When you look up the term “coming to our senses,” it often states that it means rational or realistic thinking.
In our society, that often means with no emotion, just the facts, no hope, no open-mindedness, no creativity, no human factors involved. It is used synonymously with common sense. The basic ability to perceive, understand, and judge that is shared by (“common to”) nearly all people.
I recently heard that the opposite of courage is not cowardice—it is conformity, the very kind of automation-like behavior that stagnates the creative potential. Not conforming isn’t about rebellion; it simply means we follow the socially acceptable attitudes, standards, and acceptable behavior for whatever group we identify with.
But if each of us is a unique individual, who thinks from our own experience and perspective, how does that work?
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think.” ~ Buddha
For me, mindfulness, more than meditation, is a true coming to my senses. It allows me to practice turning off my autopilot and to experience life in a completely different yet pleasurable way. “Coming to my senses” provides me with a simple freedom of being present in the moment. A sometimes brief, yet wonderful, escape from the day-to-day pressure of living in a conformist world of trying to be enough based on others’ perceptions.
Our five senses affect us much more than we acknowledge. The limbic system is composed of a group of brain structures that play vital roles in sensory perception, sensory interpretation, and motor functions. Basically, it sends signals that trigger a multitude of emotions and memories.
That is a key contributor to the frenzied mind. Our brains are stimulated constantly with sensory perceptions. In a split second, a sight, a sound, a touch, a taste, or a smell can send off a trigger to different memories and emotions. All on autopilot.
That is where mindfulness practice can help. It can teach you to be aware of what those senses are affecting. It turns the autopilot off and slows down the locomotive of triggers.
I don’t know about you, but for me, I had to learn to practice mindfulness as the baby steps toward meditation. It felt like meditation was the cart before the horse. The reward for me was discovering mindfulness gave me the same settled feeling in just minutes, instead of having to plan when and where I could do my meditation.
Some of the simple things I do using my senses, to bring myself back to the present moment, are:
Sound: Listening to a song, attentively. The beats and the lyrics.
Sight: Looking at the details of a favorite picture, usually someone I love or a nature picture that brings me joy or peace.
Touch: A simple mudra, or just touching my hands together.
Taste: Slowing down and paying attention to everything about a single bite of food, or even popping a mint in my mouth.
Smell: Using aromatherapy or just the smell of my coffee.
I am learning to savor the little things in life by simply paying attention to my senses. In learning this, I feel more like I am living my life for the first time rather than just existing.
“It’s about living your life as if it really matters, moment by moment by moment.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn