Although we seldom give it much conscious thought, our bodies are the messengers from which we judge our moment by moment level of well-being; and our minds receive those ever-changing messages from our bodies through our quite miraculous senses.
We are most familiar with our five primary senses – sight, sound, smell, taste and touch; however, there are at least five more senses which are equally present for us including pressure, temperature, pain, balance and motion. Some scientists believe there are actually as many as 20 different forms of receptors which keep us acutely aware of everything “on earth” that is important to us. Based largely on that awareness, we determine our current level of both wellness and happiness.
Let’s take a quick look at just the “big five” to get a picture of the ways we use the senses to keep us alive, alert, awake, enthusiastic, informed and intimately connected with each other.
Touch Our sense of touch both protects and informs us. Most of us like to touch people and things to decide whether we like them or not, and we like to be touched in return because touch connects us with those around us. A real disease that effects elderly people, who find themselves isolated because their social sphere begins to fade away, is to become touch-starved, and it can evoke feelings of great sadness that lead to illness and despair.
Sight- Among many other things, the sense of sight allows us to know at once the difference between night and day. It affords us an awareness of the beauty and variety of colors and shapes and movements in our environment and it helps us to communicate with others as we read not only the written word, but the facial expressions and body movements of all who appear in our line of vision.
Sound- Every part of our natural environment is filled with sound. Even on the quietest night, if we become very still, we will find the silence filled with a cacophony of sounds. Without those ambient sounds, our world would seem very desolate and lonely. The sense of sound also connects us through speech, through music, through dialogue and through movement in general
Side Bar: When one sense is blocked, another will often rise up to take its place. As an exercise in building self-confidence at a summer camp, children were invited to learn to trust their gift of sound to guide them, even in the dark. One by one they were blindfolded and then gently lowered into the middle of a swimming pool. The children were immediately disoriented and very scared until their counselor instructed them to become quiet and listen for the sound of the water lapping against the side of the pool. As soon as each child identified the sound, he or she was easily able to swim safely to the edge of the pool.
Smell- Smells that waft toward us unexpectedly can take us sailing back in time, reminding us of moments from our past. (Ex: Lilacs, newly cut crass, freshly brewed coffee, a turkey roasting in the oven, the scent of a favorite cologne or after-shave.) Smells can also evoke feelings of joy or sadness or fear. We can literally “smell danger” sometimes in the form of tangible odors like gas or smoke, but also in harder to define ways such as the “smell of fear” on an animal, or an “electric charge” permeating the air.
Taste-The specific placement of our taste buds remind us once again of the amazing design of our human bodies and the way it constantly provides for our pleasure as well as our protection. Food satisfies many of our human needs, including sometimes our security needs; thus the term “comfort foods” which help restore our sense of well-being. Eating for most of us is a social exercise in both our private lives and in the conducting of business. “Business Lunch” has become a popular term in the Urban Dictionary.
Side Bar: “At the tip of the tongue we taste sweet things, bitter things at the back, sour things to the sides, and salty things spread over the surface, but mainly up front. Because the taste buds for bitter lie at the back of the tongue; as a final defense against danger, they can make us gag to keep an unwanted substance from slipping down our throat. Diane Ackerman in A Natural History of the Senses.
Life is good when you “come to your senses”.
“Care to join me in a nice, rich chocolate nut brownie?”
“Well, yeah! . . . Got milk?
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