Come to Your Senses

Life is busy, there is no doubt about that. As we are all struggling to keep up with the many demands of our day to day life, or even the emotional strain of the boring minutia, we can often miss little moments of calm. Join us through this blog, where we are reminded of how to get in touch with our own basic experience through a simple mindfulness exercise.

“The body is your clay home, your only home in the universe. The body is in the soul; this recognition confers a sacred and mystical dignity on the body. The senses are divine thresholds.” John O’Donohue

These words from John O’Donohue are a beautiful reminder that our body is the vessel for our experience here on Earth. Our senses--touch, taste, scent, hearing, and sight--are indeed like a divine threshold. As we see, smell, and feel our way through this life, we are constantly taking in information that stays with us, changes us, even when we are unaware of it. This constant flow of information is something that we often take for granted. It is also something we can harness as a tool to grow and expand our aliveness. 

In therapy sessions, I like to refer to a concept that views our five senses as the doorway to a life with more mindfulness. John Kabat-Zinn describes mindfulness this way: 

“[Mindfulness is] about being fully awake in our lives. It is about perceiving the exquisite vividness of each moment. We feel more alive. We also gain immediate access to our own powerful inner resources for insight, transformation, and healing.”

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? If you are new or old to the concept of mindfulness, checking in with your five senses is a great way to start on the path of increasing vividness and focus in your life. Simply checking in or bringing focus to what we are currently absorbing with our senses can take us away from overbearing thoughts or circumstantial stress. It can also increase pleasure, calm, and understanding. 

There are several ways to do this, but here is an easy one to start with:

  1.  Sit comfortably still, and begin by naming five things you see. 
  2. Next, move to your sense of touch, and name four things you can feel.  
  3. Now, name three things you hear, and so forth until you are naming one thing to taste. (Therapist aid has a great worksheet you can use here.) 

You can also choose one sense to focus on, like taste, and try slowly chewing, taking a minute on each bite to truly taste your food or deliberately taking in three slow breaths of a scent you enjoy. One daily ritual that can be helpful is to make your shower or bath a time that you soak in the senses:  listen as the water falls, enjoy the feel of the warmth of the water or the soothing sensation of a neck massage, breath in the scent of your soap, and watch as the delicate droplets of water fall on your body. Our world expands when we pause and take in our senses.

    When we pause and bring our attention to the physical world, we are living a little more in the moment. Try to do this each day, as long or as short as you want. Take moments to pause and appreciate all of these miraculous senses. When we do this, we find that the senses really are like a threshold to a calmer and fuller life.


    Katie Odom, LPC-MHSP, NCC

    Licensed Professional Counselor

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