Engaging ALL of the Senses – By Design


We’ve spent these last five weeks taking apart and looking more closely at each of the senses. Now, it’s time to go back to the beginning and reassemble all the bits and pieces that we have uncovered.

Moving through these senses once again, the reminder to open your sense of Smell to receive the odors that are around you and allow them to stir the memories associated was also the call to reach back and keep those memories of joy and comfort continually alive and vibrant while creating new ones. Mark the change in the seasons using your sense of smell. The smell of Fall flowers and burning leaves are vastly different from the flowers of Spring. And the fires of wood in a fireplace in the Winter have a deeper aroma than those of burning leaves. The smell of your lover’s freshly washed body and the odor of sweat from a challenging work-out stir our emotions and draw us more deeply into awareness of the present moment.

The sense of Sight is what drew you to this blog and series of writings. Something you saw attracted you to read more and the words on the page stimulated within you a curiosity to know more. Taking in the sights, means exactly that! It is a way to connect and become part of what is occurring and evolving as you witness the glory of the event. Many people are uncomfortable with making eye contact. I find it to be the most enjoyable of experiences. There is so much you can learn about a person by looking them directly in the eyes. There is so much they can glean from you if you do not look away. Eyes are one of our most expressive of features so allow them to take in and express what is being seen. Allow yourself to react and respond to what you are seeing. Our minds are capable of holding many images; each serving as a reference point for a specific set of or singular experience. Open yourself up to adding purposefully to that storehouse and at the same time expanding your own world-view.

Perhaps one of the most important of the senses, Touch is the opportunity to merge and co-mingle with another human, animal or an object. In our current society, touch has many layers of meaning and we get lost in the analytical nature. Technology has created a type of disconnect that is masked by the perception that we are actually more in “touch”. In reality, what is grossly missing from that equation is the personal “in the presence of” moment where you can physically reach out a touch that (those) individual (s). Don’t waste a moment of “in the flesh” time to embrace, greet or otherwise touch. As humans we thrive on this type of interaction.

Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and every snack in between is a chance to indulge (not necessarily high caloric- LOL!) and take our sense of Taste on a grand culinary adventure. This is the armchair traveller at his/her finest. The seas of flavor and countries of gastronomic origin await our visit each day. The key is being mindful of the sensorial experience and offering the presence of gratitude and awareness of what we are sampling on this journey. As humans, we are privy as no other species to a banquet of foods each having their own specific signature of texture and taste. As Americans, food is in such abundance that we often forget the origins and hard work that went into its planting or feeding. Which, is why there is nothing quite as satisfying and flavorful as food we have grown ourselves or cooked from scratch.

The sense of Hearing and being heard are gifts we can give to ourselves and to others. Really listening; not just taking in the sound is a skill that requires development. Hearing requires paying attention and in the case of dialogue with another, engaging sight to give further detail to what is being heard. Being heard is what we desire. Being heard means that someone else is “really listening” to what we are communicating and is giving of their time and energy in being fully engaged in the conversation. As you go through your day, make note of how many opportunities presented where you could have “really heard” what was being said. And, then make note of how many of those times you seized the opportunity for a deeper connection. Do the same sort of analysis regarding how often you felt that no one was listening to you. And, how disconnected and isolated you felt by that experience.

I return to the thoughts I offered about the purpose of this blog and the call to embrace everything that is held in a physical existence…..

“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.”

By Design


Living fully present means engaging all of the senses in all of your endeavors; even if this is not a pleasant process. Changing a baby’s diaper is not always a pleasant olfactory (smell) experience, but the love and tender care you are offering overrides this. The other consideration is that when you are familiar with the normal smell associated with this task, anything out of the ordinary can give you a heads up on an upcoming illness.

For me living in this sensorial way is to live by purposeful design. The tapestry of my physical experience is woven using the many threads that include tactile, sensorial, mental, emotional and more. The more I weave of this tapestry I am able to differentiate between what is common ground and what is disparity in my relationship with others and in the way I chose to live my life. The more I engage the physical tools I have to assess and categorize my experiences the greater the ability to determine a reaction or to response to similar experiences. And, ultimately the more I contribute to the design that is woven the more fully human I become.

End Note About This Series:

I hope you have enjoyed this exploration of the Senses and have gained some deeper insight on how to enhance and actively use them. Be sure to take a look at the collaborative posts in The Sacred Vessel Blog. As always, I welcome comments and suggestions about how I could have made this series more information.


