Imagine tuning into different stations on the radio. The first station receives a visual signal, the second is tuned to sounds, the third to smells, the fourth to transmit taste, and the fifth to touch. Let’s go through the stations in order. Practice “just experiencing” each one and keep an open mind.
Sight. Explore your surroundings with your eyes. Notice what’s around you as if you were a photographer interested in capturing interesting lines, colors, textures and angles in your view. You may notice different judgments or thoughts about what you see, but don’t get caught up in them. Simply practice “just looking”.
Listen. Tune into the sounds around you. Focus on the sounds as they come and go, and note all the moments of silence in between. Practice awareness of sounds without getting caught up in mental associations with each sound. If you begin to analyze the sound, gently bring your attention back to just listening. Be open even to unpleasant sounds. If you happen to read this in a quiet space (although few are completely silent when you open your awareness to sound), you may scratch your head and notice the sound.
The smell. Pay attention to the smells around you, paying attention to any smell. If there is no smell, pay attention to the absence of smell. Look for opportunities in your environment to open your awareness to smells. For example, you can bring your hand to your nose and notice if you smell anything on the back of your hand, palm, or fingertips; maybe a trace of soap, or the smell of food you ate or simply sweat. As before, refrain from thinking about the smell. Instead, practice “just smelling.” You can also take some fruit, open a marker or smell a flower or plant. Be creative!
Taste. Then switch to the sense of taste. Choose a small bite of food, such as a raisin, a chocolate bar, or a drink. As you bite into food or take a sip, pay attention to the basic quality of taste (salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and so on). Practice “just tasting” as if you were eating this type of food for the first time. To enhance this experience, try foods you haven’t eaten before.
Touch. Finally, notice your sense of touch. As babies, we used our hands and whole bodies to learn about the world. See if you can explore this sense by finding different things and surfaces to touch and feel. For example, you can bring the back of your hand to your lips and gently touch it, noticing any sensations there. Rub your hands together and see how your palms feel afterwards. For a stronger sensation, try holding an ice cube.
Exercise Author: Debra E Burdick