Everyday Mindfulness: Engage the Senses

There are many ways to escape the present moment and many ways to return. Our senses give us direct access to presence. They ground us in our bodies. When we actively engage the senses, we must be here, right now. And that's a beautiful thing.

I've been practicing with the senses--using them as pauses, sprinkled throughout the day. Instead of only photographing the sunset, I watch it for five deep breaths. If I bake bread, I linger over the smell. When I put lotion on my hands, I feel the sensations. While I walk, I listen to the birds, noticing the different songs. At mealtime, I bring my full attention to the first bite and all its flavors. Aware of my senses, I can't be lost in thoughts. The senses are only alive in this moment.

An easy place to practice is the shower, a regular activity. Senses abound in the shower and it's a pleasant experience. Yet we typically spend that time lost in thoughts. Until I started my shower experiment, I didn't realize what I was missing. I was using the shower as a place to think--not in a broad, open-awareness way, but in a replaying, obsessing, planning way. Now, when thoughts arise, I bring my attention back to the senses--to the feeling of water on my skin--again and again. Now, instead of a rushed 10 minutes, my shower is a mindful experience with my whole being.