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Meditation and the Five Senses

By: Mike Watson - Updated: 24 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Hearing Seeing Smell Taste Touch

As it is the central purpose of meditation to focus on sensations as they arise a focus on the five senses, through which we experience the world around us is essential. By being mindful of and attentive to each of the five senses independently, and together as a set it is possible to come to a greater awareness of the nature of our consciousness.

Five Senses Exercises

You can prepare your self by focusing on your five senses by simply sitting and focusing on your breathing in order to clear your mind, or by repeating a simple phrase or mantra (see related article). When you are fully relaxed it is possible to focus on just one sense, and the sensation that arise through this sense. Gradually work through your senses, asking yourself, ‘What do I hear?’ and ‘What do I See?’ and so on. By the end of the exercise you should have focused individually on the five senses:
  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Smell
  • Taste
  • Touch
Clearly, some of these senses will be more subtle than others. Whilst focusing on each sense you will be able to note that although you can experience fully the sensation that they present, in the moment, these senses are not you! Say to yourself as you experience each sense ‘Although I hear, I am not hearing alone!’, and ’Although I see, I am not seeing alone!’, and so on, throughout the five senses. Following this, pair senses off, so that you are focusing, for example, on hearing and seeing simultaneously, noting that although you hear and see, you are not, at your essence, the act of simultaneously hearing and seeing, but that this is just a sensory impression. Finally, focus on all of your senses, letting the sensations flood over you as they occur, and note that the sum of all of these senses taken together, though constituting your experience in its entirety, is not you. In doing this, you will both come to experience of living in the moment with the senses, and also come to an understanding of the transience of the self, which is more than the sum of physically experienced sensory perceptions.

Once you have come to an understanding of this it is possible to conceive of your connectedness with world and universe outside yourself. The feelings and impressions that constitute your daily concept of your individual personality are really just the physical bodies’ responses, via the senses, to external stimulus. This realisation is a fundamental to a spiritual engagement with meditation as it points to the passing of our selves as fragments of a much greater reality. This can help one to reach a better acceptance of daily stresses, which are really only impressions on our sensory apparatus and to come to terms better with bereavement and loss under the realisation that we are all truly interlinked in a passive manner all of the time. By practicing an awareness of your five senses, you will soon be able to take the lessons learned in doing so and apply them naturally to your everyday life.

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