Do you ever wonder how you can experience more of life?
I know it's a strange question, but it's probably one of the most enlivening questions you can ask.
So do you?
Of course you do, because life is wonderful. Every life has challenges but it's obviously better than the alternative, or you wouldn't be here now reading this.
Life is for the living!
So how do you know you are really alive at all? The answer is because you are experiencing life, and the way you experience life is through your senses.
So if you truly want to live more, you just have to experience more, and I don't mean more novel experiences. Although those are fun some people can half way sleepwalk like a zombie through some of the most extreme moments. Besides your everyday life is amazing enough as it is. I know you aren't one to skydive with your eyes closed, but I'm talking about experiencing more life, every day! You can experience your every day moments more deeply and profoundly.
How can you do that?
There is so much experience to be had in every moment. It is actually impossible for your mind to take in and interpret all of the sensory input that you are receiving in this very moment, and all you are doing is reading an article.
What if you could increase the amount of sensory information that you take in on a regular basis? Then you would experience more of life. You would thus be living more and making good use of the precious gift of life .
Do you remember what it was like to be a kid? I'm talking about when you were a young child, not a teenager who knew it all and was pushing the boundaries of independence. I mean when you were 5 or 7 years young. Do you remember what life was like then?
If you had a challenging childhood, like some of us, than it might not be much fun to remember, even though if you faced similar challenges today they may not effect you as much. This is because children experience the world much more deeply than us adults. When we are young everything is so new and all of our experiences are taken in on a deeper level.
As we grow older our unconscious minds begin to filter our reality. We learn how to edit our experience in order to be more productive. We don't get as enthralled with the changing color of the sky, or the sounds that the insects are making. Instead we focus our attention on what will get us closer to our goals, or what will distract us from our pain(from not achieving our goals).
We need to focus and not get distracted, or we wouldn't be able to accomplish anything. So our single pointed focus takes us away from the experience of living life, and instead we do life.
Why do children experience more of life?
It is said that babies experience the world in a very different way than we do.
But how is this possible? They have the same 5 senses that we use to experience life, how come their experience is so different?
Other than the obvious fact that a baby has not yet been programmed with the experiential operating system that your mind has, which allows you to read and talk and drive and feed yourself, there is another distinctive difference.
Infants possess a quality to their senses which most of us have lost. This quality is commonly known as synesthesia. What synesthesia means is that there is an overlap of experience between one sensual experience to another sense. So if a baby were to hear a sound, there would be an associated visual or feeling experience that they would sense also. Some people experience synesthesia when they take hallucinogenic substances, and see colors coming out of guitars. Other adults have synesthesia experiences completely sober as well, meaning they are naturally able to see sounds or feel colors. Pretty trippy, right?
In most of us, when we grow up we slowly loose this overlap of senses and the world becomes more streamlined, focused, and predictable.
Or do we?
It might be that the filtering of your senses is a learned phenomenon and not a biological one. Modern neuroscience has studied the brain in depth, and they have found that there is an overlap of the visual and the kinesthetic(feeling) portions of the brain. There is also an overlap between the auditory and kinesthetic portions of the brain.
This should be a no-brainer.
This is why when you listen to nice soothing music you get a nice feeling inside, and when you listen to Rage Against The Machine you want to smash a melon that represents all of your frustrations. Also when you see a beautiful flower you get a different feeling in your body than when you see a slasher movie.
The most common example of this sensual overlap is the startle response. This is something that you have had since you were still inside of your mother's womb. It is when you are relaxing and feeling peaceful, then suddenly a loud sound startles you and you get a feeling like electricity going up your spine, and you unconsciously jump. You may have only been aware of the sound, but it's the feeling that causes you to flinch.
The truth is that in every moment you are experiencing all 5 senses at once and a strong experience in any one will influence your experiences of the others.
Recovering Your Youthful Experience
The unconscious filtering of the senses is what gives us the ability to function in the world. If we were to have an intense feeling every time we saw a very vibrant bright color, we may not be able to stop at stop lights. Or if we started seeing rainbows when we took a hot shower, you might stay in the shower all day.
So your sensory filter is good, but most of us have it turned up way too far, all of the time.
I'm not saying that you should turn off your perceptual filter completely (even if you could). I'm recommending that you begin to explore the depth of your experience in the moments of your life.
So here is the practical practice.
Start to pay more attention to your feelings. Feelings mainly happen in your body so begin placing your attention in your body more often throughout the day. By doing this you will become more aware of the little things that influence your feelings.
- Where do you feel it in your body, when you hear a blue bird calling for it's partner?
- Where do you feel it in your body, when you smell a pink rose?
- Where do you feel it in your body, when you see a sexy stranger?
- Where do you feel it in your body, when you take a bite of your favorite flavor indulgence?
- What else do you feel?
This is a great way to begin a dialogue with your body and discover its preferences. Notice the differences in feeling quality between different foods, smells, images and practices. When you get a good inventory of what your body knows, but you have been unconscious of, you can begin to fill your life with the experiences that bring you the most pleasure.
What other senses can you experience at the same time?
They say that the majority of people, because of the minds unconscious filtering system, can only be aware of 5-9 pieces of information. This means that even if you are at the lower end of this awareness scale, you can still be consciously aware of all 5 of your senses.
Of course you shouldn't try this while you are driving a car or preforming surgery, but you can spend a few moments every day tuning into all of your senses. The more you take the time to fully experience all of your senses, the more of life you will experience.
The more subtleties of sensuality you experience the deeper you are immersed in living life. And that is why you are here, isn't it?
So here is your homework:
Spend at least a few moments each day fully immersed in your sensual experience of life. You can do this in any situation, and you should do it whenever possible. I recommend begin practicing when sitting, or lying down.
- Take a few deep breaths only focusing on what you are seeing (even if your eyes are closed you are seeing something).
- Take a few deep breaths only focusing on what you are hearing (there is always some sound happening, even if it's only the sound of blood flowing through your ears).
- Take a few deep breaths only focusing on what you are smelling (If you are breathing through your nose than you are smelling something).
- Take a few deep breaths only focusing on what you are tasting (if it's just the roof of your mouth, notice what it tastes like now).
- Take a few deep breaths only focusing on what you are feeling (Your whole body is giving you sensual information all of the time, try to feel it all at once).
- Now put them all together and allow yourself to become aware of all of your senses.
The last step might be challenging at first, because we are used to being consciously aware of only one sense at a time, and you usually occupy one conscious piece of information with what everyour mind is thinking.
Challenge is good because it helps you to grow.
Once this short meditation becomes more natural for you, you can practice in different situations, like the bank, the grocery store, or the garden. When you get really good you can practice while you are doing other more active activities, such as swimming or talking to a good friend. It helps if you already have some muscle memory of the activity.
Your goal is to use as many senses as possible, as much as possible and thus experience as much of life as possible. This is a gift from the fountain of life and it just might also be the fountain of youth.
So go now and experience the sensual gift every moment has to offer you.
Yours In Health