Coming to your senses

All credibility, all good conscience, all evidence of truth come only from the senses.

Friedrich Nietzsche

I once enrolled on a wine tasting course and lasted three sessions before I decided that no amount of sniffing, mincing around and slurping would convince me that most wines tasted worse that the cheapest vinegar. And I kept getting drunk.

Then a couple of years later I was dragged kicking and screaming encouraged by a wine loving friend to give it another go – so I did …. eventually ….

The reason I tell you this as that, among other things, at my first session of Wine Tasting (And Not Getting Drunk) Part II – I learned that the ancient Romans had a god of dung and that (gospel …!) vegetables have smell and taste filled personalities all of their own.

The guy teaching us about wine, and other random trivia, was called Fabulinus (I know, fab name).  He was amazing – and before I could shriek ‘Hey bouquet!’ I began to have the wonderful world of wine open up to me – I learned to pirouette around primary aromas, to sashay the secondary, and tango the tertiary – it made me understand that taste has a beginning, a middle and an end, rather than a quick glug and grimace and, best of all, I discovered ‘Wine Legs‘ instead of becoming completely legless

It transpired that Fabulinus had been named after the Roman god of education, for which he had let out more than a sigh of relief in later years when his mother admitted having toyed with calling him Sterquilinus until, that is, she was told that he was the god of dung!  (Seemingly, she had been thinking of Summanus (god of thunder!) – easily done …)

Anyways – the reason I relate my wine tasting adventure is that it made me come to my senses – quite literally.  I finally got it that our senses can be an incredible tool in aiding our creative selves.

For in order to be creative, we need to step outside of the everyday and develop new ways in which to expand our world, for doing so means that we, as individuals, can bring a uniqueness to not only the way we live but to our own creative process.

Creative ideas are everywhere and how we uncover them is dependent on the way in which we seek them out so, consequently, it is how we do it rather than where we are seeking them.

That is why exploring and evolving our sensory perceptions can help us move beyond what we believe we are familiar with and enable us to see a vast array of new possibilities.  After all, most of us are perfectly capable of looking at something but, ultimately, how much do we really see?

Our senses enable us all to experience the world around us, but how we interpret each sensation is entirely up to us.

Let’s get started –

…with the familiar

Most of us lead far more meaningful lives than we know. Often finding meaning is not about doing things differently; it is about seeing familiar things in new ways. – Rachel Naomi Remen

There is nothing wrong with the familiar – It makes us feel great and can bring joy and comfort – but we also need to delve deeper into their elements, and why they make us feel like that, because by doing so will help us develop our senses to a far greater level, as well as giving us a better understanding of what we do or do not like.

This is fundamental to a creative life – where we use the understanding of what is, or could become that which we love.  So take some time to consider which sensory perceptions are like old friends, and which you may need to renew acquaintances with.  Imagine ways in which you could possibly take what you already experience to another level or, indeed, a different experience.

… seeing really is believing

Everything had beauty, but not everyone sees it. – Confucius

How much of your daily life to you notice?  It is so easy for our surroundings to blend into one on the daily commute, or taking the children to school, or whatever routine we regularly engage in.  I remember the first time I looked upwards as I walked to my office – it was a revelation.  There were the most amazingly decorated rooftops and statues that in all the years I had never noticed, and such a simple thing brought me alive.

Sight is probably the sense that most people would think of when asked to name them and is probably the most straightforward to begin to work with.  There are many little techniques you can engage in to enhance your visual experience.  The one I found that helped me the most were associations – what did my mind tell me when I looked at a striking outfit, a couple walking along hand in hand, sunrise, a misty morning?  What stories did I associate with them?  Feel free to conjure up memories, assumptions and even judgements.  Seeing is a journey, and letting your mind wander wherever any associations take you will have you seeing that which you had never really noticed or appreciated before.

