Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Sight

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Image: Artist: Mirte Driessen

 

Part 2 of 5

The Sense of Sight

According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, vision is:

the..“physiological process of distinguishing, usually by means of an organ such as the eye, the shapes and colors of objects.The Biological responses to stimulation by light, most often referring to the mechanism of vision.”

Your eyes are at work from the moment you wake up to the moment you close them to go to sleep. Everything we see is interpreted and categorized in accord with the spectrum and vibratory rate of the light emanating from said object. Through the gateway of the eyes the information is sent to your brain for processing, the neurological system responds to what is imprinted and the inner self becomes aware of what’s going on outside of and surrounding your physical body.

When looking at the varied learning styles, it has been proven that most people are visual learners. If you can provide something visual to support what is being learned the information will be processed more readily and easily with longer retention of that information. If, you also add a kinesthetic (movement or tactile sensation) component to that visual process, the entire body takes in the information; remembering the physiologic cues that enhanced the visual experience.

Observing the World Around You

It is through the sense of sight that we make our first judgment of a situation or thing. We then formulate an opinion which later plays out through newly informed action and the resultant decision-making about the information received. This process creates a data-base of information and stored images and if we engage our sense of vision in the most productive of ways, we will provoke an emotional response to what we see. Thereby, creating further pathways of stored information that can be drawn upon when encountering similar experiences. All of these actions are for the most part autonomic on their function. This is exemplified in the visceral reaction we may have to a certain image and we have no clue as to why this response occurs. On further examination, this image may represent one seen as a child that had negative emotions attached to it or even a movie that we don’t remember at the level of the conscious mind, but comes back as we reflect on possible triggers.

In this hurried pace of modern society many things go unnoticed. We see but we don’t truly process what we see and give space for allowing what we see to imprint more deeply on our consciousness. An excellent case in point is the visual offerings available within the public media. Violence abounds within this venue. After all, violence and sex sell. Many, however have become so numbed to these acts that they are no longer perceived with same visceral reaction that may have been engendered if this type of imagery were not so prevalent. If, however, we are bombarded with images of a loving and healing nature, our response to those in distress is generally motivated by the connectedness we may feel in relating to someone needing help and our own storehouse of positive and helpful imagery. It is for this reason that some, as they move forward on a humanity-centered spiritual path find it difficult to find entertainment in movies, music and books that are based upon less than humane acts. With the Summer fast upon us try looking with fresh eyes at the beauty of Nature that is blooming in its fullness.

We talked in the last post about the Sense of Smell. Remember to engage this sense as well. These go hand and hand in forming stronger memories.  I loved school and the imagery of Fall always triggers the anticipation and excitement  I had in selecting new school supplies. The chance encounters of a Fall smell (pumpkin, cinnamon, etc..) also stimulates images of shopping for those supplies, first days at school, etc..

The Inner Screen

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Some may consider the Inner Screen the space of imagination. This is the space of creation that we retreat to in the theater as we close our eyes during a piece of beautiful music and images gather on this inner screen creating the story or painting the abstracts of line and color that bring the vibrations heard to a space of visual life. This is the venue of the arm chair traveller who conjures up images of a chosen locale and clearly sees him/herself sipping wine on a beach at sunset or walking the streets of Venice in Spring. All the while these imag(inary) musings can occur discreetly within the individual amidst the daily drudgery of a crowded subway ride home or the noisy playground during a lunchtime break.

Visual artists instinctively use this inner screen as their metaphorical palette of inspiration when creating a new piece of art work. They are able to “see” the finished or in process project and then transfer this image to whatever medium they are working with. Our inner screen is the space of consciousness onto which we project the images we have stored, created or just seen. As we sit with eyes closed we enter our own personal internal space, upon which we may imagine, create and visualize the experience we wish to have. And, it is from this portal that we may then move those images of our consciousness out into manifest form through the act of creativity.

The Therapeutics of Sight – Visualization

“Holistic Online cites many university studies showing that visualization has remarkable physical health benefits, including boosting immunity, easing depression,decreasing and alleviating headaches and often, seeing yourself healthy in your mind, or visualizing the image of a healthy body, is enough for your body to understand it as truth.”1.

Some simple practices that are used to develop visualization skills involve observation and memory. Focusing your attention on a specific object and then recreating that image on your inner screen. These techniques are also used in law enforcement, business interactions, sports and more.

“Visualization techniques have proven to be invaluable in crime analysis. By interviewing and observing Criminal Intelligence Officers (CIO) and civilian crime analysts at the Tucson Police Department (TPD), we identified two crime analysis tasks that can especially benefit from visualization: crime pattern recognition and criminal association discovery.”2.

The more capable we are at making varied observations and then storing those images for later retrieval the more likely the criminal will be caught and the occasional business liaison will be vastly impressed that you remember them. In spiritual work, candle gazing is a staple practice to develop visualization skills (more about this next week in the Sacred Vessel post).

