An unexpected thing happened when I began to practice yoga and meditation daily. All of a sudden, all of my senses were heightened, giving me a new perspective on my world. I started to see things differently, I found myself searching for humming noises I hadn't heard before, sniffing for the sources of scents I hadn't noticed before. Things began to taste sharper and bolder, almost multi-layered. It's as though my senses had all become incredibly acute.
I certainly hadn't set out to do this, I just wanted to release stress, relax, find freedom from the noise in my head, find inspiration. But for some reason these wonderful expansive things were happening to my senses at the same time.
Then I went to a yoga retreat with a very well-known teacher and she mentioned this phenomenon related to the practice, that yoga and meditation have the power to heighten your senses. And I so I realized what had happened. It seems that this is one of the unexpected benefits of regular practice where we have the opportunities to focus attention, to build awareness. This is mindfulness.
I wondered how I could boost my practice experience by intentionally appealing to all 5 of my senses. And so I found I could create a beautiful and personal way to practice yoga and meditation by turning my practice into a multi-sensory experience.
The most intense and memorable experiences in life involve all 5 of our senses: sight, hearing, smell, touch, taste. Our senses are very powerful vibrational forces. They are designed to work together to inform us of our place in the world, of our surroundings. They help us to learn better. They connect you to the world and to everyone and everything in it. They are evocative and nostalgic. Think of a scent that reminds you instantly of your grandmother's house and the sense of love and comfort you felt there, or a touch that reminds you of a joyful experience you had in childhood. We live a multi-sensory experience everyday and yet we're so often unaware of it.
And why should we even think about this in relation to our practice?
I can think of two very important reasons.
1) Makes it MEMORABLE AND PERSONAL - In my quest to build a sustainable and beneficial practice, I found that creating a sensory-focused practice helped me to create a practice that is memorable, personal, creative, inspiring, delightful, enjoyable.
2) Helps you STAY GROUNDED IN THE PRESENT MOMENT - I also found that awakening and paying attention to all five of your senses is a wonderful way to ground yourself in the present moment and to stay focused. Each pose, each meditation, each gesture becomes an exercise in mindfulness.
So I invite you to think differently. Unleash your imagination and create a practice that is personal, present, investigative, delightful, inspiration, warm, inviting, emotional. To intentionally create a practice that awakens and appeals to all five of your senses. It doesn't have to be complicated. Keep it simple. And then just notice - be mindful of your 5 senses, focus one after the other. Just be here.
The key is the awareness. The awareness is reassurance, a sense of protection, it gives you confidence because you are fully in the experience.
Your perception of your practice and even everything around you will shift.
Everything you see in your practice space has the power to simulate your sense of sight and influence your sense of being. Create your space with the intention of being peaceful, harmonious, joyful. Any and all of the following can help you do that.
Colours, patterns, images, light, movement.
Harmonious arrangements of powerful objects.
A lamp that projects interesting shadows, or that is an unusual shape.
Photos of inspiring people or beautiful nature that give you a sense of peace.
Messages to yourself, meaningful quotes.
And of course with the Mandalas and Mantras of your HUM meditation cushion
Then try practicing with your eyes closed and see how that affects your other senses.
First, become aware of the sounds of the room you are practicing, the sounds further away. Just notice.
Then create your own personal soundscape to accompany and accentuate your practice: sounds of nature, gentle music, begin or end your practice with the sound of a singing bowl, chimes or bells, practice "just listening".
Wherever you practice there are scents and odours, some subtle, some evocative, some so consistent/persistent that we no longer notice them. Try to tune in and notice them now.
Intentionally heighten your sense of smell by diffusing specially selected essential oils, burning natural incense, lighting a scented candle, bringing a bouquet of fragrant flowers to your sanctuary.
And of course everything you touch is an opportunity to awaken your sense of touch - if you really notice it.
Notice how each prop or practice tool feels in your hand - the suede-like touch of your cork block, the soft strength of your hemp strap.
Notice the sticky, grippy surface of your yoga mat - how would you describe it?
Notice the luxuriously soft feel of your meditation shawl.
Or think of the sense of calm you feel when stroking the soft fur of your cat or dog