Companion Post: Available Next Week

The Sacred Vessel
Sensing the Subtleties in ALL of Their Expression



Join me for the Next Series beginning mid-August:

Acts of Contemplation
Exploring Focused Awareness, Stillness and Meditative Action




Engaging the Senses – The Sense of Hearing


Part 5 of 5
The Sense of Hearing

The sense of hearing is one of cultivating inner balance as the foundation of physical experience. A well-balanced ear and a well-oriented sense of hearing, possesses the ability to discern and distinguish in everything one hears truth from falseness. To hear actively is to understand through the process of receiving the emotion expressed through the words and the energy behind that emotion as a point of empathy or challenge.

Listening to the World Around You

It is through the sense of hearing that we find our place of resonance or discord. The shrill sound of an alarm alerts us to danger. The harmonious music of a finely played symphony stirs the emotional self and can transport us to otherwordly realms. The sound of children playing and the laughter that often accompanies this can remind us of our own youthful antics or fond memories of our now grown children as they played. Cries for help pull us into the survival mode and we instinctually reach out to find the source of this distress. And, the sound of sorrow and loss moves us to a place of compassion and reminder that another’s loss and sorrow is and will be ours when our time arrives.

Cultivating a sense of hearing is something that requires practice. Especially in the hurried bustle of our 9-5 world we often make very little time to have truly deep listening experiences. We rarely pause to hear what is around us, unless it is of distress in nature and the luxury of bathing yourself in SILENCE is either neglected or unachievable. The true magick of hearing is in the process of simply listening and allowing all of the parts of yourself to respond.

The Anatomy of Hearing

Baby's Ear

Our ears serve a marvelous function in allowing us to communicate with one another. Placement on either side of the head allows the experience of drawing the sounds from either direction into our focus of attention. In fact, this is often what can be the most disconcerting when we are in a noisy room and multiple conversations overlap the one we are trying to engage in with another. Do you remember how your Mom always said she had “eyes in the back of her head”? Well, as a mother of five children under five at one point, selective hearing came in quite handy when I had to pinpoint whose needs were greater and the direction of sound coming from that child!

“The inner ear has two main parts: one for hearing, the other for balance. The hearing division consists of the nerve of hearing and the cochlea, a snail-shaped structure that contains the sensory organ for hearing (the organ of Cort)i. The organ of Corti releases chemical messengers when vibrations that have traveled through the ear canal and past the ear drum activate its tiny hair cells. These then excite the nerves of hearing that carry sound to the brain.”

From a contemplative perspective I find it fascinating that our sense of balance relates to the ear. I’m sure we all can recall feeling wobbly and unstable only to find that water had accumulated in our ear causing this brief disequilibrium. This also makes me think more about the metaphoric meaning relating to how and what we chose to hear and the misunderstanding and unstable feelings of foundational connection that can occur because of this.

Sound, Vibration and Rhythm

In our daily experience, we are continually surrounded by the vibratory signature of sound, and are largely unaware of the responsive resonance of those powerful waves of vibration moving through and within our bodies. The profound inference of this statement is that when we become aware of the effects of certain sounds on our emotional, mental and active states we can use these as potent tools of self-awareness and personal growth. In example, nothing touches us to the core of our being like a piece of beautiful music and likewise, the same sensations are evoked at the sound of new life being birth and the first cries of a beautiful baby. Similarly, music can agitate us if certain pitches and rhythms are used just as that same crying baby can rub nerves raw if encountered in an already stressful state.

Much of the sound and subsequently altering of our own state of resonance is transparent. The white noise hum of electrical objects, that when electricity fails brings us to the startling awareness of the real meaning of silence. The clicking of the keys of the computer keyboard as we type. The daily opening and closing of our car or house doors as we arrive and leave. The rubbing of our hands together for warmth and the swish of clothing brushing across our skin as we move about. All of these and more form the multiple gateways of sound through which we forever move as we go about our daily tasks. In the space of eventide we are still subject to sound. The rhythmic or annoying sound of breath as we move into dreamscape that becomes the gentle wave holding us at the fluctuating levels of consciousness can easily become the abrupt awakening that occurs when snoring reverberates through a quiet bedroom. The white noise of the air conditioner that aids our sleep or the all too loud ticking of the clock that keeps us on edge. All these and more affect the quality and thus level of dream state we are able to achieve in any given night.

