5 Ways to Use Your Senses to Cultivate Conscious Presence
I'll never forget the day I decided to plant my first flower garden. I'd just experienced the death of a loved one, and my heart ached. It was early spring, and while out on a walk to get my mail, I noticed my neighbor's tulips had come up. Something about seeing their bright color made me smile.
Deciding I wanted flowers for my place; I got some plant starts. The smell and feel of the soft soil in my hands was comforting as I dug the wells then nestled the plants into their new home. I made it a habit to place my palm on them. I came and went about my day, appreciating the colors and fragrances, the sense of comfort I felt when touching the earth.
The time I took to check in on my flower garden — the feel, smell, and color — became my favorite time to meditate and the garden my favorite place.
Being present is an act of sense. Like our senses help us tune to the external world, they help us tune into our inner world during meditation. As we practice becoming more present to ourselves and our environment through each of our senses, we can become better at recognizing what is occurring and our needs at that moment. Developing this skill of tuning into ourselves in meditation also helps us tune in to others and be present to their needs.
Mini Practices: Sensing the World
If you're not able to garden, use this daily mantra "I am aware of my senses" to ground yourself, remain present in every moment, and use the following tools to bring conscious action to the practice.
Each of these may be enjoyed as a brief, 1-3 minute meditation on their own or in whatever sequence and combination you like.
Sensing the Ground
Stand comfortably or sit with both feet on the ground, becoming aware of the earth supporting you. While resting with this sense of support, become gradually aware of how your feelings take in the world around you.
Allow the muscles around your eyes to soften. What do you see in the space around you? Take in the colors, shapes, the light, the textures. Now close your eyes and imagine one of your favorite places. What imagery forms? Appreciate the beauty of your favorite place.
Notice the sounds that you hear in the environment and the sounds of your breath as you inhale and exhale. What do you hear? Now imagine you are listening to your favorite song or piece of music. Notice what happens in your body as you listen.
Bonus meditation: Put on your favorite track and enjoy listening to a song as a meditation.
Place your palms over your heart, taking several breaths. Feel the movement within as your heart pulses. Notice the motion of breathing, how your chest rises and falls with each breath. Where else do you feel movement in your body as you breathe? What other motions within your body are you aware of?
Now think of your favorite physical activity: dancing, playing a sport, swimming, running, stretching, or riding a bicycle. What physical sensations come to mind? How does your body feel when it is in motion doing something you enjoy?
Smelling and Tasting
What are your favorite foods? What do these foods smell and taste like? Savor the sensations of eating these foods the next time you have an opportunity.
How do you consciously bring your awareness to present moments? Let me know in the comments below.
Practice mindful eating with this class, Eating with Awareness, by mindfulness teacher Vishvapani Blomfield.
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