Coming to the Senses

digital roots

The human body receives constant sensory input that provides up to the second information about the world around us. This is great news! And thankfully, we are created to modulate these responses. So, how can we use this amazing instrument, the human body, and play healthier music within? Intentionally noticing the five hard-wired senses gives us opportunities to do just this.

Whether or not you believe in behavioral resolutions this time of year, bringing awareness into our lives is a powerful practice. Why? Because when we go through the motions of the day without noticing how we feel physically or emotionally, stress, body pain, and inflammation occur. Instead, when we tune in and witness what our sensations and reactions are, we can use this information to calm, center, and choose a different response. 

Use this simple exercise to practice sensory self-care. Please be patient and compassionate with yourself. Noticing the world around you, your reactions, is a process of change by itself. It takes practice, for all of us, every day, moment by moment. 

What sight, sound, touch, smell or taste reminds you of relaxation, comfort, joy… or any other positive emotion or experience that’s linked to your health?

Take a few moments to be still and visualize easy, accessible things you can do to bring pleasant awareness to the senses. Is it listening to a favorite song on the way to work? Enjoying a cup of tea with a friend? Using essential oils? Feeling the feet on the ground as you sit at your desk? Wiggling the toes? Looking up from the laptop and allowing eyes to rest? Taking time to really taste food while chewing? Taking a deep breath? Hugging someone you care about, love? (Remember, to get a hug you’ve got to give one).

Be as specific as you can and write down three things that bring you relaxation for each sense. Before you begin, take a few deep breaths. As you hold your pen, or write on your laptop, drop shoulders away from ears. You may want to write about or focus on one sense each week, or each day. Do what “makes sense” to you!





















After you complete the exercise, even if you haven’t actually done any of these things yet, check in with yourself and notice your mood. What do you notice? How’s your body feel, compared to when you began this writing or visualization exercise?

Incorporate with any meditation practice and en-joy coming to your senses.

Awareness, from a visual seescape

woman in the scarf
surprise in a fan

After receiving acupuncture recently, I sat up on the table and took time to admire the vintage silk scarf my practitioner had lovingly placed on my knees and legs to keep me warm while I rested during treatment.

This curly-haired woman drawn within the fan image peered out from the scarf–hair not unlike mine, or my acupuncturist. After considering several messages of meaning, one of many that brought gratitude was the choice to notice the scarf on my legs! I’m endeavoring more to notice what’s present, as a part of an awareness practice, which brings centering, a brief pause, and whatever teachings become present. What fullness a simple observation of the visual field can bring. The noticing itself provides the meditation.

We often take for granted the beauty in such simplicity of our environments, and those around us. It’s easy to get caught up in thinking, particularly about the future and be swept away by agendas and plans. Every season of the year, of life brings newness, a fresh perspective. Even things and people we see every day can be noticed and appreciated…if we take a moment. Just a moment.

Looking Out


Bentley's Perspective
Bentley’s Perspective


If you allowed yourself a brief, intentional pause or breath today, what might that bring you? Are you willing to do it? How much is your breath worth to you?

Using More Senses

Outside Mat
Outside Mat

We start in Mountain pose. Some are standing on beach towels, others on yoga mats, a few with feet on the grass.  I stand on my mat, with eyes open at first, relishing the lush green, soaking in the misty,  fully humid morning. Then I close my eyes, hearing bird songs, lawnmowers, and children’s voices at play. My muscles feel relaxed and warm, and I am so grateful to be alive, outside, in this moment. The hour continues, with about sixteen sweaty practitioners quietly flowing through poses, with what feels like just enough instruction from our teacher. As  we begin sitting postures, a cooler breeze ever so gently floats by.  We end, and several offer thanks for this out of the ordinary experience. As we walk back into the building, a classmate comments on the outdoor component of class, with “You feel so connected”.

When do you experience, by happenstance, or on purpose, a sense that grabs you, in a good way? What amazes me is how our bodies are built to use our five senses, yet how often do we actively engage them to more fully learn, enjoy, change, then sustain change? We can choose to bring in one, two or more senses to a new habit, practice, or behavior, or one that’s established in our lives. Either way, we will remember the experience, and more likely to repeat it, especially if it’s pleasurable. The best classroom teachers know this. Our brains are both partitioned and bridged to adapt, and be aware. All we need to do is wake up and notice….one moment at a time, one sense at a time.

Click on the link below for a 30 second video that recreates what I heard this morning.

 Sounds on the Mat

Point of View



On Election Day, considering one’s attitude seems especially relevant. Even though this statement may apply specifically to politics, we can also consider our outlook  in general. I was reminded of this yesterday while listening to a wise courtroom judge talking to parents and their new drivers. He quoted a University of Notre Dame official who mentioned  attitude determining how well we complete our endeavors,  despite depth of  talent.

What is attitude, anyway? For example, when you look at this photograph, what are you aware of? The horse could be considering a few of these, depending on posture:

  1. I’d rather be in  that field over there.
  2. This fence is hemming me in.
  3. Thank goodness for this awesome tree I’m standing under!
  4. If I get up my courage  to neigh, I bet my friends will trot over!
  5. What do my ears say?
  6. Am I putting my best hoof forward?
  7. Hey, where’s my hay?
  8. What do I see?
  9. What’s that smell?
  10. Where are my feet?
  11. What do I like about this fence?
  12. Who do I want to play with today?
  13. What am I inviting?
  14. Hey, who’s gonna bring my water?
  15. What a  fantastic patch of grass I’m on right now.
  16. I feel strong!
  17. I’m a horse. How great is that?

What do you stand for today? How can we invite, not fight ourselves and others? Observe animals. They’re good teachers.

Alpha Poems

Summer’s Crop Mathews County, Virginia

I enjoy driving by this roadside farm, noticing how the view of the building and field completely changes throughout the year. This time I stopped and snapped a picture, and it seems to connect with some of my recent reflections.

My mother’s words came to mind recently— “Estelle, there’s nothing constant but change“. I used to feel irritated when she spoke this phrase; now, I hear wisdom. My mother is pretty darn healthy, coming up on 90 years of age. She’s weathered some big tides. I wrote an Alpha Poem in response to my memory.

Change comes, sometimes creaking, or crashing
Ownership generally
Together we can continue
Allowing ourselves to
Nestle in

I share the concept of Alpha Poems with friends and clients on a regular basis. I first learned about them when our son’s early elementary teacher gave each student a poem at year’s end. Using the students’ first names, she wrote a poem describing positive attributes of each child. I appreciated this gift, keeping it on the refrigerator for quite a while. I started writing my own Alpha Poems after learning about the practice of journal writing for health, through the work of Kathleen Adams.

To write your own Alpha Poem,  start by choosing a word, and use each letter of the word to form the first letter of each line. Play with using your name, someone else’s name, letters of the alphabet, emotions, concepts, relationships, sounds…anything.  Allow yourself the freedom to write your own poetry, for yourself, unedited. Be curious about images, ideas, words that you see, hear or experience.

Alpha poems are great for stress relief.  They capture themes quickly and get them down on the page with only a few words. Of course, you can write long alpha poems too. Go for it!

The Unexpected

Earth Day Slipper 2010

 As I walked in the woods with my dogs this morning, there it was…a wildflower I have only seen once or twice since childhood! As I was musing on life’s recent challenges, this beautiful pink blossom, so new and fresh after spring showers, delivered such an exquisite, simple gift. I was breathless in surprise, then exclaimed something  joyful outloud!  Today, what captures your attention?