Danielle Aubin, LCSW
Listening to the Wisdom of the Body
Updated: May 23, 2022
Using the 5 senses to deepen our roots and radically heal
Did you know that the definition of the word radical is "of or growing from the root of a plant"? Many times we find ourselves stuck in therapy or with life patterns that don't serve us because we are always treating the foliage or surface and never diving down to address the root. Radical healing involves addressing the root. One way we are "rooted" in the world is via our bodies. Our bodies hold a wealth of knowledge and wisdom through the deep connection between body and earth. Trauma and other issues can disconnect us from our bodies and we become "disembodied" and experience a wide range of symptoms associated with this disconnection. Using the 5 senses, we can reconnect with our bodies and the earth and restore balance.
The five senses
For the purposes of this post, we will focus on smell, taste, touch, see and hear as our five senses. Each of these senses anchors us to the present moment and to our immediate experience of ourselves and the world. Let's walk through each of these senses and acknowledge some ways that they can help us connect to our wise bodies.
"I see the world as it is in the eternal NOW. I cannot see anything outside of here and in the NOW"
Even when our eyes are closed, our eyes are constantly receiving visual stimuli that move through the optic nerve to our brain. We can see a wide variety of colors and what we view gets generally categorized into pleasant, non-pleasant, and neutral categories. Our sight anchors us into the present moment since everything we see is in the here and now. We cannot "view" the past currently, only as memories or through pictures that we experience NOW. Our sight reminds us that we are here, now, and only here and in the now.
For example, I am seated outside writing this blog post. The wind is causing the palm tree leaves to sway in the wind. It causes the light to shift since the trees are between me and a very bright morning sun. My sight is reminding me that I am here experiencing this wind alongside the palm tree. I am not anywhere else. My sight also shows me the world in colors, shapes, and patterns that I can perceive with my brain and I can be in relationship with this information. I am both perceiving the world and being a part of it.
"I hear the world as it is in the eternal NOW. I cannot be anywhere but listening here and in the NOW"
Sound anchors me to the present moment. The soft chirp of birds, the soft rumble of a far away freeway, the annoying high-pitched broken alarm of the community room. My sense of hearing roots me in what is happening NOW in the world both inner and outer. All of these sounds can be experienced as unpleasant, pleasant, and neutral. Whichever way that I experience them, the sounds remain and I can only control or influence but a few of them. My sense of hearing reminds me that I cannot control my environment beyond some very small measures. The birds will keep chirping whether or not I personally want them to. I can accept the world with all of its sounds or I can fight it, but either way, the sounds remain and remind me that I am here in the world at this moment.
"I taste the world as it is in the eternal NOW. I cannot be anywhere but tasting here and in the NOW"
The green tea I am drinking is a little bit bitter, a familiar bitter that I expect every time I raise my cup. Yet I never drink from the same cup nor the same tea. Each sip is new because the moment is new and the tea changes from second to second. This reminds me that I too am never the same. I am in constant change, evolution, renovation. My skin cells are constantly being created and sluffed off. Each day we are invited to taste the world anew. There will be familiar tastes but no taste is ever exactly the "same" because nothing is the same. Change is the constant of life. Our anxiety and wish to control may pop it's head up but taste reminds us that we are in a river of time that is constantly flowing and changing shapes, we cannot hold into anything for too long. Taste whispers "enjoy this sweet, bitter, tangy moment. It won't last."
"I touch the world as it is in the eternal NOW. I can only touch something in the here and NOW"
Try to touch the past and you will realize all you can touch are pictures or sentimental objects, relics from a time gone by. We can only feel what is happening here and now, everything else is now a memory. As we touch our bodies, we are reminded of how fast time moves forward. If we feel our pulse, we are catapulted into the realization that our very life depends on the regularity of this beat. This beat that we have no control over beyond feeding ourselves, protecting ourselves. This rhythm is moving us through this life and keeps us rooted here. We must touch the earth and pull food out of the ground to feed ourselves. We must patiently wait for the earth's rhythms to lead us and nourish us. We cannot rush the earth and we cannot rush ourselves. There are so many textures here. We can only feel the textures here today, those of yesterday have disintegrated and become something or someone new. One day we will also become something or someone new.
"I smell the world as it is in the eternal NOW. I can only smell something in the here and NOW"
I am rooted here at the moment, smelling the earth exactly as it is right here and now. I cannot smell the past anymore, all I have is a memory of soft newborn baby skin or the bustling streets of Bangalore. It is spring now and the flowers are blooming, I stoop down with the young ones to admire the sweet fragrance. These flowers will turn into soil one day. So will we. Yet today, right now, aren't they so beautiful? Isn't it what makes life so beautiful and tragic is that these moments pass whether will try to capture them or not. I can't take the smell with me, I can only pause to notice them now. Will I remember them tomorrow? Who knows. I will be different tomorrow and so will you. Our bodies remind us that the gifts of this world are time-limited, we walk quickly by the flowers, the newborn baby and we might miss the whole thing.
Bringing it all together
When we are not feeling well, when we are stressed, overwhelmed, acting in ways that don't align with the parent or person we want to be, we must PAUSE. Literally. Stop what we are doing and take a moment. Take a deep breath in. When we notice that we are out of alignment, this is our signal to recalibrate. Our five senses are wonderful tools to notice our deep roots that are eternally connected to the present moment. We are not anywhere but here. Notice what you can touch, taste, smell, hear and see. These are your anchors to the present moment and in the present moment (not the past or the future) you have the ability to chart a different course. If you have been yelling at your children, you can decide right now to pause, attend to your needs, and shift into an activity or behavior that is in alignment with the parent you want to be. If you are home alone with a fussy baby and you are overwhelmed, go outside and give your 5 senses some new experiences. Pause. Shift. Ask for help if you need it.