Our senses: hearing, sight, taste, smell and touch, are incredible gifts that were developed to help us navigate our worlds. A not-so-long time ago we depended heavily on these senses to keep us aware and deeply connected to our surroundings, giving us the best chance to survive and thrive.
As things would have it, sitting behind screens, in concrete boxes, with conditioned air and inorganic light, eating food in wrappers, dressing in synthetic fabrics, and many of the other norms of modern life, have our senses a little overstimulated or a little out of tune…
Here is a simple exercise to help us to get back in touch and in tune. Take five minutes or all day, but really allow yourself complete sensory exploration and a light-hearted curiosity.
Step one—get outdoors! We recommend getting as far away from civilisation as you can, way out and into nature. If it’s not possible, don’t worry, you can do this in any park, even your backyard will do.
Find a place where you can be comfortable, cool, and relaxed.
Breathe it all in. Inhale the freshness and sweetness of the air. The trees breathe with you. Tune into that magnificent exchange. Their inhalation is your exhalation, their exhalation, your inhalation. What harmony! Take a moment to really contemplate just how connected we are to the Earth—we literally are the Earth.
Take a few big inhales. At first you may not smell anything…but then you may notice a few familiar notes. Don’t try to identify them at first, just let the smells nourish you. Then begin to curiously approach leaves, flowers, stems, roots, the soil. Sniff each, without judgement. After your scent journey, return to the peripheral sense. Inhale it all again. Notice how much more complexity of information each inhale brings.
Again, use the broadest sense first. Allow all the sounds to flood in at once before identifying them individually. What lively music! Now tune into all the instruments at play. Breezes rustling the leaves as different birds and insects sing songs. Be captivated by the symphony of nature.
The physical connection of skin to Earth can be one of the most healing. Gently touch all the surfaces around you: bark, leaves (green or dry), the petals on flowers, their stems, the soil. You will notice so many different textures! Allowing bare feet to touch the earth has profound calming and balancing effects. Better yet, lie down and let her cradle you. Note: a swim in the ocean or river totally counts here too!
Tap into your peripheral vision. See the whole scene. Don’t label anything. See them. Keep your eyes soft, let them be soothed. Begin to let your focus rest on varying elements of the scene. Start with shapes and spaces. Movements and patterns. Light and dark. Then let the vibrancy of colours begin to flood in, don’t let your mind trick you into seeing “green,” instead observe how many different hues are present. Now you may want to zoom in further, perhaps on specific trees, or leaves, or flowers…and don’t disregard the soil, there is just so much to see there! Curiously observe.
We don’t recommend randomly tasting items in nature, some plants have built-in defence mechanisms that may be dangerous to us (poisonous), but in order to fully experience the quality of taste we recommend a fruit or raw locally grown vegetable. While sitting in nature, use all of the above senses to truly appreciate the food in front of you. Another wonderful gift of Mother Earth. With the same playful approach, take a little nibble. Hold the food in your mouth for a moment, let it communicate with you. Then chew mindfully, pay attention to textures, subtle taste differences, the feeling…swallow with the same mindfulness.
By the end of this you will probably notice that you feel different. Something has shifted within you. You may feel a pulsation, a burst of energy, a sense of lightness, a feeling of joy…this is the feeling of being reset and in tune!
Reminder: We don’t need a special day to remember to appreciate the Earth, we can do it any day, at any time, almost anywhere!