LOOKING deeply at this photograph, can you HEAR rushing water and perhaps FEEL lichens on this rough rock?  Captivated by our sense of vision, we often neglect our other sensory gifts.  Screen-time hypnosis in our modern world has aggravated this imbalance.

Helen Keller, blind and deaf from early childhood, thought , “…it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days in early adult life.” Such an experience could forge a true appreciation for sight and sound while providing a golden opportunity to access other sensory modalities.  

Those of us who find solace, healing, and inspiration in nature could expand our own scope of interaction by reading Helen Keller’s lovely description of her walk in the woods:

“I…find hundreds of things to interest me through mere touch.  I feel the delicate symmetry of a leaf.  I pass my hands lovingly about the smooth skin of a silver birch, or the rough, shaggy bark of a pine.  In spring I touch the branches of trees hopefully in search of a bud, the first sign of awakening nature after her winter’s sleep.  Occasionally, if I am very fortunate, I place my hand gently on a small tree and feel the happy quiver of a bird in full song.” 

Try closing your eyes right now.  After several centering breaths, your senses blossom.  You may feel the breeze caressing your skin or hear it rustling leaves.  If you happen to be eating breakfast, you may feel the texture of a ripe strawberry as the juice and heavenly taste fill your mouth.  Followed by a sip of warm tea, you can feel the internal temperature change as these nutriments descend within your body.  

Temporarily blocking your visual sense is relatively simple.  Close your eyes.  To cancel out audition, though, requires an excellent set of headphones or a sound proof booth.  Some, like scientist John Lilly, experimented with “float tanks” for maximum sensory deprivation. 

 If we are successful at moving beyond the forest of our senses, we may arrive at a clearing which we call the mind.  This mind, however, is anything but clear!  It is caught in a swirling “soup” of notions, judgments, discriminations, and labels.  It is a lifetime project to clarify this broth through meditation.  These precious times offer us the role chef in charge of selecting the ingredients for a savory, nourishing “mind soup.”  Here we draw upon the gifts of all our senses in creating a banquet to be shared.  

– Betsy Schussler