (However, during such activities, we
can split our attention between the task itself and our sensory
experience of it.) But to develop sensory awareness to any depth,
we must assign a period of time solely for our senses. During this
period, we move at the body's own pace and rhythm, and we allow
the senses to regard their objects for as long as they are
intrigued. When we permit the senses to explore in their own
manner, they are likely to be enthralled with an object for a
considerable period of time, continually discovering new minutia
which they savor.
- Have a day of sensory awareness. For an entire day (or perhaps
just a few hours), be aware of as much sensory stimuli as
possible, without labeling any of it or responding to it with
thoughts. A variation is to devote this time to a single sense,
such as the sense of smell or hearing; this might require you to
keep your eyes closed so that your visual input will not distract
you from the other sense.
- Use the various senses.
- Meditating with our sense of hearing.
- Simply listen to whatever is occurring at this moment.
The sounds might include traffic, people's voices, the hum
of a refrigerator or a computer, and so on. Explore this
audial world to perceive every different sound. Don't label
any of it as "noise"; instead, give it all the same
attention that you would give to fine music.
- In a quiet room, turn a radio to a very low volume so
that you must listen very carefully to hear it. Variation:
Play the music at a regular volume, but then slowly move
away from it, and try to continue to hear it from
- Listen to music which has more than one instrument.
Follow a single instrument throughout the entire piece. Or
focus on a different aspect of the music -- noticing only
the rhythm or the changes in pitch or volume.
- Do a household chore -- perhaps sweeping or cleaning --
and listen to the sounds which are created.
- Listen to music and feel your body's response to it. Do
certain muscles relax or tighten? Is there a reaction in
particular parts of your body, such as your gut or your
head? Listen to two different types of music consecutively,
and notice the differences in your body's response.
- Put your fingers gently into each ear, and listen to the
sounds within your body. You might hear your breathing, your
heartbeat, and much else.
- With a spoon, tap on objects throughout your home.
Notice the different sounds which are generated.
- Find a metal object which makes an ongoing ringing sound
when you strike it; this might be a bell or the lid of a
pot. Hit it and listen to the fading of the sound.
- Meditating with our sense of smell.
- Smell different fragrances: flowers of various kinds,
incense, soap, perfume or cologne, foods and spices from
- As you smell a fragrance, notice whether it changes your
mood or your state.
- Smell something which would generally be considered
unpleasant -- spoiled food, or garbage. Remove your judgment
from the experience, and simply investigate the scent.
- Walk throughout your home or backyard, with eyes closed.
(Be careful not to stumble.) Notice the subtle odors in the
- Meditating with our sense of taste.
- Eat a spoonful of food. Now pinch your nostrils closed
with one hand, and eat another spoonful of the food. Is
there a difference in the taste?
- Put a piece of food into your mouth, and leave it there.
Explore the flavor of it as you move it to various parts of
your mouth. Then bite into it and notice any change in its
- We have four types of receptors in the mouth; each
discerns only one quality in the food -- sweetness,
bitterness, sourness, and saltiness. Eat different types of
foods which predominate with one of these qualities.
- Put various objects into your mouth to discern their
taste. (Wash them before doing this.) The objects might
include a pen, a key, a crystal, and so on.
- Taste a pinch of each of the spices in your kitchen.
- Notice the taste in your mouth when there is no food in
it. What is the natural flavor?
- Be aware of the change in your state when you taste
something. Do certain flavors change your mood?
- Taste a food which you do not like. (For me, this would
be liver or coffee.) Refrain from judging it as unpleasant,
and simply notice the taste.
- Meditating with our sense of touch.
- Collect a variety of fabrics and objects. This might
include velvet, nylon, fur, wood, steel, plastic, foods,
etc. Select items with various qualities: smooth, rough,
wet, slimy, and so on. Now touch each one, allowing your
fingers to explore the texture.
- Do a household chore, being aware of your hands' contact
with the objects which they encounter.
- Walk throughout your home, mindfully touching the
furniture and other articles.
- Touch objects of different temperatures. This might
include objects from your refrigerator and freezer, or
tap-water which you vary from hot to cold.
- Touch your skin on numerous parts of your body, and
notice the sense of touch through the hand that is touching
and through the body part which is being touched. Be aware
of such qualities as texture, temperature, oiliness,
hairiness, and vitality. Touch yourself in various ways --
tickling, scratching, rubbing, tapping, stroking. A
variation is to explore the skin of a partner.
- Instead of touching objects only with your hands, touch
them with other parts of your body -- your forearms, bare
feet, head, etc.