Sunday, October 23, 2011

Common Senses

We’ve had a few days now to watch our minds and see where they go when they don’t know we’re looking. Have you tried it? Were you surprised by anything?

Now let’s think about how we can train our minds to come back to the present moment. To continue the analogy to puppy training, this is like the command “Come.”

What we need are techniques we can incorporate into our daily lives. Belly breathing is one we’ve already discussed. Here is another simple one.

Most of our sensory input comes through our eyes. We rely on vision without really thinking about it, while our minds are off doing what they do when left to their own devices. We can disengage our automatic pilot and bring our awareness back to the present by focusing on other senses.

Try this. Close your eyes and do a quick survey of what your other senses are telling you about the present moment. What do you hear? Listen for a moment. I hear the football game on TV. I hear one of the birds chirping in the kitchen. I hear a humming; maybe that’s the refrigerator. I hear the tapping of the computer keys.

What do you smell? I smell my dog lying next to me, in need of a bath. I smell the usual smell of my house, which is hardly noticeable because I am accustomed to it. I don’t smell dinner cooking yet.

Taste? My mouth tastes a bit funky since I didn’t brush after lunch. There is also a lingering sweetness from the donut my daughter brought home for me.

Touch? I feel the weight of my body on the couch. My heel is uncomfortably propped up on the coffee table. My fuzzy socks are soft. My upper body is warm because I’m wearing my favorite sweatshirt. I can feel the weight of the laptop on my legs and the smooth plastic of the computer keys with the little ridges on F and J. The air is a pleasant temperature on my skin.

Having checked in with my other senses, I can now open my eyes and be aware of what they are seeing. (Okay, I peeked earlier when I was recording my other sensory data.) My eyes see the computer screen, the dog, the game on TV, the trees outside, the family photos on the mantel, the dog food kibbles on the carpet where Sadie dropped them.

A sensory survey can take less than a minute. It’s easy to do while you are at a red light or standing in the check out line. Don’t worry about how many times you do it. Every time you do, whether it’s one time or a gazillion times, you are connecting to the present moment and that’s a good thing. Every time you do it, you are reinforcing the command “Come,” and you should give your mind a treat!


  1. Can my mind have some chocolate for a treat?? Of course, I know that isn't what you meant. I loved this post and found it delightful. I realize that it would be wonderful if I could focus a little more on my senses and actually enjoy my moments more. I found that when I monitored my thoughts it was amazing what my brain was thinking. At this point of life I am happy that it is thinking at all.
    Anyway, I will try this next one too and enjoy the moment.
    Blessings to you!

  2. Great post, especially with everyone multi-tasking these days including myself.

  3. A sensory check through a simple command. What a great idea!

  4. hi im happy to find your blog! thanks for your post! I'll definitely do this one to be in the now! =)

  5. I call this grounding myself, it's a fantastic exercise, one which sometimes I do through inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly. Was this your belly breathing post? I'm sorry I'm so backlogged with this university stuff, ya it's being called stuff now, that I'm not making the rounds here on blogger as I once was... I'm keeping the faith that this too shall end and I'll have free moments in my life to do as I please, just not quite yet.

    Have a wonderful day/evening Galen!

  6. LeAnn--Good quality chocolate is good for us, so yes to that treat! Laughed about being happy that your brain is thinking at all. I hear that! Thanks for commenting.

    Lisa--I had not thought about this in connection to multi-tasking, so thank you for pointing that out.

    Alida--Thanks! I hope it works for you.

    Anonymous--Welcome! I hope you will visit again.

    darlin--I know what you mean. Sometimes "real" life intrudes on our blog life! Always glad to see you whenever you have time to stop by. Yes, I did write about belly breathing as another way of bringing ourselves back to the present moment. A sensory survey, as described in this post, is another quick and easy technique. Thanks for your comment.

  7. Galen,

    A wonderful exercise to bring us into the present moment, and then to enjoy every second of it. Thanks for sharing.


  8. This is a good exercise as part of learning to be present. We are constantly hurrying or rushing to get things done and life is just flashing by.. where is the 'living'.. sometimes I remember so little of a day that really matters.


  9. my brain runs after negative things but stopping to breathe deeply & refocus is helping as well as your tip on experiencing each sensory function in a particular moment...I'm liking being "in the moment" more & think I'm seeing things more clearly & in a more positive light; also keeping a list of things I'm thankful/grateful for (am up to 45) & searching out those things daily has made a HUGE difference in my life; one even others have started noticing. Thanks for your insight & for sharing your wisdom. Blessings (:

  10. Alex--Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am happy to have discovered your blog and look forward to reading more.

    Helen--Isn't that the truth?! I can get to the end of the day and wonder what I did that day. I did this exercise this morning. Besides bringing me back to the present, I was surprised by what my other senses had to offer. Thanks for your comment.

    Nan--I like the connection you made between being more in the present moment and being more positive. And a gratitude list is a great thing! I keep one, too. Thanks for commenting.

  11. This is also a good exercise for writing prompts. I love to just listen and find the words. Galen, I was wondering if you are on any Social Media sites like Google+ or Facebook? I don't see any other links on your blog.

  12. Nicole--I never thought about using this for writing. Great idea! I am not on any social media sites. I know that would be a good thing for reaching a wider audience, but I'm not motivated enough to learn how to use it! I'm content with my little corner of blog world for now. It was a big step for me to get the email and RSS feed going!

  13. Dear Galen, You are so good at living in the "Now." I'm not. I have nothing to hold me down (astrologically). I'm all air and water.... no earth. That is why I usually have to surround myself with earth signs. Taurus has a solid, calming effect on me.
    I'll try this.

  14. Galen:

    This was a very eye opening exercise. I found a lot of value in learning to be present in the moment instead of being consumed with thought of a future that is not here yet. Great article.

  15. Manzanita--I'm not sure how good I am at it, but I try. Interesting about astrology since I do have some earth, but also lots of air. Hmm. Thanks for your comment.

  16. Hi Galen,

    Great way to find our moment. When i go our for a walk around my favorite lake close by i watch the other people. it amazes me how many have something plugged into there ears, and are not aware of what is around them. they miss our on nature completely. the lake is beautiful, the birds are singing and the ducks are playing. they have no idea, because they are just busy running or walking.

    Our sense can tell us so much. I hear of people getting mugged in park, etc. And I bet that most of them can't hear what is going on around them because they are listening to music while exercising there body's. They could be exercising both there minds and body at the same time and hear approaching danger if it weren't for the ear plugs.

    thank you for reminding other to enjoy there sense and to practice using them.
    Blessing to you.

  17. Debbie--You are describing my daughters! Sigh! Thanks for your comment.

  18. Frank--The past is no more and the future is not here yet. Thank you for highlighting this point.


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