… not to be sniffed at

You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way. – Walter Hagen

When I started my wine tasting shenanigans, I thought that wine just smelled like wine!  But, as with taste, there are levels and aromas that become more apparent as you become experienced in the sniffing department.

The sense of smell is something most of us don’t really pay much attention to, unless perhaps a perfume, delicious aroma or deadly pong is involved.  But smell is a brilliant way of enjoying new sensory experiences or helping you to reminisce.  Lavender does it for me – one whiff and I’m transported back to childhood and my granddad’s garden.  I look forward to the lavender season each year and the true start of Summer for me is my first sniff of this purple delight.

I always think of smell as the sense that adds the most texture to day to day life – from what we wash with, morning coffee and right through to cooking the evening meal.  They are things we do with such regularity and it is so easy to spend a little more time picking up the layers of perfume in soap, or standing in a coffee shop and identifying whether you can smell rich Colombian or a natty little Java, and how about getting to know the personality of the vegetables you are going to chop this evening – although if you are going to get to know your onions – best not get too up close and personal …

… hear, hear

Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind.

Their leaves are telling secrets. Their bark sings songs of olden days as it grows around the trunks. And their roots give names to all things.

Their language has been lost.

But not the gestures.
― Vera Nazarian, (from The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration)

Hearing is truly a fickle little beast – let’s face it we (I!) can be very selective as to what goes in to vibrate of my eardrums and what does not!  Although, it must be said, my beloved cat could probably give me a run for my money in the selective hearing stakes – ‘Tuna!’ brings her scurrying, whereas, strangely enough, ‘Are you chewing toilet rolls again?!’ doesn’t!

But it’s not just listening to what others have to say – we need to connect with the sounds around us – from the music we love, to nature.  It takes a little time to be able to distinguish some layers but getting into the habit of listening in the moment and not letting our minds be cluttered with problems and negative emotions is the way forward.

It’s great to relax and just stand, letting thoughts fade and see what you can hear – people walking, cars, telephones, birds singing or perhaps a sound in your immediate area that you don’t recall having heard before?

A great tip is to either close your eyes whilst doing so, or gently pull your earlobes outwards and notice just how much the noise magnifies!

… touchy, feely

Touch has a memory – John Keats

Touch is probably the sense that I think about least of all but use such a lot.  Touching my hair, skin, stroking my cat, wind on my face, hot and cold etc.  And dare I mention all that squeezing of fruit and vegetables in the supermarket!

What about hugs, kissing, slapping? We use touch all the time to demonstrate emotions, but do we fully experience the feelings behind it or is it lost in the moment?

It’s worth remembering that touch is the one sense that can involve most parts of our body, whereas the other senses rely on one small area – so stop and consider all the ways this is so.

How does touch bring you comfort? Confirm what you are seeing? Help you to discover? De-stress you? Demonstrate happiness?  Or anger? When choosing?

And how about being comfortable in your own skin?  You will know many of the things that can cause this – the lumpy bed, rough fabric, a hot room, the cold – and how much better you feel with the comfy bed, soft fabric, ambient temperature, and so on.

Creativity very much relies on us being comfortable in the moment, with touch and feel being key.

… the proof of the pudding

Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.
― Ruth Reichl

Watching my school friend’s dad eat a Sunday roast was a strange experience – he would only eat one thing at a time from his plate so, for example, would eat all the carrots first, then maybe the roast potatoes and so on, until he finished with the meat.

Apparently, he liked to fully savour just one sensation and taste without ruining it by introducing something else to his palette.  I thought it quite bizarre, because I was fully from the school of mix it all up and stuff as much as I could in at one go as possible.

I think I probably understand what he meant now, though, and believe that taste experiences are a wonderful way to awaken senses (save my ever, ever having to eat avocado …).

The tongue can distinguish five or so main tastes –

Sweet

Salty

Bitter

Sour

Umami (Japanese term for savoury/tastiness – although debate still rages as to its existence)

And even something as basic as playing around with how you consume something will set you up to evolve this sense to a much higher degree, so have a go at this –

Don’t forget to have a good old sniff at what you are going to eat – especially if you are preparing the food as well.

