Can you feel it? Your five senses and your resilience – part 1

Look for a quote about your five senses, and William Osler’s name comes up time and again:

“Observe, record, tabulate, communicate.  Use your five senses. Learn to see, learn to hear, learn to feel, learn to smell and know that by practice alone you can become expert.”

As an observant reader, you’ll notice only 4 senses listed here: taste seems to have been missed. However, you get the gist, and over the next few blogs, I thought it would be good to help you see how great it is to be in tune with your senses.

And of course, I realise that not everyone can use all 5 of their senses, which makes this blog, and those that follow, even more interesting.

Paying mindful attention to your senses is great brain training, because any brain training for focus is good. And being mindful does not, repeat not,  have to involve sitting still (impossible for some), focusing solely on your breath (which makes you suddenly develop tinnitus), or trying to force your mind to go blank (at which point a million thoughts come rushing in), I promise!  Paying mindful attention, in the moment, may sound like this season’s buzzphrase, but stay with me here.  All you have to do, is focus on what’s happening now, and recognise it for exactly what it is.  So what on earth does that mean and how does it work?

Back to your senses. Imagine for a moment what it might be like to be unable to see.  I recently went to Dans le Noir in London, which was the most profoundly affecting experience.   Imagine dining (a three-course meal, with drinks) in total darkness and needing to use all your other senses with great accuracy because you can’t see anything.  Sound weird?  It was, but the focus and concentration needed to taste and identify the (mystery) food,  find and pour your own drink, and talk to those around you made me realise a) how much we take our sight for granted and b) how much more slowly we can take it when eating, and get a completely different experience of a meal.

Being deprived of one sense brings all the others into play with much more intensity, and gets your brain to sharpen its focus.  Try just 5 minutes of eating with your eyes closed, and see how much more you appreciate the aroma, texture and taste of your food.  Or stand still somewhere (safe) outside, close your eyes and really listen to what’s happening around you.

We rely on social media so much, and it’s all visual: looking at the screen to communicate, to experience, to feel, to tell others what to feel, to do, to share.  Ever wondered how it would be if you couldn’t see that screen?  How might we appreciate stuff around us differently if we didn’t look at it?  I challenge you to try it and to bring even a little of it into your life daily.

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About Marianna Beckwith