Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Taste

Child-Tasting-Food

Part 4 of 5

The Sense of Taste

Food can be used to express our deepest emotions. Foods lovingly prepared by your child and presented on Mother or Father’s Day morning in bed are cherished and steeped in sentiment; regardless of burnt toast and underdone eggs. Chocolates given can express deep love or be the prelude to a sensual evening with your lover.

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A basket of fruit of fresh fruit can be just what the doctor ordered to brighten up (and support the healing process) for someone who has been sick. And a tray of aromatic spices can take you to cities exotic and mysterious without having to leave the confines of your kitchen in New Jersey.

We use food, and subsequently the sensation of taste to win, woo and wow those we love or wish to impress. And, ultimately, we engage the sense of taste as a way of bringing those things that surround us into our being. The very act of tasting something brings it’s energies into intimate communion with our bodies. It is this sense that keeps us alive and healthy. It is the sense that provides pleasure both at the level of physical sensation and at the more subtle levels within the physiology of our bodies. Just as with the sensation of touch, when we taste something we are making physical connection to whatever is being tasted.

The Key Ingredients

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Most things we taste can be broken down into four basic sensations that occur as a result of what our taste receptors (buds) come into contact with. These will repel some, entice others and go completely unnoticed without maximum enhancement (the natural occurrence as we age and our sensation of taste decreases).  In fact, the premise of Ayurvedic Medicine is based upon the naturally occurring predominance of these subcategories as the fuel for the 4 specific doshas (or body temperaments) and achieving a state of balance through a variety of protocols, including diet:

“Overall health and disease are believed to be directly related to the balance of these life forces in relation with each other. When the body fails to adapt well to changing conditions, it will display abnormal patterns of activity in the forms of excesses or deficiencies, which can manifest as illness. “excerpted from Ayurvedic Medicine by Dr. Weil.

Read more here: Ayurvedic Medicine

I wholeheartedly believe in the natural intuition of the body to heal and regulate itself. Long before I had known about the system of Ayurvedic and predisposition towards certain foods as balancers of too much Fire, Water or Air in the body, I would at certain times have specific cravings for foods that I did not normally eat and a distinct dis-taste for some I was overindulging in. If I listened to these cravings, I would generally feel better. If not, eventually I would feel out of sorts. When I came across Ayurveda, it was interesting to me that based upon my body’s dosha, the foods I was craving were those that were needed to offset and return to balance the primary energy my body naturally thrived on.

The Anatomy of Taste

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The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth. The tongue is covered with moist, pink tissue called mucosa. Tiny bumps called papillae give the tongue its rough texture. Thousands of taste buds cover the surfaces of the papillae. Taste buds are collections of nerve-like cells that connect to nerves running into the brain.

The tongue is anchored to the mouth by webs of tough tissue and mucosa. The tether holding down the front of the tongue is called the frenum. In the back of the mouth, the tongue is anchored into the hyoid bone. The tongue is vital for chewing and swallowing food, as well as for speech.

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image: webMD

The four common tastes are sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. A fifth taste, called umami, results from tasting glutamate (present in MSG). The tongue has many nerves that help detect and transmit taste signals to the brain. Because of this, all parts of the tongue can detect these four common tastes; the commonly described “taste map” of the tongue doesn’t really exist.

 Color:

A Rainbow of Visual Temptation

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We are naturally attracted to specific colors of food.  The Green Eggs and Ham of Dr. Seuss fame would be great scrutiny as eggs are generally yellow with green possibly being an indicator of spoiled food. Fruits and vegetables that are vibrant in color are most attractive and appealing. While dull grey colored fruit would be discarded. Before we arrive at the sense of taste, our sight factors and weighs what foods are edible and which are suitable for the trash. Current thought among dietitians is that to remain our healthiest we should eat a rainbow of foods. The color of the food, giving clue to some of the nutritive values and if included in the diet, providing the necessary diversity to receive those nutrients. These of course would be foods in their natural state and devoid of dyes and color enhancement that normally permeate many processed foods to make them more appealing.

Texture:

Neural sensitivity

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The Texture of the foods we eat and things we taste stimulates the neural system in a sensory game of receptor and distributor. Variety of texture as we experience the pleasure of tasting gives a tactile sensation that engages the physical act of tasting something in a broader spectrum of experience. Texture, coupled with color engages kinesthetic and visual qualities.

Aroma:

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 What’s the connection between smell and taste?

Most of your sense of taste is really about your sense of smell. Do you think that the spaghetti and meatballs you’re eating taste delicious? Much of the reason is because you like their smell. In fact, you’re doing a lot of sniffing. Not only are you smelling before you take a bite, but while you are chewing, odor molecules from the ground-up food inside your mouth float upwards taking that remarkable smell journey.