When you chew your food, do the same as wine tasters and draw a little air into your mouth.  This will get the aromas into your nasal cavity.

Moving your food around your mouth and breaking it down will warm the food up and increase the aromas you experience as well.

But most of all – be adventurous – don’t always choose the same food – try different tastes and textures.  Go further, spend a whole day, or even a week – eating food that you haven’t eaten before.  Try a different diet – vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian – the list is endless as are your tasting possibilities.

… not quite seeing ‘Dead People’ but …

Our bodies have five senses: touch, smell, taste, sight, hearing. But not to be overlooked are the senses of our souls: intuition, peace, foresight, trust, empathy. The differences between people lie in their use of these senses; most people don’t know anything about the inner senses while a few people rely on them just as they rely on their physical senses, and in fact probably even more. – C. JoyBell C.

I believe my sixth sense is intuition.

What would you say yours is?

Maybe you haven’t really thought about it until now?

I believe I’ve always had strong intuitive skills but hadn’t really appreciated them, or indeed realised what they were until recent years.  I probably thought they were just vague feelings and, perhaps, didn’t give them the respect that they deserved.  But once I started to acknowledge that it was, indeed, intuition then I became very comfortable with it and developed a trust in what I was thinking and feeling.

If you are not sure what yours is or you want to explore the concept, find some quiet time and space (and I don’t think you can beat a beautiful outdoor spot) – let your mind wander and your heart ponder, so that you can have a sift through your emotional responses.  Think about some of the senses in the quote above or come up with some of your own – how about common sense?  Or sense of humour?  Are they sixth senses?

Don’t be judgemental of what you come up with – and who knows, you may come across a sixth sense that is highly unusual indeed!

Now, why don’t you …

… have a go at these seven days of sensory snippets (but feel free to pick your own!)

Monday’s child is fair of face (Finding beauty in everything)

Find time to sit comfortably then close your eyes.  Gently brush your fingers over your face and feel the contours – how many textures, surfaces and shapes can you feel – picture these as you move over them.

Tuesday’s child is full of grace (Fostering a sense of refinement)

Consume something luxurious today – chocolate, ice cream, a designer coffee –savour every mouthful.  How many layers of taste can you find?

Wednesday’s child is full of woe (Developing compassion and care)

Try and give as many hugs as you can today – notice the reactions and how it makes you feel.

Thursday’s child has far to go (Becoming an explorer)

Walk somewhere you have never been before – as you walk become aware of your footsteps, your heartbeat and your breathing.  Stop occasionally and take in your surroundings. Each time you move on tune back into your footsteps etc.  Does the change feel seamless or awkward?  Do you think you are noticing more or less?

Friday’s child is loving and giving (Being big hearted and generous)

Invite someone for a sensory activity today – a walk in the park, coffee and cake, a meal.  Enjoy the moment – notice how they move, how they eat, how they smile.  Notice how it makes you feel.

Saturday’s child works hard for a living (A passion for creating)

Set aside some time – at least an hour, but more if you are able, and listen to some music.  Whilst you listen – create something – write, paint, draw, knit, meal preparation or whatever you fancy.

But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day is bonny and blithe and good and gay (Being happy!)

Find a quiet spot outside.  Stand and relax and then breathe in deeply and see how many odours you can recognise.  Then close your eyes, smile and do the same – does any anything smell differently?  Stronger or not so strong?  Any different ones? How does it make you feel?

… and the point of all this is?

Your senses will enable you to establish your unique creative story.  We all see, hear, smell, taste and feel things differently and it is this difference that will set you apart from everyone else.  It will mean that you do not have to follow others, or their trends.  The way you combine your senses, using them to their very best advantage will not only create strong associations but trigger memories and experiences that will enhance your life.

I’m sure it will all eventually make sense!

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