Wednesday, December 3, 2014

COMING TO OUR SENSES – How to Free Your Inner Child

What incredible contraptions we humans are. Our bodies make even the most complex machine we’ve ever devised look like a child’s toy. They’re an astounding integration of systems, each a marvel in itself—musculoskeletal, circulatory, pulmonary, digestive and immune, among others.

Perhaps the most amazing of all is the nervous system. Sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell are the receptors we use to sense the world around us. They afford our brains the reach they need to collect data about the conditions and resources we need to survive.

They tell us when danger is present, compel us to satisfy our hunger and thirst, and let us communicate. Should one sense fall short of the job, the system calls in reinforcements from the others. Our senses nourish us with learning, recreation and spiritual connection. And they indulge us with pleasure. 

As blessed as most of us are to have all our senses, too many of us under-appreciate and under-use them. Life’s tough for a sense. First of all, since few of us any longer depend solely on our raw, native senses for survival, they’ve gotten soft and bloated. What’s left of them gets harried, waylaid and drowned out by all the demands—and perceived demands—of life in the 21st century.

  Curiosity does for our perception what a strong 
  sense of self does for our health and well-being.

But we can rescue our poor senses. It’s not hard to do, but it takes some re-prioritizing and a bit of practice. Just like when we’ve failed to properly feed and exercise our bodies for a while, we must assert some discipline to get back in shape.

No, you can’t just sit on the couch or at your desk all day; no, as hungry as you might be for it, you can’t pig out on the tempting, but far-from-nutritious virtual experience and “connection” heaped on your plate by a phone or iPad screen.

Reclaiming our native senses also requires the recruitment of an ally, a quality no less deserving than intuition of status as our “sixth sense.” Curiosity is the impulse that fuels the senses. It does for our perception what a strong sense of self does for our health and wellbeing.

We’re all born with curiosity—lots of it. As far as we know, we’re the only creatures with the luxury of possessing it for reasons not immediately related to survival. Other animals may track a smell, follow a sound or turn over a rock to see if there might be something to eat. We get to do so just for the joy of discovery, just for the fun of it.

Turn off all the little i-robots conspiring to keep you in your seat under their all-consuming spell.

So, how do you start? Just ten or fifteen years ago, I would have said just observe a five-year-old child. Sadly, though, children, even more so than we adults, have been abducted by the fat, lazy aspects of technology.

So perhaps the best way to picture success is to remember what childhood was like for you. No phone; no laptop; no 24/7 news scaring you into believing conflict and danger are ever-present in your life; no über-litigious legal system instilling fear into anyone daring to let kids experience spontaneous, parent-free, outdoor adventures.

Try to channel that spontaneity and freedom. Feel the rekindling of that old inner fire of energy, awareness and curiosity. Meditate, in whatever way you like, to rise above the myriad “adult” concerns holding those native instincts back.

Turn off all the little i-robots conspiring to keep you in your seat under their all-consuming spell. And get outside in Nature, whether that means in a remote wilderness, a national park or just that little patch of grass down the street, and let her draw out your senses as only she can.

         What’s so hard about it is actually 
         that it’s so utterly simple.

And finally—this is the bitterest pill for many folks—let go the illusion of control that’s come to delude nearly every one of us trying to cope in what seems an ever-more-out-of-control world. Surrender your senses and your spirit to the ever-wise, all-knowing oneness of the universe. For it knows, even if you do not, where peace and wisdom reside.

Many find it hard to grasp this exercise in faith, because somehow it’s gotten confused with something complex and abstract. Some would have you believe that we have to go on long, arduous quests for it. We think we have to pay people to guide us to it; we take all sorts of elixirs to bring it on.

But what’s so hard about it is actually that it’s so utterly simple, and—perhaps the biggest obstacle to our sensing like kids once again—we’ve gotten conditioned not to trust that simplicity.

We must re-learn it, for the sake of our own health and happiness, for that of our children and grandchildren, and for that of this precious, vulnerable planet.


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