I’ve recently been posting about listening to what’s going on in nature around me when I’m walking, and I was really pleased to see a whole section in the 2nd edition of 2009 of TPM – The Philosophers’ Magazine – about coming to our senses – appreciating and using all our senses, starting with touch.
As weavers, touch is really important to us. It’s even more important to me in what I am studying – texture. The author of the article on touch, Mark Paterson, wrote in a way that brings to attention our constant world of touch, of which we are mostly unaware. It’s not so much being unaware, but being unconscious to what our tactile interface – our skin – is telling us. In Mark’s words,
“Touch is a sense of communication. It is receptive, expressive, can communicate empathy. It can bring distant objects and people into proximity. ” His article deals with how touch is perceived philosophically in a visually dominated world which I found very interesting and also with plenty of reference to historical texts so that I can go and read up for myself about it. More to the point, for me at least, is the sense of consciousness about touch that I was left with.
Other articles in the series are about smell as portrayed, or not, in film as compared to literature; about sound, which as a musician I found really interesting; taste and its disputed position as the least of the senses, and then 8 different short articles about seeing.
Going back to the auditory article, as a musician I had always associated music performance as a moment in time, never to be repeated (other than through a recording of one particular performance), and also taken for granted that I could hear the complete range of instruments and sounds during a performance, or different varieties of birdsong as well as that jet passing overhead and at the same time able to hear the hiss of the electricity in the high-voltage wires. But having it pointed out to me made me realise that this is discrimination of sounds at a high level of complexity! All sound happens over a shorter or longer period of time. I really hadn’t made that connection before. Our brains are making sense of all the complex sounds that reach it at the same time and not only are compiling each sound with its relevant nuances but is also notifying our consciousness exactly what we are hearing. We are all aware of the amazing work that the brain does in de-coding and re-creating what we see, but I know I have never really stopped to think about the brainwork going in to what I am constantly hearing.
Having read the series of articles (not counting one on subliminal processing and the last one on whether we have 5 or more senses), I started hearing things I hadn’t heard before, and being much more aware of how I interact with things through touch. My senses all seemed heightened. Even when I sat down to a cup of tea and a few chocolates (!!), I was much more alert to the flavours of the drink and the chocolates, the heat of the tea, the aroma of the tea, the chocolates and the flowers in the room, the lingering smell of smoke as my son walked through the room after having just lit the wood fire, and the sound of the wind outside, the noises of the house, the crackle of the fire in the next room.
Appreciation of the small things in life start with observation. Thanks to this series of articles, and my own musings recently, I’m focussing on the small things with great enjoyment! There may be a recession outside, but I can relish the immediate things of life with more attention to the information my senses are giving me. Learning to appreciate the best things in life is definitely a positive way to counter the gloom of our ecomonic reality and it’s free!
Inspired by what you already wrote on walking and listening (and I dog walk, too!), as well as several other readings on mindfulness that have come my way recently, I’ve been attempting to practise mindfulness/attentiveness on a daily basis. It’s hard! And utterly revelatory, too. I’ve been noticing patterns in tarmac, in walls, in wooden fences. Smells of the earth, sounds of birds. Great bursts of joy on seeing a blackthorn starting to bloom. And this is just on a business park!
I’ve been experiencing the most intense flashbacks to childhood moments; possibly the last time in my life I allowed myself to just experience. Not examine, or evaluate, or judge. Subsuming the scientist, and remaining unselfconscious, has been a real exercise, along the lines of “don’t think of a pink rhinoceros”.
But not only have I enjoyed it, I think it is good for me on a more practical level. No longer do I fight to remember whether I’ve shut the windows/locked the doors/filled the water bowl/sorted the house out/picked up my lunch, keys, phone, wallet when I leave the house in the morning; I’m already aware that I’ve done it. Well, maybe I’m not quite there yet, but that list feels cleaner, less cluttered, and consequently shorter in my head. And I’m sure this practice is the cause! Thank you!
Hmm. That was a weird way to de-lurk, eh? Hi! I’m Alison, and I read your blog sometimes. 😉
It’s good to hear from you and thanks for your input. Mindfulness slows you down in that you are paying more attention to the little things, but it speeds you up in that you don’t have to keep checking on yourself, as you so beautifully described in your comment. I too, have been watching the leaves burst from what appeared to be dead branches. It never ceases to amaze me.
That could easily lead me on to another topic, so I’ll stop there for now!!