Awaken all of your senses

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 22, 2002

If you think back to your years in elementary school, you'll probably remember science class where, among other things, you learned about the five senses. You know that you discovered the world through your ability to see, hear, smell, touch and taste. From infancy these were the keys that unlocked the mysterious doors of your surroundings.

As you grew older, you used your senses to establish your place within the environment you had discovered. Through your senses you experienced, interpreted and savored the world around you. But in school, you did not name intuition as an identifiable sense. However, intuition is a powerful tool in the discovery and establishment of our own place in this human ecosystem.

In the animal kingdom, much of living is done through instinct. The birds know how to construct nests and feed their young. They don't go to classes for that like us higher-ups. Animals in the wild know how to feed themselves, stay safe, protect young and procreate. They don't have classes for that either. It is all instinct. But it is not to be confused with intuition.

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Intuition is the "direct knowing or learning of something without the conscious use of reasoning" We've all heard about a "mother's intuition". But it is not reserved only for mothers. It is in us all if we listen closely enough.

Think for a moment about what first drew you to your mate. If you look deeply enough, intuition told you that this could be a good union. Oftentimes, we do not hear or heed our intuitive knowledge and good choices are bypassed or wrong choices are made. Maybe this is an area where the "guru" generation had the advantage as they tried to "get in touch with themselves". But even if it is not acceptable classroom content, the ability to intuit information should not be discounted. It is not mindless drivel. It is a valuable source of knowledge that cannot be acquired through any other avenue.

Author and naturalist, Diane Ackerman writes in A Natural History of the Senses, "Although we have the capability to perceive the world with all its gushing beauty and terror," most of us go through life blind to what is around us.

She goes on to suggest that in order for us to "begin to understand the gorgeous fever that is consciousness, we must try to understand the senses. The senses don't just make sense of life in bold or subtle acts of clarity, they tear reality apart into vibrant morsels and reassemble them into a meaningful pattern."

In simple terms, our senses break down the world around us into easy to swallow bites. How many times when viewing a grand landscape, have you singled out one or two components of it that are indelibly etched in your memory? Or when experiencing a superb meal, haven't you selected one or two tastes as the most satisfying? And what about the scent of a particular person? You'll never forget the fragrance worn by your first love, or the special smell of your baby. Not all sensory reminders are so pleasant as those I mentioned, but they all are strong.

Perhaps this week we might try slowing down a bit so you don't miss quite so much of this marvelous world of ours. Nineteenth century writer, George Eliot (pen name of Mary Ann Evans), wrote, "If we had keen vision and feeling for all ordinary human life it would be like hearing the grass grow or the squirrel's heart beat, and we should die of the roar which lies on the other side of silence. As it is, the quickest of us walks about well wadded with stupidity." I think that this week I'll take a moment to see just how blue the sky is, to hear the grass grow, to smell the scent of summer, to taste the fruits of the earth, and put my arms around the ones I love. And I trust my intuition to lead me.

As Oscar Wilde said, "Nothing can cure the soul but the senses, just as nothing can cure the senses but the soul."