by John Rettger
Yoga and mindfulness practices keep us grounded and centered amid the ever-changing conditions of the world around us. In this article, I offer a meditation practice exploring the five senses as anchors for present moment awareness and experiencing.
Awareness of the five Senses
We are so fortunate to have the body and its basic five senses to help keep us firmly established and rooted in the present moment. By focusing our attention on each of the five senses throughout the day we can begin to discover (or rediscover) all of the tremendous beauty and magic that is alive around us.
Consider taking just five minutes out of your day to spend 1-minute sitting with awareness of each of the five senses. Allow yourself to naturally transition between sense modalities, or you can use a timer to cue you to shift awareness to the other senses. The order I typically practice in is the body/touch, sound, taste, smell, and sight.
To begin, center by noticing the breath, then explore the steps below.
1. Body/Touch. First breathe in and travel the breath all the way down and feel the body’s connection to the earth, if seated sense the connection of the sitting bones to the earth, feel the support and solid ground below and let go into that support. Next, internally shift and travel your awareness up through the body noticing internal sensations, and offer love and compassion toward anything arising in awareness. Deepen by sensing aspects of your inner physicality- the bones, muscles, tendons, tissues, joints, fibers, cells, the alternating fullness and emptiness of the lungs with the breath, the beating of the heart and the softness of the brain resting in the skull and sense the aliveness, spaciousness, and allow a mental letting go with an exhale. Truly allow a letting go. Shift awareness to the surface of the skin and feel the temperature of the air upon the skin and experience the gentle touch of the air. Rest here and when ready allow this body awareness to broaden and focus on sound.
2. Sound. Open your awareness to the vibrations of the sound waves circulating all around you and entering in through the ears. Refrain from both labeling the sound (e.g. music) and holding preferences for a certain kind of “pleasant” sound and stay with the raw sound waves. Notice how sound invites awareness to a direct experience of the here-and-now. Spend a few moments softening into whatever your experience is and expand awareness to the taste in the mouth.
3. Taste. Become aware of whatever you sense as taste in the mouth. You can be traditional and simply rest with whatever preexisting taste is in the mouth or you can be a bit more adventurous and mindfully pop your favorite candy in your mouth and meditate on all that sweetness! Notice the softness of the tongue, the hardness of the teeth, or whatever moistness or dryness is occurring. Again, soften into the experience and when ready shift the awareness to the sense of smell.
4. Smell. Cultivate generosity by taking a deep breath in and notice the scent as it enters, and the scent as it exists through the nose. Have fun here by utilizing your favorite incense or burn your favorite essential oil in a diffuser while you meditate. Smell is a powerful trigger for memories, so please don’t be surprised if some thought, emotion, or mental images arise tempting you toward engagement with the content of thought. Compassionately acknowledge what arises, knowing you can revisit it later in your post meditation journaling, and let it pass much like the clouds float through the sky. Deepen, soften, and settle in with smell for a few moments and when ready broaden to sight, or visual stimuli. I prefer to work with the color of the internal gaze, but feel free to be creative with what works best for you.
5. Color of the internal gaze, or a fixed external object. One practice to utilize with color is to focus the internal gaze upon the third eye chakra, Ajna, and intentionally fill the inner-gaze with the color of indigo, or a blue-violet vibration, the color associated with the third eye. Deepen the breath here and soften, like cotton, into this expansive field of indigo and sense everything slowing down around you- time, the breath, the heart rate, and sense a merging of the space within you, the space all around, a subtle awareness of the interconnectedness of all things. Softly rest here and allow the body to balance the energy of the earth with the energy of the sky, let all tension fall away, imagine yourself being held in the arms of the Buddha, or anyone you feel love and compassion from. Rest here as long as you would like, and when ready return a very gentle and light awareness back to the breath.
Prepare to conclude your practice by bringing the hands to the heart and bow to yourself for your dedication to practice. Hold a moment of gratitude for the body, the senses, and whoever may be a source of love and compassion in your life. Consider offering the healing energy of your practice toward the awakening of all beings, and the liberation of all beings from all suffering.
I hope you enjoy this practice and find it to be a very basic way to reconnect to the vibrancy and ecstasy of the present moment.
Come practice Hot Stone Restorative Yoga with me at Yoga Tree Telegraph in Berkeley! Join me every Sunday 10:45 am, Mon 12:15 pm & 8 pm, Weds 8pm!
Thank you and Namaste,
John Rettger, PhD, RYT-200