Seeing Clearly Practice:

A Daily Observation

Select an activity that you regularly and routinely do such as walking or driving (safety first, please) to work or school, a class you attend, your favorite coffee shop, etc… For at least one full week each day make a note of one thing new that you observe that you never noticed before. It can be something as trivial as noting how long a light takes to change or something more covert such as the first bud of a flower or plant. Each day try to “see” something new. Becoming more aware of the little details that cross your path each day, you become more aware of the inter-connectedness of all things. You will also more clearly see what effect you may have on that minor detail, or how it may effect you in ways you were unaware of previously.

Some Resources for a closer look:
All Museums and Great Works of Art
Your Family and Friends
Your Home
Picture Albums

Companion Post: Next Week
The Sacred Vessel
The Subtleties of the Senses: Sight

Quotes:

1. Meditation and Visualization. Gaiam Life
2. Extract of Article: Visualization in Law Enforcement.

Resources:

Seeing is Believing: The Power of Visualization by Angie LeVan, MAPP
Psychology Today Magazine

Interesting article about imagery and healing:
Dr. Gerald Epstein. “THE IMAGINAL, THE RIGHT HEMISPHERE OF THE BRAIN, AND THE WAKING DREAM”

Olympians Use Imagery as Mental Training by Christopher Clary. NYTimes 2014

Visualize Like An Athelete by NBA Coach Phil Jackson

Next Post: “Engaging the Senses”
Part 3: The Sense of Touch

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About This Series:

This five-part posting will take a closer look at each of the senses that are part of our greater learning and growing experience. Each of the five senses plays a significant role in how we process the information of our human experience and these lessons serve as the foundations of our use of sensation in ephemeral and spiritual experience. Each contributes a specific energy and working collaboratively they offer the keys to memory, expansion of consciousness, engagement in the physical world and doorways to the inner planes of wisdom.

There are collaborative posts speaking to the Spiritual overlays of each of the senses in the Sacred Vessel Blog that may be accessed the week after this posting.

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Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Smell

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Image: Artist: Mirte Driessen 

This five-part posting will take a closer look at each of the senses that are part of our greater learning and growing experience. Each of the five senses plays a significant role in how we process the information of our human experience and these lessons serve as the foundations of our use of sensation in ephemeral and spiritual experience. Each contributes a specific energy and working collaboratively they offer the keys to memory, expansion of consciousness, engagement in the physical world and doorways to the inner planes of wisdom.

Note: There will be collaborative posts speaking to the Spiritual overlays of each of the senses in the Sacred Vessel Blog beginning next week.

Part 1 of 5

The Sense of Smell

The sense of smell is what draws us to our mother’s breast as newborns to feed. Before the other senses jump into gear, the instinctual drive for sustenance is accomplished through recognizing and bonding to the smell of our mother. As we grow and develop, our sense of smell forms a complex and vast library of connections and triggers that help to stimulate and engage the other senses.

Your sense of smell can transport you to another place and time. Memories of cookies baking in your mother’s kitchen and the loving care with which they were made. The smell of a baby having been freshly bathed and the joy in caring for this new life. The smell of the concert hall and stage area where you made your musical debut. Or the smell of flower beds in the backyard. The fragrance of damp earth and sweet aroma mingling in your nostrils takes you from the physical location of your workplace and you find yourself once again in the process of planting or walking on a forest path just after a Spring shower.

Foods are often eaten or abandoned simply by virtue of their smell even before we have a desire to taste. Similarly the sense of smell can bring immense satisfaction as you enjoy a carefully prepared and fragrant meal. This is one of the reasons for inclusion of spices when cooking. The aromatic enticements they offer in addition to the taste factor- which, as we know rely one on the other- can be the stuff of lasting memories and a satisfied belly.

We are literally bombarded by thousands of smells daily; with most going unnoticed as we tone down one sense in deference to another. Working to be fully present in what smells are surrounding you brings a deeper level of engagement in whatever the activity, place or person is. We have only to look to the creatures of the wild to see the impact of scent on their survival and the continuation of the species. The markings of urine left ward off predators, distinguish territory and in the right season beginning the mating cycles.

As humans, our sexual attraction is largely influenced by smell as well. We know our partner by the smell of his/her body. These are often enhanced by perfumes or colognes or minimized by deodorant and personal hygiene products, but the underlying scent that one human has is always present despite its masking. Associations are made through these smells and what was attractive and pleasantly associated in positive light can soon become distasteful and noxious if the attitude and emotional connection is lost.

The association of smell with emotional response is not a new one. We hear the adage- “you could smell the fear”. The chemistry of the body does indeed change with stress, fear, anger, joy, etc. The endocrine system secretes the appropriate hormones in response to these emotions and the body responds by producing odors that seep from porous skin. Anyone who consumes large amounts of garlic knows this to be true. The skin takes on the odor of the garlic, not just by way of breath but also creating its own culinary perfume. Fish oil often has the same effect as do many other foods that are ingested. We are continually sending the message of what we have consumed, our emotional state and the levels of our desire and readiness to procreate by how we smell.

Because of the huge impact of smell on our health and well-being scent is used in many ways to restore balance or to amp up a particular physiologic and emotional response by way of aromatherapy.

 The Healing Arts and Aromatherapy

aromatherapy

“Aromatherapy is the practice of using volatile plant oils, including essential oils, for psychological and physical well-being.”

