Mindful Awareness and the 5 Senses

During my counseling sessions, I consistently try to leave clients with a practical tool that they can appreciate the justification and implementation of in their daily lives. Mindfulness feels impossible to achieve in the beginning, but every step towards mastery provides growth and change. I said before, mindfulness is and continues to be a practice for me! I am not a master or a guru. I am simply trying to live my best life and, although, that is laughable on most days…I am still doing my best. I can also tell you that my compassion, awareness, and presence have been forever impacted and improved by implementing this knowledge into my life.

I have previously mentioned the importance of utilizing mindfulness in interactions with my family. One method I use often with my kiddos is to help them tune into their five senses. The senses, like the breath, are relatively straight-forward to tap into when you are seeking a focal point for your mindfulness practice. Despite the seemingly straight-forward nature of using this as a tool, I believe we do not take moments to appreciate what the world may bring before us in this manner. We are horribly distracted.

In a New Yorker article, Joshua Rothman reviews the book “The World Beyond Your Head: Becoming an Individual in an Age of Distraction” (written by Matthew Crawford.)  He discusses Crawford’s description of distraction as making a choice or taking control. Rather than patiently waiting for the light to turn green, I am going to scroll through social media. These commercial breaks are bumming me out; I am going to check my snaps. I am going to listen to the latest episode of The Bachelor while I work because I am not a slave to my 8-5. Crawford says, “Distraction is appealing precisely because it’s active and rebellious.” It keeps you busy and less affected by the boring, slow, hard, or tough moments that we face on a day to day basis. I appreciate rebellion. I am a rebel by nature; I love autonomy and do not appreciate feeling controlled. When I feel like I have lost my grip on my world, I will go get my hair changed or a new tattoo. I seek out moments to feel empowered and in control of the situation. But the reality is, more often than not, my rebellion is merely a distraction from the uncomfortable path towards healing what has gone awry to make me feel as though I have lost control in the first place. Perhaps we all should meet the tough stuff head on rather than pour energy into the art of distraction?

Rothman also does a great job of discussing Crawford’s idea that our distracted culture could be the result of experiencing emptiness in regards to our spirituality. We are out of touch and disconnected. To fill this gaping hole in our souls, we become busy. We numb our pain with distractions. Crawford says, “Distraction is the opposite of joy, which becomes rarer as we spend more time in a frictionless environment of easy and trivial digital choices.” Again, perhaps it is time that we tune into ourselves, our souls, our nature, our spirituality and make steps towards feeling and experiencing life more wholeheartedly.

I believe our 5 senses can help us achieve a life with more wholehearted consumption of our immediate and tangible surroundings. This practice can aide in actively removing distractions and enhancing awareness. I often refer to a brief walk into work from the parking lot as I began to practice mindfulness. That particular morning I had a few moments to spare before I needed to get in my office (this is rare…do not be fooled, I am running late 99.09% of the time) so I played a brief guided meditation on my Chopra Center app.  As I walked into the hospital, I noticed vegetation and life that I never previously acknowledged. There was beauty that I was missing each and every day. I did not have a desire to disrupt my peaceful walk with mindlessly looking at my calendar for the 20th time that morning, I just allowed myself to relish in my surroundings.

There are so many moments where drawing mindful awareness to your 5 senses can enhance your experience. How often do you truly breathe in the aroma of your meal and take time to absorb the flavors of each bite that enters your body? When is the last time that you took the time to recognize the way that the warm water feels running down your back in the shower? Have you taken the chance to turn the television off and set your phone down so that you can hear your children laugh and play? How many times have you driven somewhere and not seen any of the beauty between point A and point B? We are missing our lives as they pass us by friends. I challenge you to choose moments and embrace the full experience with your whole heart and your 5 senses.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Going for a walk or run? Try it without the headphones. Implement a sensory experience in something you already make a priority. What do you hear with each step? Leaves crunching. What is the temperature? How does the sun feel on your face?
  • Grabbing a cup of tea or coffee first thing in the morning? Take time to feel the warmth of the cup in your hands, breathe in the aroma of your refreshing and awakening drink, enjoy the flavors as they are introduced into your body. Take moments to breathe and enjoy these moments of heightened awareness.
  • Time for dinner? Appreciate the appearance, texture, aromas, and flavors of your meal. Mindful eating has various benefits, not only will it make your dining experience increasingly enjoyable it can help you recognize the point in which your body is satisfied minimizing over eating and discomfort.
  • Having a conversation? Remove distractions, make eye contact, observe the person’s nonverbal communication, and genuinely hear their words. This can remove unnecessary misunderstandings and create a more compassionate interaction.

Tell me what practices your implement and find helpful! I am excited to hear from you. Until next time…

Peace, love, and laughter,

Megan

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