Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat!
It’s that time of year. We are moving into “holiday season” and all of it’s delights. Pay attention and you can experience “holiday” with all five senses. Open the door to the Halloween kids and SEE the scary monsters and silly clowns. HEAR their sing-song voices and FEEL the cool air on your skin. SMELL the scent of dry leaves collecting around your doorstep. TASTE the sweetness of Halloween candy – just one piece, right?
Holiday time, with it’s fun festivities and sweet indulgences offers an extra-rich load to the senses. It can take us to the edge of overstimulation (and beyond), leading to dis-ease in body, mind, and spirit.
Before the holiday train really starts rolling, let’s take a moment to consider – how can we avoid over-stressing our senses – how can we HONOR our senses as part of the celebration?
Sensory Input is like Candy for the Soul
Honoring the senses gives way to a richer, more vibrant existence and keeps us in alignment with ancient wisdom. Ayurveda teaches us that one of the three causes of disease is asatmendriyartha samyoga – disrespecting the senses. When we disregard the information we receive from our senses, when our daily habits confuse, dull, or damage the senses, we interrupt the flow of energy in the body, leading to dis-ease.
On the flip side, we can use the wisdom of asatmendriyartha samyoga to improve well-being and enjoy life more. We can treat our our five senses – sight, sound, scent, taste, and touch – with kindness and respect, and bring healing and harmony to our physical and emotional bodies.
Five “tricks” to treat your senses this fall, and all year ‘round.
Give your sense of hearing your full attention. Close your eyes and just listen. What sensations come through your ears? Big sounds, small sounds, sudden surprising sounds? Sweet, subtle sounds?
Take that all in.
And then, take in more. What sound can you observe in your internal self? Are there gurgles in your tummy? Thumping in your chest? Grinding between your teeth?
And now, take in more.
What sound do you perceive with your being? What sensation do you connect to in the room? In the neighborhood? In the world?
Finally, what can you learn from the sounds you have so carefully and lovingly received?
The use of essential oils has exploded in popularity, but this plant medicine is not new. Ancient civilizations used essential oils for for ritual, medicine, and perfume. Use essential oils to simply give your sense of smell a little love.
Choose an oil based on how it makes you feel. The properties of the plant and the memories or instincts you associate with it can guide you to choose an oil. For example:
- Uplifting/Invigorating: Citrus, Peppermint
- Grounding: Cedarwood, Frankincense
- Calming: Lavender, Rose
Choose how you want to bring that scent into your life. What would feel like a real treat?
One way is to add a few drops of a calming or grounding oil to a carrier oil and rub it into your feet before bedtime. Do this with intention, and make sure you really notice the scent of the oil and how it settles into your whole being.
Rest Your Eyes
What a miracle it is to have the sense of sight. They are open and “on” almost all of our waking hours. Ayurveda can teach us many practices for the eyes. Yoga Health Coach, Mary Sullivan gives us nine great tips for soothing tired eyes, and they are all simple and easy.
My favorite soothing eye treatment is a lavender eye pillow placed over my eyes at bedtime. The coolness and weight of the pillow on my brow is refreshing and comforting, and the lavender makes this a two-fer eye-and-nose treat! You can even make your own eye pillow. Here’s are simple instructions from Yoga Journal.
Love the Skin You’re In
Your skin protects the body, regulates temperature, excretes waste through sweat, and alerts you to changes in your environment through touch, pressure, temperature, and pain. Giving loving attention to your skin keeps this amazing organ in good health and it is a portal to deeply loving your whole self.
The Ayurvedic way to care for the skin is through self massage, or Abhyanga. The list of health benefits of self-massage is impressive (calming the nerves, lubricating joints, improving sleep, and more), but the personal nourishment that can be experienced through this practice is what moves me. It took some time to establish a self-massage practice, but now I do it every morning. For me, it sets the tone for a mindful day, and reminds me to appreciate my whole self.
Taste the Rainbow
Our taste buds allow us to take pleasure in the food we eat. The sense of taste also serves as a protector, helping us find and gather nutritious foods and to avoid toxic ones.
Understanding taste from an Ayurvedic perspective teaches us which tastes are best suited for our individual constitutions and needs, and how to use food to correct imbalances and restore vibrant health.
But for today, let’s just celebrate the sense of taste by using it to the fullest. Whatever you choose to eat today, go for variety and eat with attention. Fill your plate with several colors of food. Try a new food. When you take a bite, notice the flavor, texture, temperature. Perceive it with your whole being. What does juicy feel like? What is the taste of green?
Mindfully eating can bring you a whole new awareness and appreciation for what you take in to your body.
The Ultimate Delight for the Senses
Your amazing senses are always at work – protecting, entertaining, and nourishing you. Honoring the senses with your gratitude is the ultimate practice and treat.
Do this today: Place your hands over each of your sense organs, and give thanks. You can do this in two minutes. Cultivate this gratitude and reverence for your senses, and they will treat you with the same devotion and love.