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Rich Living: One Sense at a Time

Much has been written about presence and mindfulness, so I won’t bore you be repeating it.  Instead I’ll simply cut directly to a technique I use to bring myself into the present moment.

Presence is when we get out of the ramblings of our heads and fully occupy the world around us.  Focusing on the senses is a common practice in mindfulness.  But it didn’t occur to me until quite recently that I don’t have to focus on all my senses at once to experience presence.  One sense at a time will do.

The one I use the most often is hearing.  When I make I cup of tea, I listen to the water pouring into the kettle, the clank of the kettle as I put it on the stove and the chime of the spoon against the inside of the cup as I stir the sugar in.  When I wash my hands, I hear the rush of the water and the flow of it down the drain.  When I can hear them, I listen to my footsteps.  Or the whirr of the fan in the space heater.  Or the whisper of the leaves outside my window.  I also notice the silences between each sound, and the murmury noises that keep things from being completely silent.

I also take in the things I see.  I notice the colors and textures of things and look at their shapes.  I can see how those shapes fit together–the table, the books on the table, the covers on the books, the shapes and colors on the covers of the books.  The important thing is to see the thing and stop there, without getting caught up in what the thing is or how you feel about it.  Writing is particularly distracting, but I can always read and then refocus on the visual.

We often ignore the sense of touch.  We notice it when we brush our fingertips against things, but every inch of our skin is laden with nerves that detect heat, cold, pressure, pleasure and pain.  Sometimes I go beyond my fingertips and feel my clothes against my skin.  I feel the ground against the soles of my feet as I walk, even with the intermediary of shoes.  When I’m driving, I’ll feel the steering wheel in my hands and my seat underneath me.  I feel the heat or the cold from the heater or air conditioning.  All of this brings my body and mind into the present, where everything happens.

The essence of rich living is to fully occupy your life, which you can’t do if you’re not paying any attention to it.  Engaging your senses allows you to capture all the miracles around you without letting them slip past.  Try it sometime and see how it works for you.

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