In the previous post, we introduced the first in an extended series providing a deep exploration of the liberation to be found in fostering sensory balance.
To recap, sensory balance involves feeding all of our senses in healthy, balanced ways so that no one sense takes over trying to fill voids it can never hope to fill. This begins with mindfully feeding our five outer senses, through which we celebrate our world, and it extends to intentionally feeding our four inner senses of creativity, vitality, spirituality, and belonging, through which we imbue our experience with meaning.
The previous post explored the sense of sight in some detail to give you a feel for what’s involved. In this post we explore the second and third outer senses—touch and hear.
TOUCH: A broad range of tactile stimuli—hot, cold, soft, hard, wet, dry, smooth, rough, fuzzy, furry, fluffy—intensifies my experiences.
Let’s begin with temperature. Do you prefer feeling warm or cool, or does it vary? While there are many upsides physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually to losing eighty pounds, there is one downside: I often feel cold, and I don’t like it. I want to feel warm and dry all year round. Over time, I realized feeling cold didn’t just have a negative physical effect on me. That chill extended to my mental, emotional, and spiritual state. For me, feeling cold resonates with deprivation, which vibrates with fear. So I live in a state of constant mindfulness concerning temperature. I always have with me many options for layering my clothing based on the environmental variations I may encounter during my day. While my delightful home state of Colorado boasts more than three hundred sunny days a year, it can experience wild temperature swings throughout any given day at any time of year.
I also invested in little electric fireplaces in the main rooms of my home. They are an inexpensive, attractive, and highly functional method of easily adjusting the temperature to nurture my body, mind, heart, and soul.
It took me a while to figure out where the potential thermostatic issues might occur and what to do about them. For example, in restaurants in the summer, I have learned to order iced tea with no ice (which is to say warm or room temperature tea). In the winter, no matter where I am, I always have a hot cup of something at hand.
You may be one of those people who are always too warm, so you will be identifying ways to lower the temperature of your environment. Or your preferences may vary from warm to cool based on your season, activity, or mood. My husband likes to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer, but he always drinks his beverages nearly frozen. The point is to be curious about what feels good to you, respectful enough to notice how you’re feeling, compassionate enough to do something about it, and grateful for the opportunity to fine-tune your environment.
The same applies when it comes to the texture of your world. Clothing, furniture, bedding, flooring—each of these brings opportunities to explore what feels good to you and, to the best of your abilities, align your world with what you find optimal.
There are many more opportunities to nurture yourself by feeding your sense of touch: therapeutic massage, a hug, a hot shower, caressing the soft coat of your animal companion, a warm whirlpool bath, and rich body lotions to name just a few. If the lotions are scented, they offer the bonus of also feeding your sense of smell. Two of the most meaningful ways I demonstrate the depth of my love for myself take a total of ninety seconds a day. In the morning, after my shower, before drying off, I apply baby oil to my still wet body. It’s a quick, inexpensive, and incredibly effective method of sealing moisture into my skin. And morning and night, no matter how busy or tired I am, I always massage rich beautifully scented body cream into my feet before putting on my socks. These acts are my way of appreciating and pampering myself. My feet do so much to support and transport me; it seems a small repayment of the debt I owe them. This ritual doesn’t just nourish my skin; it feeds my heart and soul. It reminds me that I matter, I care enough to pay attention to what delights me, and I’m willing to invest extra energy to bring myself comfort and joy.
HEAR: A varied compilation of sounds—music, voices, nature, noise, silence—empowers my presence.
I’ve been singing since the age of two and a half and played musical instruments for more than twelve years as a child, so music features prominently in feeding my sense of hearing. One of the things I discovered during my recovery was that when it came to music I had been starving my sense of hearing for years. When I became aware of accompanying my activities with music whenever possible and fitting the style of music to my specific activity, my general sense of well-being increased dramatically.
If the sounds of nature nurture you, make it a priority to spend time outdoors in all seasons. Find ways to bring the outdoors indoors. I love the sound of running water. I’ve incorporated that soothing sound into my home through two filtered water fountains for my cats. Those fountains support optimal physical health for my cats while feeding my sense of hearing. The one in my bedroom soothes me while I sleep. The one in my main living space helps me foster a sense of flow throughout my day. There are music players and files that feature a variety of environmental sounds to help bring the outdoors indoors if that is your auditory cup of tea.
I also found that I wasn’t experiencing enough therapeutic silence. My professional consulting career was characterized by a noisy nonstop pace that left me feeling I never had a moment to myself and couldn’t hear my own thoughts. During my recovery, I discovered the immense therapeutic value of intentional silence. I realized it was just as important to preclude overstimulating myself as it was to avoid understimulating myself.
Love, respect, curiosity, compassion, and gratitude are the hallmarks of my approach when it comes to balanced feeding of my sense of hearing as well. The goal is not to feel compelled to replicate what I do. It is to use what works for me as a key to unlock the secret of what might work for you.
So far in this series on sensory balance, we’ve explored some of the many ways three of our five outer senses—see, touch, and hear—serve to fuel, enrich and expand our experience. In the next post, we’ll explore some of the potential sensory balance contributions of our fourth outer sense—smell.