And, finally, we arrive at the place where the “nose knows”.  Wine, cheese and coffee tasters as know of the pleasure and benefits of having an accurately and healthily working sense of smell. The first line of test before something enters your mouth for tasting is how it smells. You can often discern whether what is cooking will be bursting with flavor and taste just as good as it smells as you are walking through the door at dinner time.

Excite the Palate Practice:

Taste Testing – A Tasty Experiential

A simple exercise to use to heighten your awareness and sensitivity to taste is to select a variety of food items.  Choose some that are different in texture, spiciness, smell, color , etc…

In a relaxed setting, lay out the foods you want to sample.

For the first round:

With your eyes open select a food, place it in your mouth and slowly savor its taste and texture.  Spend several minutes with each piece of food.

For the second round:

Now, beginning with the first food sample you took, take another piece and after you place it in your mouth, close your eyes as you savor the morsel.  Again, spend several minutes with the food.

Do you notice any difference in the sensations?

Was there stronger flavor when you had your eyes open?

Or, did the sensations intensify without the visual distraction?

For the last round:

Select another piece of the food. As you taste it open yourself to connect to the process that went into its making. If it is a fruit product, imagine the process of planting the seed for tree, bush or vine. Try to taste the sunlight and rain that helped it to mature and ripen. Imagine its journey from picking to the place in which you purchased the product. Now, give thanks to nature and all who helped to bring this bounty to your table.

Be sure to record any impressions.  This is a good way to begin a gustatory journal, exploring taste and broadening your palate to be inclusive of a variety of foods. Enjoy!

Companion Post: Next Week

The Sacred Vessel
The Subtleties of the Senses: Taste (Gustatory)

 

Resources:

Any good cook book, market and your sense of adventure and gratitude.

Taste What You’re Missing: The Passionate Eater’s Guide to Why Good Food Tastes Good by Barb Stuckey

Taste Buds and Molecules: The Art and Science of Food, Wine, and Flavor by Francois Chartier

 

Next Post: “Engaging the Senses”
Part 5: The Sense of Hearing

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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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Exciting News from Robin!

I am happy to share with you some exciting news about some articles that have been published and new blogs launched!

Circle Magazine– Current Issue 117- “Re(de)fining Your Magickal Practice”
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Available at Circle Sanctuary online or local bookstores

 

Sage Woman Magazine– Issue 86- Review of The Dreaming Girl Tarot
Shipping Soon! Available at BBI Media online or local bookstores

 

The Portal Magazine, UK – Summer Solstice 2014- Issue 6- ” Me,Myself and I-Developing the Magickal SELF”

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Available here: The Portal

and if you’ve not already checked out the Solstice article and poem available on WitchVox– “Mother’s Flowering-The Summer Solstice”

 

New Blogs:

Magickally Human

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Exploring all that it means to be human and the magick of that gift in spiritual work. We are currently exploring the gifts of the senses with companion posts in The Sacred Vessel

 

A Witch’s Sacred Journey

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A blog of experience on the Path of the Witch. We are currently taking the first steps with A Year and A Day on the Witch’s Path online course.

 

The Sacred Literary

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Suggested readings and discussion of select books. We are currently exploring the Hermetic text, The Kybalion by the Three Initiates.

Ongoing:

Womb of Light- The Alchemy of the Goddess at Sage Woman Blogs
Currently writing a series of articles about the Nine Muses

Temple of the Cosmic Spheres
We are currently exploring the Temple of the Sun and Solar Year just transiting into the astrological sign of Cancer

The Enchanted Gate
Photos and poems of the Natural world
And, as always, I welcome comments and suggestion about to better serve our community with writings, content and posts.  Have a blessed day!…Robin 

Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Touch

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Part 3 of 5
The Sense of Touch

Of all of the senses, Touch is one that all human beings crave. We use touch as a way of exploring our world and our surroundings. Through the action of connecting physically with an object or person, we gain information about that person or thing; albeit, this information is often processed at a subtle level. Nonetheless it sets an imprint upon our consciousness and sets up a formulary of opinion about that experience. Those who are not routinely touched in a gentle and caring way often fail to thrive and become withdrawn and impeded in their social interactions. And, those whose scope of touch is only that of hurtful and abusive receipt often repeat these behaviors in their encounters with others, setting up a path of abuse and mistrust.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, touch is:

1. To cause or permit a part of the body, especially the hand or fingers, to come in contact with so as to feel.

I especially like this definition as it includes the resultant action of being touched; that of Feeling. The experience of touching or being touched evokes an emotion within each of the participants. It engages more than just the mental response that analyzes the motivation behind this gesture, and forces the inclusion of the feeling nature. In this way, the reaction has been processed through both heart and mind.

