SENSING Vs THINKING
It’s a wonderful feeling to be utterly absorbed in your senses. Whether it’s dancing, Tai Chi, Yoga, craft, art, sport or gardening. There is a pleasant peace that rests with us when we simply attend to our senses, instead of the tumultuous world of our thoughts.
THE SEVEN SENSES
We all know the five main senses: touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing.
So what’s the sixth sense? No it’s not being able to see… you know, the famous Haley Joel Osment quote from the Sixth Sense film!
Your sixth sense is known as interoception. This is your ability to sense the state and well being of your body. It includes being able to sense your breath, your heart beat, knowing you need to use the bathroom etc – feelings from within you.
Your seventh sense is proprioception. This is your ability to know where you are spatially. With this sense you can close your eyes, move your arm around and still know where it is, same for your head, arms and body. Judging by some of the dancing I saw at a recent festival, there seems to be varying degrees of this sense.
Some scientists argue that we have up to 21 senses (and they may well be correct) but for our purposes, seven seems plenty.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THINKING?!
Absolutley nothing… as long as you are doing it on purpose.
The touble is, we are often on AUTOPILOT. When we’re brushing our teeth, we’re having a conversation with the boss. When we’re taking a shower, we’re in the board room analysing the quartely stats. When we’re walking the dog, we’re re-running the argument we had with our partner. When we’re eating dinner, we’re pondering the kids’ education.
It’s easy for our experience of life to be dominated by thoughts which do not elevate our quality of life or enhance our experience of life in any way. Some thoughts seem to run on a loop, like someone has pressed the repeat button. Other thoughts just appear even when we find them unhelpful or unpleasant. It’s as if our thoughts have a mind of their own (if you know what I mean).
Choosing to be aware, to be mindful, allows a greater sense of freedom and calm from the often tumultuous realms of endless, goal-oriented, agenda-filled thinking.
We all want to feel good. We are driven by towards good feelings and will go to great lengths to avoid feeling bad. It’s part of genetic make-up, a part of being human.
One compelling thing about mindfulness, is how your feelings change when you are absorbed in your senses. By attending to your experience and really paying attention to the various senses listed above, you can experience a shift in how you feel.
The aim of mindfulness is NOT good feelings but it does alter how you experience your moment to moment experiences. I believe one of the reasons mindfulness is becoming more popular is because the changes that occur when you are mindful, inevitably lead to a better quality of life.
You simply can’t help but feel a greater sense of calm when you choose to alight your attention on your senses instead of the conceptual thoughts which constantly race through our minds.
If you’re reding this, you have a flood of light of varying wavelengths entering your eyes. The light is converted to electrochemical energy and translated by your incredible mind to create meaning. You may be seated, if so, the nerve endings in your backside and feet and back will be relaying signals of presssure. Air moelcules will be interacting with the delicate structures in your ears which the mind translates into sounds, your olfactory system sends messages about the molecules present in the air and on your tongue.
Move and a flood of reports are relayed to inform the mind what the body is doing, where it is in space and how it feels within. This occurs with the most subtle of movements.
The stream continues to flow, a constant and fascinating supply of information. Being still can highlight the stream and help cut out the background noise but you don’t have to be still to be aware. Our mind-body system is designed to move and so mindfulness training involves the attending to sensations as we move, awareness of the body in motion.