Do you know those moments in life when your senses are electrified and you feel awake and alive? These moments stand out in my memory as though lit from beneath by golden light. These moments call out, "Remember me! Remember how amazing I was!" And I do. Which makes me wonder…
Why do I so rarely have these moments? Moments of complete sensual awareness; consciousness of even the most subtle pleasure and pain; a clear channel from the tips of my fingers to the very root of my heart. We are capable of being fully awake to our senses in every moment, but are we? Do many of us find ourselves operating on autopilot in our day-to-day lives, saving the sensual consciousness for dining out, making love or getting a massage? Do we allow sensations to fully reach us even then?
It's not our fault that society is so fast-paced nowadays, however it is nobody's fault but ours if we are not enjoying every little moment of everyday. Granted, not every moment is brimming with bliss, but if it were, bliss would have no meaning. For instance, I just had a delicious green shake. I used frozen cherries as my fruit addition, and noticed (as I was gulping it down) what a lovely sweet kick of an aftertaste that addition offered. Now, had I slowed down, closed my laptop and shut my eyes, I could have fully embraced my sense of taste. I could have even invited my sense of touch into the meal, allowing my tongue to participate in how the heavy, thick liquid felt sliding across it, cooling my mouth. When we eliminate sight and sound, taste takes on a whole new meaning. Flavors and sensations arise that simply were not noticeable before. I fail all too often at the constant suggestions to put away technology, turn off the TV and eat in silence. Yet, I find myself muting the TV and closing my eyes to enjoy something particularly delicious. Why is it that I reserve such attention for only the most delicious foods? Why not treat every meal with this same attention, because surely everything I make for myself is pretty delicious, right? ;-)
The same goes for the remaining four senses. I love to take a walk with headphones in, listening to calming yoga music or some heartwarming country. But nothing can beat the sights and sounds of the natural world intermingling. On the mornings when I rise at 6am I often urge myself to step out onto my balcony, just to stand in the magical morning air before the sun has risen. I never ever regret doing that. It feels like I've offered myself a little gift, a secret that so many others have not yet heard. Sometimes I dedicate a night all to myself, lighting candles, applying a face mask, taking a bubble bath, and giving myself a foot rub. My body's "thank you" is the restful, indulgent night of sleep that always follows such simple, sensory pampering. So why do I offer such a night to myself so infrequently?
While no one wants to feel pain, it is an inevitable part of being human. What would pleasure be if not for pain? The stubbing of your toe…the paper cut…the twisted ankle…the pounding headache…none of these are pleasant, but they are held within the same sensory capacity as pleasure. Think of some of your worst illnesses and injuries (I promise, this part is almost over). How badly did they hurt? How miserable were you? Whatever your answer, that is how powerfully elated you are capable of being, if not more so. However angry and pained you can be is the same as how fully blissed out you can be! We have the capacity for both extreme pain, and extreme pleasure, as human beings. We do everything in our power, usually, to avoid pain (save for any masochists that may follow my blog). But are we doing our part to seek out the potential euphoria that lingers in our everyday? What are we saving it for?
While I hope that we all are completely and utterly aware, awake and ready for pleasure when dining out, making love or getting a massage (among other things), I would like to suggest that we not discriminate when it comes to moments of sensory awareness. No occasion is really more deserving of our unabridged sensory attention than the other.
If we can be thoroughly engaged in the pleasure that stems from a great cappuccino, the chalky ceramic mug, the airy foam, the milky goodness that lies beneath, the rich fragrance rising in the steam, the warmth traveling from your fingertips to the root of your heart, the chatter in the cafe swimming all around you…and you haven't even had a sip yet…If we can be thoroughly engaged in the tears that spring up after a long, trying Tuesday, allowing our sorrow and self-pity to flood forth without judgment or frustration, saturating ourselves with empathy and self-comfort, treating our pain as we would a loved one's…we are not denying our pain, we are relishing it, we are feeling it, and we are opening ourselves up to the immense pleasure we can feel once the pain has passed. If we can be thoroughly engaged in a conversation with a person we find tantalizing, we can reap so much pleasure from this person's facial expressions. From the way their lips form words, from the body language that speaks more than words, from sharing a close space with another soul that brings yours pleasure…if we can find beguiling pleasure in exchanging words, smiles, darting eyes, in moments of understanding and amusement, we are only widening our other senses' capacity for pleasure.
Being human is an intricate, exquisite experience. There's no handbook. There are no rules, apart from moral codes and laws of course, but outside of that we decide how we wish to regulate ourselves. I wish to reap the most pleasure out of every moment that I possibly can. That is my intention. So I’ve come up with four ways to awaken your sensual being:
1. Slow down. Vague, I know. But slow down, in all aspects of your life. Hurrying is addictive, fight it. Don’t feel rushed to gobble up breakfast, instead savor each bite, feed yourself something truly nourishing and enjoy it. People watch in traffic. No hand is going to reach down from the sky and sweep the cars out of your way, so entertain yourself in the moment. Look at people in the neighboring cars, turn on the radio, maybe turn off the radio, maybe sing, take a moment to tune into a sense that you won’t be able to tune into once you get where you’re going! Smile at someone you find attractive, take a moment to absorb the moment when you see your favorite color, get lost in thought while you massage your own hands…just allow yourself to slow down and feel what it feels like to be in your skin!
2. Indulge in things that delight you. Whether that means wearing more of your favorite color, or the “special occasion only” jewelry that you keep tucked away (what’s to say today couldn’t turn into a special occasion?! You might as well be ready!), an old CD from when you were a teenager, reading a romance novel on your lunch break…do whatever makes you feel alive and delighted, you make the rules!
3. Get physical. This one is really up to you, folks. Get the blood pumping, get the sweat going, get the muscles moving. I don’t care if it’s on your yoga mat, in your Nikes or between the sheets, just do it as often as possible. You’ll feel far more alive afterwards, and far more in tune with that gorgeous, rhythmic heartbeat we’re so blessed to have.
4. Practice Sensual Gratitude. Whether it’s at night before bed, first thing in the morning, during savasana or on your way to work, take a moment to give thanks for your senses. That gorgeous meteor shower last month? Thank your sight, and Mother Earth, for giving you such a show. That dark chocolate truffle you had for dessert last night? Thank your taste buds for allowing you such ecstasy. The smile that you get when you answer the phone and it’s a voice you love so much on the other end, thank your sense of sound. You get the picture. Practice gratitude for the beautiful gifts our sensual awareness gives us.
I'm not going to leave you with any grand, sweeping statement as to how you ought to engage sensually in your everyday. I'm simply going to say, try. It's all about being mindful. Mindfulness is a way of life, a lifestyle, and a mindset. Being mindful of staying conscious and aware of our senses amplifies our experience as human beings. Why not let every taste, every sight, every sound, every touch, every scent invite us into the moment? It's up to us to glorify our own lives. Being sensually aware and open to receiving pleasure from all directions is a powerful step towards feeing more alive! Don't wait. No one else is going to do it for you.