Savoring Life: The Gift of the Senses
Do you ever do any, or all, of the following?
I certainly did (and still do) all of them and more.
- The moment I see something that’s interesting or beautiful, I grab the phone or camera and take a picture.
- When I listen _to _a song and I like it, I start looking for its details (title, artist, and album) before the song is done playing.
- If a dish tastes really delicious, I try to guess the flavors and ingredients after a few bites.
- Smelling a fragrance triggers the desire to find out more about its chemistry and notes.
- Once I touch something new, I search for information about the type of material. The ordinary stuff that I touch doesn’t usually register.
What happens in effect is this:
Instead of living through the sensory experience, I turn it into a mental process—trying to capture an image, investigate a fragrance or taste, and identify or label the object of my attention.
When we’re busy thinking, analyzing, capturing, and sharing, we can’t be fully enjoying (or attending) to the experience itself.
And in the process of finding out more, or documenting the experience, we miss out on the most important part—the uniqueness and intensity of this physical moment.
We have incredibly powerful brains that want to seek answers, learn, and grow. And there is nothing wrong with that.
But, some things are meant to be experienced firsthand and not examined or exploited to death.
Not everything is meant to be an Instagram moment. Sometimes we fear that if we don’t get all the details, we will miss out. So what?
We don’t need to know all the intricate details of a flower to enjoy its fragrance or color. And we don’t need to record every little move a toddler makes to appreciate them before they grow up.
We’re exposed to so much sensory input. The last thing we want to do is add an overwhelming layer of mental noise on top.
Back to the essence of life
Let’s engage the senses for their own sake. Let’s truly see, touch, hear, smell, and taste life as it unfolds in every moment.
While reading this article is a mental process itself, I hope you get a chance to refocus more on feeling and less on thinking.
There is nothing new in this article that you haven’t read or heard before.
Using our senses is instinctual and does not need to be taught. This is simply a reminder to use the gifts of being alive, in this magnificent form.
Living through the senses
Every moment we’re alive and awake is an opportunity to savor life. All we need to do is to awaken the innate desire to use our senses.
Look. If you’re blessed with eyes that can see, take a moment to look around you. Notice the hues of light, the depth of color, the mood of the skies, the space upon which every visible thing exists.
Listen. Listen intently and calmly. What do you hear? The humming of a fridge, the clicks of a mouse or keys on a keyboard, cars passing by, music in the background, the sound of chewing food, or the rustling of leaves.
Taste. Food and drink are essential to our survival. We are, however, advanced enough to turn eating into a culinary adventure. Let’s enjoy every bite and every sip. Water—the nectar of life—may not have a taste, but we still can sense its soothing effect as we drink and quench our thirst.
Smell. Our sense of smell has the strongest emotional memory.
Some scents are more pleasant than others (the aromas of flowers, herbs, freshly baked bread, or freshly cut grass vs. a whiff of garbage, sewer, or melting plastic).
Let’s allow the body to respond intuitively as we smell life. If you find yourself in the past, gently get back to the present and smell your surroundings (both pleasant and unpleasant).
Touch. The skin (the largest organ) is the canvas of touch. The human fingers host thousands upon thousands of nerve endings that feel the lightest of physical contact.
It’s fairly easy to take what we do and feel for granted. We need to consciously pay attention to every contact we have with life—clothes that protect, water that cleanses, a keystroke that expresses, a chair that holds, a hug or an embrace that connects.
The above are just examples of how rich life can be.
Engaging the senses is the most natural part of living. The more we let go of the mental clutter that distracts us, the more we revert back to the basics of being alive.
When we live through the senses, we need to let go of a few programmed behaviors and attitudes that complicate life needlessly.
We may not be able to fully let go of our conditioned reactions, but at least we can try and do less of the following.
Less labels: We don’t need to fit everything into a definition, category, or find out everything about it.
Less judgment: Good or bad, ugly or beautiful, fun or boring does not matter much to our senses. We can let the body react in its own way without the mind games that run in the background.
Less lack and wanting: When we feel the experience, we don’t need to own it, or want more (or less) of it, or look for other things to complement it. It’s whole and complete, and it’s transient and fleeting, like everything else in life.
Give yourself permission to live through the senses, if not all the time at least some of the time.
Our senses don’t lie. They’re what make us experience life as it unfolds—raw, spontaneous, and unbiased.
It’s the mind that interprets, distorts, and assigns meaning to what the senses experience.
When we live through the senses, time matters less, anxious and needy thoughts subside, and we’re left with a one of a kind moment of pure indulgence.
We’re in effect meditating on life’s simple, yet rich pleasures. We come alive, blissfully present, and more grateful than ever.