Monday, September 29, 2008

Your Six Senses

"The problem is that thoughts without sensation are only two-dimensional and, for that reason, often inaccurate. We can think ourselves into a permanent state of stress when everything around us is actually fine."

"Experience won't register on the bones and muscles, let alone the heart, unless the body is hooked up. In fact, when we lose conscious perception of body input, we are likely to suffer from an amnesia of actual experience."

- Johanna Putnoi, Senses Wide Open: The Art and Practice of Living in Your Body

I've been delving back into Putnoi's most excellent book these past few days while working on finishing my flyer for my upcoming "Six Senses" workshop on October 19 (for more details on this workshop, see the end of this post!). I've been meditating on how I've either embraced or rejected sensory information over the last several months, particularly during my dad's illness.

Last February, when my dad was in the hospital, I realize how much I tried to stifle sensory information. After all, most of the smells, sights, and sounds at the hospital were unpleasant. I can see how Putnoi's description of having "amnesia of experience" applied to me during this time. It was a survival technique to hold my chest in tight and to allow as few senses in as possible. Is it just me, or do most people (including doctors and nurses) look like they are holding in their breath at hospitals?

Now, many months later, I am finally feeling all of these senses. The memories and the senses are flowing to the surface. It's as if my body stored up my experiences (in my bones, cells, nervous system) and now it is safe for me to feel these things fully. In February I felt like I might have died from feeling too much, as anxiety arrived and replaced true, safe, actual, in-depth feeling. Now, for the most part, my mind, heart, and body all know I will not die from anxiety. Nor will I die from unpleasant sensory stimulation. In fact, accepting (and beckoning) sensory input is making me feel more alive. More safe. More integrated and connected.

The thing is, I find it's hard to live fully, openly, and truthfully when I rely solely on my mind or my heart for feedback. I need to include my body, too, for without bodily input, I don't have the complete picture. How do I know how I really feel about something without the smell that repels me, the sound that lulls me to sleep, or the cool temperature on my skin that gives me goosebumps? How can I learn to trust my instincts if I turn off my animal ability to feel the world through my senses?

My Six Senses Workshop is all about exploring the ways in which we use (or don't use) our senses. I've included a bit of information about the workshop here:

In this workshop, we will…
  • Engage in all six of our senses and learn how to become “awake” in our bodies.
  • Interpret the wisdom of our sensory experiences as a powerful form of feedback.
  • Uncover which of our senses are keenly awake and which seem to be hibernating.
  • Explore how being a highly sensitive person can influence how we react to sensory input.
  • Learn how tapping into our senses on a daily basis leads to more joyful, fulfilling experiences.
Think of this workshop as a full-body immersion and an experiential play day. You will eat and drink, pamper your body, smell divergent and interesting scents, listen to and create sounds, relax deeply for guided visualization and meditation, experience giving and receiving touch, play with color, and tap into your body’s natural system of intuition and inner knowing.

For more information about this sensory play day, click here to download a PDF flyer.

And in the meantime, Try This:

Go to your spice cupboard. Randomly pull out 5-10 spice bottles, turn the label away from you, and open the lids. Now, smell each spice. Really take in each scent one at a time. Before you describe the smell (i.e. "woody," "floral," or "musty," etc.), just feel the smell in your body. What does the scent do in your body? Does it make your throat feel more open, your nose feel congested? Do you feel free and relaxed or tight and rigid? Is it easy to identify the smell without looking at the label first?

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