I went to bed tense and grouchy the other night. Lying there, I could feel tension radiating throughout my body. My legs felt stiff and achy, my breathing constricted, my thoughts racing.
Knowing I needed to get a good night’s rest, I started going through my list of relaxation techniques, discarding each nearly as quickly as it came to mind. Tense and relax the different parts of my body? Not working. Focusing on my breath? Nope. And on and on.
Eventually I gave up and resigned myself to a sleepless night.
I decided that as long as I wasn’t sleeping, I might as well practice some of my naturalist skills.
Specifically, I decided to tune into my sense of hearing and name as many sounds as I could hear.
The quiet hum of the highway, a breeze stirring the leaves of the tree outside my open window, the steady beat of my heart…
Less than 5 minutes later, it occurred to me that my body was absolutely relaxed, my mind was calm and I was on the verge of sleep. Miracle!
Now, I *know* that engaging the senses relaxes the nervous system and thus the body.
That’s the basic premise behind Owl Eyes, after all.
Apparently, I needed a reminder. Perhaps you could use one as well?
If so, here’s a quick process to help you engage your senses and relax your body. Give yourself about 5 minutes to go through this next part. Having pen and paper handy is helpful as well. Here we go!
Sense 1: Sight.
As humans, most of us are very visually dominant. Therefore, we tend to spend a lot of time with our eyes in tunnel vision, looking at something, watching something (or someone), etc.
Glance around the room (or wherever you are) and jot down 5 things you see. Try to make them things you don’t normally notice in your surroundings.
My five things:
- A pair of my boyfriend’s socks, inside out and crumpled.
- A yellow highlighter
- The beautiful pillows a friend made for me.
- A calculator sitting on top of the computer tower.
- A solitary tack stuck in the wall (that’s not tacking anything). Whaa?
Now relax into your Owl Eyes (or wide-angle vision) as you engage the rest of your senses.
Sense 2: Hearing. Deer Ears!
With your gaze soft, engage your sense of hearing. If helpful, imagine your ears are like huge a deer’s. You can even cup your hands around your ears to exaggerate your sense of hearing.
What do you hear? See if you can name 3-5 sounds.
Me? I can hear the buzz of the refrigerator, traffic from the highway, a door creaking open and then slamming shut.
With hearing, it is important to remember to allow the sounds to come to you. There is no need to strain or to try to hear more. Just sit quietly and receive the sounds.
Sense 3: Smell. Bear Nose!
Bears have an amazing sense of smell. Polar bears, for example, can smell a whale carcass up to 20 miles away.
In humans, smell is often an underdeveloped sense. We can, however, improve it with practice. For now, see if you can name 1-3 scents in your immediate environment.
Right now, I can smell the mint in my tea and not much else. 🙁
Sense 4: Touch.
Or, as the Kamana Naturalist Training Program describes it: skin of a baby.
Imagine your skin is as soft and sensitive as a baby’s. What do you notice? How does the air feel? Is the room cool or warm? How much moisture can you feel in the air? Can you feel your clothing resting against your skin? Describe their texture.
If outside, is there a breeze? Can you feel the sun? Where is it? And so on…
Sense 5: Taste.
Ah. Another often overlooked sense. What taste is in your mouth right now?
Open your mouth and breath in some air. Is there a flavor to the air?
The next time you eat or drink something, take a moment and really notice the flavors and how they interact.
Bringing it all together. The wolf.
The wolf symbolizes this coming together of all the senses. Their eyes, ears and noses are equally utilized and equally developed.
Imagine if our sense of hearing and our sense of smell was as highly developed and utilized as our sense of sight!
That’s the power of the wolf and the power we develop as we play with consciously engaging more of our senses.
For now, sitting quietly, see how many of your senses you can engage and notice at the same time.
Perhaps it will only be one or two at first. That’s ok. Start with Owl Eyes or Deer Ears and add in your other senses over time.
Engaging our senses is the key to relaxation.
While it can be fun to just play with engaging our senses, there is also a very practical reason to make it a part of your daily life.
When we engage our senses, we are brought into the present moment.
Sounds, for instance, only happen in the present moment. We hear a sound. And then it is gone. Another sound emerges. And then disappears.
When we are listening, when our sense of hearing is fully engaged, it is impossible for us to be other than in the present moment. Add in more of the senses and this present-moment-ness increases.
For me, lying there, sleepless and tense…
My mind frantically racing, following some worry about the future or reliving something from the past, engaging my sense of hearing and naming the sounds brought me back to the present moment.
Back to where, in the moment, I was safe. Where there was nothing to do or to fix or to control.
In the present moment there was a comfortable bed beneath me, my boyfriend sleeping beside me and soft night sounds soothing me. In the present moment, all was well.
In the present moment, I fully relaxed and drifted off to sleep.
Comments, thoughts, stories? I love them! Just saying hello is lovely too.