These sound patterns move cyclically and create their own geometric patterns that are then embedded within our own to form points of resonance for future reference. This is how we are often not even aware of the sounds that routinely surround us because we are already attuned to their specific signature. Think about the country dweller who is acutely aware of the sounds of nature and can “hear” the change in the seasons. Arriving in the city, that same individual is deafeningly aware of the sounds of sirens, cars, and city equipment. The city dweller barely notices these things because they are attuned to the frequency of the cityscape and would most likely say that it is “too quiet” in the country, never hearing the gentle rustle of the butterfly as it moves through feathery greenery.

The Composition of Hearing

Now, we come to one of my favorite treasures of being able to hear- Music. Music soothes the soul, quiets the mind and sets the listener in a space of tranquility and peace. Music unleashes the prime instinctual nature and rouses the passions, spirit and emotions of the listener to a place of alertness and action. Music inspires what will become art or a piece of great writing. Music links the atoms and cells of its vehicle in grace and fluid motion, or syncopated frenzy. Music beats out the rhythm of the heart and carries the journeyer to realms hidden and remote holding treasures of deeper mystery. Music carves its way through the energetic fields surrounding and like the ephemeral flutter of butterfly wings, lightly etches its feathery strokes; forever changing all in its path.

Bang the Drum Slowly

Music is only one aspect of what is included in the definition of sound. Some may say that music is the structured pattern of sound’s rhythm. And, that when sound is unstructured it becomes noise. I believe these are merely the semantics used in an attempt to categorize what essentially moves of, and in its own accord as it recreates its own definition in response to where its energy is directed. Music is the most overt expression of sound, primarily because we are conditioned to recognize its signature of pattern and perk up in attention as the sound moves through the receivers of our auditory experience.

It is scientific fact that the brain responds in accord with the signature of rhythm that is provided it. If we look at this response using the definition of artistic expression it is clear why so many of these forms of creative beauty are used to access the deeper response of the soul and elevate conscious awareness to a place of inspiration. Sound applied through the dynamics of music takes many forms and in its most structured is used as therapy to heal, calm and stimulate function because of this innate stimulation of resonance of the neural pathways to specific electrical patterns.


“Sound Healing, through various techniques and technologies, is the educated and conscious use of the energy of sound to reach identified goals and promote wellness in the human system,including the expansion of consciousness. Sound Healing is founded on the premise that all matter is vibrating at specific frequencies. Science has proven that sound, or vibration, has a strong impact upon substance. For example, the study of Cymatics has shown how sound creates geometric patterns in matter. Dr. Emoto has proven that sound changes the molecular structure of water. However, more importantly, sound changes consciousness. Many ancient civilizations and modern indigenous cultures have used sound to heal and access higher levels of consciousness for thousands of years.” (The Sound Healing Center)

When we engage our sense of hearing we are mapping out and responding to the vibrations that are being made as air and force meet to produce tone. Sound can have a dramatic effect on the emotional, physical and mental states of an individual. Finding a common point of resonance and then “retuning” that individual’s energetic pattern can produce healing results. Music during difficult labor can help to soothe the pain of childbirth. Cancer patients and those critically ill can benefit from soothing music being played during treatments. Specific types of music can induce trance-like states that can open the individual to deeper spiritual experience.

Dr. Mitchell L. Gaynor, a New York oncologist, strikes one of his Tibetan singing bowls with a mallet to produce soothing tones; he might add rice to change the sound. Dr. Gaynor, the author of a book on sound healing, considers it a complement to traditional Western medicine.

Image Credit:

Joyce Dopkeen/The New York Times


Read More: What’s the Buzz? Sound Therapy by Stephanie Rosenbloom (NY Times)

The Science of Responsive Hearing

The process used in Sound Healing is that of Brain-wave entrainment. The goal being to bring the body into resonance with the frequencies associated with relaxation, enhanced learning, healing and more.

What is Brainwave Entrainment?

“Brainwave Entrainment (pronounced: “ehn – TRAIN – mint”) refers to the brain’s electrical response to rhythmic sensory stimulation, such as pulses of sound or light. When the brain is given a stimulus, through the ears, eyes or other senses, it emits an electrical charge in response, called a Cortical Evoked Response .These electrical responses travel throughout the brain to become what you see and hear.When the brain is presented with a rhythmic stimulus, such as a drum beat for example, the rhythm is reproduced in the brain in the form of these electrical impulses. If the rhythm becomes fast and consistent enough, it can start to resemble the natural internal rhythms of the brain, called brainwaves. When this happens, the brain responds by synchronizing its own electric cycles to the same rhythm.

