Leading fast-paced lives with constant distraction and stimulation can dull our senses, making us miss countless opportunities for joy and appreciation. One of the most direct and effective ways we can feel more connected to the present moment is by tuning into any, or all, of our five physical senses.
In addition to our five physical senses of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch, we have proprioception and interoception. The first one gives us the ability to sense our posture and balance, and the second is our internal sensory systems.
Sensory awareness means paying attention to a particular sensory aspect to enhance an experience, e.g. noticing the colour, shape, texture and smell of an item of food before you eat it to enhance the experience (i.e., foodgasm!) rather than just chewing and swallowing on autopilot.
Why do we need sensory awareness?
Before computers provided data analysis, people like doctors relied on their sensory awareness for patient diagnosis.
Ships have collided due to relying on electronic command instead of humans just using their eyes to spot other traffic in the water and manual steering to avoid them.
It requires a conscious effort to store that kind of awareness in your brain so you can recall it when wanted or needed.
Not being aware of our proprioception can make us clumsy, uncoordinated and develop poor posture.
Not being in tune with our interoception sensory system (or our brain not interpreting the signals correctly) can cause us to do things like overeat (obesity/bulimia), starve (anorexia), freeze to death or have poor bladder function.
Sensory Awareness Exercise
If you can, do this sensory awareness training exercise outside.
Get into your meditation posture or just sit on a chair with your feet flat on the floor and your spine in a neutral position with your shoulders relaxed.
Rest your hands wherever they feel comfortable, e.g. on your thighs or cupped in your lap.
Take a couple of long slow breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth to let your body settle.
Close down your eyes.
Begin practising your mindful breathing - breathing in and out through your nostrils.
Notice the gentle rise and fall (or expanding and contracting) of your chest and belly with each breath.
Tuning in to your sense of sight - name five things you can see (picture items around you before you closed your eyes)
Tuning in to your sense of sound - name four things you can hear
Tuning in to your sense of touch - name three things you can feel
Tuning in to your sense of smell - name two things you can scent
Tuning in to your sense of taste - name the last thing you ate or drank.