2. The physiological sense by which external objects or forces are perceived through contact with the body.

This definition gives clarity with the emphasis on “perception”. Perception implies awareness. When we are aware of what surrounds us, what intrudes upon our energetic space or what is willingly invited into that space we become more aware of our place within that space. We become more aware of our impact on that space and how our engagement or lack of can cause different responses.

Touch coupled with the sensation of taste can bring the greatest pleasure to a connoisseur’s palate. Touch coupled with sight can stimulate the sensual and erotic urges. Touch coupled with hearing can produce the symphonies and great music that endures lifetimes. And, it is the gentle and loving touch of a mother that is the baby’s first experience.

Anatomy of Touch

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The nerve endings that are comprised at the very tips of our fingers are primed to receive the information that something has been connected to and signals the brain to either withdraw, as in the case of pain or to explore more fully as in a non-threatening connection. There is an immediate response and reaction to what we touch and in the case of another human being an immediate response and reaction is stirred in the one being touched.

Where and how you touch can produce pleasure or pain. There is the shared feeling of sensitivity where the nerve endings on the skin lay and a heightened awareness poised in the direction of where the touch is coming from. Insects and other animals use antennae as feelings to navigate through their worlds. And the lightest touch sends vibrations that alert a spider to the fact that dinner or an intruder may be at hand.

The Art of Touch

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Creation of Adam (Detail) by Michelangelo

Nothing conveys emotion or sentiment like the sense of touch. When we reach out to another we are opening the energetic pathways from one body to another. Imbued within that energy is meaning that often words cannot adequately express. How we touch another can say we love you- move out of my way- or I am someone who cares. We often take for granted how much impact touching someone has. There is a common philosophy of parenting that we can never kiss and hug our children enough. Having had five children I believe this to be true and now in looking back I wish I had made better use of those random times when a simple hug would have added to the moment.

The true art of touch is in the fact that it can be planned or simply occur spontaneously. This also is a bit different from the other senses. We have no choice but to use sight, when we look at something. We cannot help but hear the surrounding noises. We cannot turn off our sense of smell. And, even though we have selectivity about what we ingest, there is always some sort of taste in our mouths that is residual from what we have eaten.

Touch can be withheld (Etherically, we are engaging our subtle sense of touch all of the time. More on this in Sensing the Subtleties Post next week) if we so desire. And, although the sensation of touch is required given the science of gravity and the contact of our footing on the earth, we still have ultimate control over how we actively engage this sense otherwise.

Healing and Therapeutic Modalities

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Touch is used in most of the healing and therapeutic modalities. Reiki and Therapeutic massage are just two of the ways in which touch is used to promote health and well-being. A massage can be just what is needed to relax or to energize you in a more productive manner.

Within the practice of Nursing, Therapeutic Touch has become a process of intervention for more than 30 years. Although its roots are in mysticism, the medical community is now looking at various alternative and holistic practices, including the premise that specific forms of touch can engage the energetic body of the patient and be changed to promote healing. Reiki and other related healing modalities are now incorporated in the treatment of Cancer patients as part of their regular regimen. Doctors of Osteopathic medicine are trained in Osteopathic Manipulation techniques that relieve patient pain and realign the skeletal and muscular system with care provided by a licensed physician who can address the related medical needs of their patients.

Let’s Get Physical Practice: 

Reach Out!

For this exercise, you will need to actively reach out. During the course of the day make a point to reach out and touch someone. This may take the form of a handshake or a reassuring hand on a shoulder. If it is someone you know well, a hug or gentle caress may be in order. Take your cues from the person as to what their level of comfort is in being touched. Did they respond by reaching back? Did you notice a change in the dynamics of your interaction that may not have occurred had you not employed touch in some way?

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

Resources:

The Book of Touch (Sensory Formations) by Constance Classen
Healing Touch Guidebook, Practicing the Art and Science of Human Caring by Dorothea Hover-Kramer, Healing Touch Program
To Touch Is to Live: The Need for Genuine Affection in an Impersonal World by Mariana Caplan
Essential Reiki: A Complete Guide to an Ancient Healing Art by Diane Stein
Reiki: A Comprehensive Guide by Pamela Miles
Reiki, the Healing Touch by William Rand
Mosby’s Fundamentals of Therapeutic Massage by Sandy Fritz
The Book Of Massage: The Complete Stepbystep Guide To Eastern And Western Technique by Lucinda Lidell, Carola Beresford Cooke, Anthony Porter, and Sara Thomas

 

Next Post: “Engaging the Senses”
Part 4: The Sense of Taste

Child-Tasting-Food

 

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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