Entrainment is a principle of physics. It is defined as the synchronization of two or more rhythmic cycles. The principles of entrainment appear in chemistry, neurology, biology, pharmacology, medicine, astronomy and more. CASE IN POINT: While working on the design of the pendulum clock in 1656, Dutch scientist Christian Huygens found that if he placed two unsynchronized clocks side by side on a wall, they would slowly synchronize to each other. In fact, the synchronization was so precise not even mechanical intervention could calibrate them more accurately.” (Siever, D. (2004).The Application Of Audio-Visual Entrainment For The Treatment Of Seasonal Affective Disorder).

And, in application to alternative treatment and behavioral reconditioning we see that….

“Brain-wave entrainment isn’t without its skeptics, but some research supports it. In 2008, the journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine published a review of 20 studies of brain-wave entrainment and patient outcomes. The conclusion was that brain-wave entrainment is an effective tool to use on cognitive functioning deficits, stress, pain, headaches, and premenstrual syndrome.”

Read More: The Science Behind Healing with Sound by Kathryn Drury Wagner


Can You Hear Me Practice?



An Exercise in Listening Awareness

These two exercises are designed to give awareness to the way in which we hear and the responses received from actively listening. The first is one that is deeply needed in our over tech society where multi-tasking is the norm. The way in which we define listening and the active participation we give to that action have changed significantly over the years; but there is still no replacement for active engagement in what you hear, how you reply and how it effects all who are part of that cycle.

Exercise 1: Responsive Listening

The next opportunity you have to sit and talk with someone, approach it from the perspective of truly listening. What type of words are they using? What energies within you are stirred as you listen to these words. Imagine that the words coming forth are waves of water. Are these gentle waves or do they have an intensity and overwhelming flow? What can you hear in the moments of pause? Do this in several scenarios with conversations that are different in nature. Try to be as fully engaged as possible in each conversation.

Exercise 2Responsive Hearing

Make a recording using your own voice and describing in as much detail as possible an object you have selected. This can be a picture, food, piece of jewelry or a garment. Anything that you can physically hold onto and lends itself to colorful and interesting description. Have a table handy, on which you can place the object and a writing instrument and journal or piece of paper to record each portion of the exercise.

Sitting quietly where you will not be disturbed, lay the object on a table directly in front of you. Playback the recording of the description and simply LOOK at the object. Do not touch it; just observe and engage your sense of sight as you listen to what you have described. Pause the recording and briefly make note in your journal or piece of paper of what thoughts and feelings this portion of the exercise produced.

HOLDING the object in your hands, replay the descriptive recording. Open both your senses of touch and vision as you listen to the description presented. Replace the object on the table and again, record your impressions.

Replay the recording. Holding the object in your hands once again CLOSE your eyes. Open fully to the sense of touch as you listen to the recording. This action may provoke an inner screen visualization of the object. Allow the impressions and sensations that wish to present themselves to do so. When the recording has ended, place the object back on the table and record these impressions.

Finally, IN SILENCE, pick up the object. Hold it in your hands. Look at it fully and draw into your mind as much detail as possible. Record your impressions of this experience.

Now, take a look at what you have written of the experience. Where did you feel the most engaged to the item? What actions and combinations of sensation did you feel gave the fullest experience of the object? What gave the least information?
Try this exercise with a variety of objects. Some things in our world lend themselves more fully to the silence. Others draw us into their patterns more fully when enhanced by sound and vibration.

Companion Post: Next Week
The Sacred Vessel
The Subtleties of the Senses: Hearing (Auditory)



Sound Healers:

Stephen Halpern
Jonathan Goldman

Sound Bytes: Indulge yourself in these..

The Sounds of Nature that Surround You
The Sounds in Your Home
Your Favorite Piece of Music
All Great Works of Music

Next Post: “Engaging ALL of the Senses- A Review”



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.

Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Taste


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.


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


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


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.


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.


A Rainbow of Visual Temptation


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.


Neural sensitivity


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.



 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)



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


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.

Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Touch


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


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

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


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


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



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.

Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Sight

bionic-eye copy

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


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


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


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

Interesting article about imagery and healing:

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



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.

Engaging the Senses: The Sense of Smell

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 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.


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


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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