Originally published October 13, 2009
Just a few days ago, I attended an evening meditation class hosted by Stephen K. Hayes (see more about Stephen here). The focus of the session was our senses – the information channels which connect us to the world, and the framework within which our normal thinking process operates.
Mr. Hayes presented several exercises: focusing on our senses of smell, taste and hearing. In each exercise we focused our attention on a particular stimulus (like the smell of incense) AND we noted any reactions to that stimulus. Did any memories present themselves? Was the experience positive or negative? What other sensations followed the primary stimulus?
For me, the timing of this class was serendipitous. I have just completed an informal meditation mini-course (click here to sign up for this ten lesson course), and I present a lot of material about how to manage your senses to maximize your meditative efforts. What kinds of images, sounds and feelings do we focus our attention on? Are we in charge of our experiences, or do they drive us around like sheepdogs?
In the class the other night though, Stephen took the complementary approach: 1) take time to observe the impact that physical sensations have on the content and quality of our consciousness, and 2) use those observations to make healthy decisions about what kind of sensations to surround yourself with.
He used an example of music: loads of people listen to music specifically engineered to arouse a sense of agitation (think of those cars driving down the street with the base turned up so loud you feel it, as much as hear it) – and wonder why they always feel keyed up! The same effect can be seen with the foods we eat, the TV we watch, the tone of voice we use, etc., etc., etc.
The bottom line is – don’t pretend that what you consume through your senses leaves you unaffected. It DOES affect you, so do a good job of surrounding yourself with healthy and enlivening stimuli.
It seems like a simple thing; try it out in your own life and see what the effect is.
Until next time,