Present with All Five Senses

Photo by Ilya Shishikhin on Unsplash

This is about being present. This is about how to know you are here and not there. This is about bringing it back to center. The most valuable lesson I learned in the final days of my mother’s life was in presence. Being present meant being there with her physically, mentally, and spiritually. I promised myself as I walked away from that experience that I would forever live in “the moment”. Experiencing presence in such an extreme moment as the passing of one’s parent is intense and profound and while nothing we would ever want to repeat it is only worth the pain of the experience if you can experience the intensity of that presence in life without death.

The key to being present is giving focus to that moment and therefore checking for presence. The ultimate audit of presence is through the senses. Are you there? What are you seeing, what do you smell, what can you taste, what do you hear and what do you feel? This is how you bring it back to center. You cannot do this “audit” without moving back to the present moment. Our minds will wander and we will be reminded of something in our past or feel the pressure of what is to come in the future but checking in with our five senses will force, most gently, us back into the present moment.

Let’s try this out together. Using this moment as our present, as it is all we have and undeniably the present moment, let’s use the senses to audit our presence at this moment. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do you see? What is in front of you? What is behind you? What is in the peripheral?
  • What do you smell? Immerse yourself in your environment. Acknowledge the obvious smells and hues of other smells in the air?
  • What do you hear? Go beyond the obvious that is in front of you and look for those accompaniments around you.
  • What do you feel? Again, mentally, spiritually but also in the environment. Is there a breeze or is it still? Are your fingers engaging in texture?
  • What do you taste? If you are eating search for the essence beyond the primary ingredient. Can you taste a spice or herb that is transient? If you are not eating what is the taste on your tongue or in your breath? Can you still identify the remnants of a previous meal or drink?

When this is read through as a process this can seem cumbersome or time-consuming however in practice it is quite simple and becomes a “pulse-check”. I was sitting with a friend at lunch yesterday and we were talking about “presence” and our monkey minds and at that moment I did a senses audit to embrace this moment that we were in. It was simple and yet the most valuable thing I had done all day; because I was checking for my ability to seize this very special moment and revel in the gift that it was and will now be remembered. This is the secondary benefit of “being in the moment” is that it then creates a more vivid memory to recall a moment spent in full presence. As I look back on that moment from yesterday I can now recall it more sweetly because I engaged all senses. It is now recalled as follows:

  • I could see my friend. I was also aware of the people moving around us from a distance coming and going.
  • I could smell the rich spice of my soup and the freshness of the vegetables in my sandwich. I could smell the fresh air blowing around us.
  • I could hear my friend and her intonations as we spoke about life. I could hear cars passing, I could hear the breeze blowing around us, serving up the fresh air.
  • I could feel my friends’ love for me. I could feel the tinge of coolness in the breeze. I could feel my gratitude for being in this moment and wanting to push pause on everything else in life.
  • I could taste the warmth of my soup, the texture of the french bread I was dipping in the soup, and the crispness of fresh vegetables in my sandwich. I could also taste the sweetness of fellowship as it made the physical taste more intense.

This recollection is now only available to me because I had the wherewithal to stop and check my presence, at that moment, through my senses. My friend was not aware of my internal audit as my going through it only intensified my presence.

Stop right now and do the audit at this moment. Reading a blog can seem so insignificant without acknowledging it with all five senses. Reading is seeing, but what does it make you feel, and what can you hear in the background as you read, what are you touching while you read, and is there a taste in your mouth of sweet, sour, or neutrality. While I realize that everything in life does not have to be “a moment” it is worth practicing in the insignificant moments to savor the significant moments through this practice.

Think about your favorite moments in life and they are likely those that engage all five senses and were also likely in places that were curated to engage all five senses. Watching a movie in a theater, hearing music at a concert, or eating food in a restaurant creates impact and demands presence as these experiences command your senses. These places are set-up to engage every sense and in doing so creates an intensity in the moment that is remembered and leaves the participant longing for the same experience again. But what is the experience you are left longing to repeat? It is likely not to see the same movie again, hear the same music, or eat the same food. The longing is likely to experience a moment when all five senses are engaged again where you are so caught up in the moment that you forget everything except that very moment. That is presence.

This blog is a reminder to us all that every moment has the ability to be fuller and more profound if you simply allow yourself the benefit of being present. It is a tool to be practiced to engage presence rather than acknowledge it. In a world that is pulling us in a million different places and abusing our senses, it is so important to stop and control what you are sensing. Be present in the places you want to be with the senses you want engaged.

Be. Present.

Life as I live it. L.