Come to Your Senses
In the hectic pace of normal life, I can often tell that I am stressed or anxious. In these moments it feels like life is moving too fast or my brain is spinning with too much input. I’ve been working at practicing a technique that I am finding helpful and hope you may as well!
So often we are in the framework of “What’s next?” that we miss the joy and beauty of our present life. We get wrapped up with questions like, “What do I need to plan, how do I need to prepare, when do I need to be somewhere, or where am I going?” However, as Jayne Robertson, a yoga instructor here in the desert recently suggested, perhaps a better alternative to bring us into the present is to ask, “What’s now?”
I’ve been searching for tools to help me shift to being present. A simple way to do this is through a sensory “inventory.” It goes like this:
- Sight – Notice five things that you can see right now.
- Touch – Notice four things that you can feel right now.
- Hearing – Notice three things that you can hear right now.
- Smell – Notice two things that you can smell right now.
- Taste – What can you taste right now?
This 5,4,3,2,1 approach has helped me weather moments of anxiety and shake the pace of too many thoughts at once. It doesn’t matter which order you set up your inventory; it just matters that you get into your body experiences at the current moment.
Another technique to use our senses to help us be present is to take a bodily assessment. This is a great practice to prepare for meditation or to help shift into more of a parasympathetic state, to “rest and restore.” To do this, I suggest lying quietly on the floor in a comfortable position and closing your eyes. Starting at the top of your head, try to zone in on your scalp and consciously relax the muscles of your forehead and temporal region. Then let your eyes relax and drop away from the back of your eyelids. Next relax your jaw and let your tongue drop into the bottom half of your mouth. Moving your attention to your shoulders, let them drop and relax and then imagine your arms allowing all tension to flow out through the tips of your fingers.
Now focus on your torso and just allow your stomach to rise and fall with each breath with a pause before your next inhale. Let your pelvis relax and the small of your back get closer to the floor. Next let your thighs be soft and relaxed and then your calves. When you get to your feet, wiggle your toes and let all tension run out the bottom of your feet.
Although these are very simple exercises, their beauty is in the fact that you can do them anywhere, anytime you choose.
I wish you many peaceful moments in the midst of your days and hope you can “come to your senses” when you need to get into the present moment.
Dr. Brossfield practices functional medicine for men and women at her practice, XO Health, in Rancho Mirage and can be reached at (760) 573.2761.
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