The practice of aromatherapy has been around for centuries (although not designated in this way). Lavender has long been known for its calming qualities, just as peppermint excites and stimulates. Frankincense historically was used in churches as a disinfectant at times when plagues, disease and hygiene was less than sufficient and the routine death toll was high. Rose oil and the fragrance of the rose proper was a powerful aphrodisiac and vanilla wafted visions of opulence and luxury.

Fragranced oils have been used for centuries in the making of candles. Some were simple beeswax candles that were rubbed with precious oils as part of the ritual process and others had the oils added directly to the candle making process to provide a specific scent that would be released as the candle slowly burned.

I routinely use fragranced oils to stimulate the action of memory. The Tunisian Frankincense and Myrrh oil is one I use for ritual work. When I apply it in a mundane use, my first response is one that something sacred is going to occur. This is a particularly useful attitude to cultivate as I move through my daily tasks and interactions. Being able to recall the anticipation of a positive experience with reverence and care often buffers what would be a reaction rather than response to a situation. I must confess that more often I use the oils simply because I love the way they smell and the rich and opulent feeling they invoke!

In modern times and with the advent of costly perfumes and secret recipes around production of these fragrances, man’s sense of smell has become a virtual goldmine for retailers. And more recent times, Aromatherapy has broadened into a vital component of the holistic movement. The quest for finding balance between mind, body and spirit found a natural ally in the use of plant material and oils to bring about this state of well-being. We now see the basic principles of aromatherapy and the seduction of the sense of smell in a full line of commercial products – Febreze, Glade, etc. and Yankee Candles is one of the forerunners in combining the principles of aroma and tapping into memories filled with scent.

“Aromatherapy is essentially an interaction between the therapist, client and essential oils, working together to bring forth the healing energy which will help the client regain their sense of well being and vitality.” Jade Shutes

The modes of application of aromatherapy include:

  • Aerial diffusion: to disinfection or to produce a specific ambiance within the environment.
  • Direct inhalation: for respiratory disinfection, decongestion, expectoration as well as psychological effects.
  • Topical applications: for general massage, baths, compresses, therapeutic skin care. In most cases, the oils used are diluted with a carrier oil. If used full strength they can be toxic at worse, or produce irritation, allergies and rash at best.

To find out more: The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy

Pollen, Pepper and Other Irritants

One of the recommendations for nasal health is using a Neti pot. This is particularly useful if you have allergies, sinus problems or are prone to colds. Those who use it regularly report a lessening of allergies/colds or none at all. They used to be specialty item available only at health food stores, but are now widely used and can be found very reasonably in pharmacies and some super markets.

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In Ayurvedic practice, olive oil is also rubbed into the nostrils as a form of lubricant and cleansing. For more information: Oiling Rituals

And, finally, a trick my husband uses when having sneezing fits at home. Cup your hands under the faucet. Pool some water and then “snort” it up into your nostrils. And, blow it back out. He usually does this a couple of times, and it works like a charm!

Scent-sational Practice:

The goal is to become more sensitive to the smells that surround. Not just those that are pleasurable and aromatic, but also those that are less than appealing. These are all part of the experience of being fully present in your body and the gifts of its senses.

Select a variety of locations to turn your focus of attention on what you are smelling. Begin with those places that you frequent such as your workplace, a special park (or other natural setting), your car or public transportation and the various rooms in your home. Breathe them all in making note of your emotional and physical responses to these different smells.

Some questions to consider:

  • What memories do some of them invoke?
  • How does this smell stimulate you? Mentally, physically, emotionally or other?
  • What responses are brought to the surface?
  • Which would you enhance and which would you minimize?
  • Which of these aromas have you intentionally selected? (ie. candles, room fresheners, perfumes, etc.)? And, why?

You may be quite surprised at what your responses will be!

 

Companion Post: Next Week

The Sacred Vessel
Sensing the Subtleties

Resources:

A very interesting excerpt from:

SMELL:The Secret Seducer By Piet Vroon with Anton van Amerongen and Hans de Vries. Translated by Paul Vincent.
New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

Aroma Web
(articles, supplies, etc..)

The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy

Next Post: “Engaging the Senses”
Part 2: The Sense of Sight

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In the Flesh

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Welcome to Magickally Human! Remembering to be fully present in our physical experience is something that can be easily overlooked as we practice and strive towards fulfillment of our spiritual paths. This blog is meant to be that reminder as we look at the gifts of everyday experiences and cultivate the tools to strengthen these so the beauty and magick of the ordinary can become the gifts and tools of the extraordinarily Divine.

Mother’s Day seemed the perfect launch day for this blog. Today we honor the Feminine principle of creation and the product of human existence that comes from it. Every living being is proof of the power of this principle and the flesh of that creation is the manifest Temple that witnesses the sacred acts that honor it as the place of the Divine.

Posts will be weekly and cover a variety of topics such as health and wellness, the physical anatomy and optimizing its components, meditation and stress relief and more. Each post will conclude with suggestions for practical application and resources for you to explore in more depth.

Next post: Engaging the Senses

Related Post:  In Coming! (The Magickal Pen)

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