Awareness of the senses

I think late spring presents a great opportunity to use the senses to return to the present moment. The colours, scents and sounds of the natural world returning to activity are like invitations to bring our full awareness to the experience of seeing, smelling and hearing.

Information is always arriving at our sense organs. We have the ability to choose which sensory input we give our awareness and attention to. Since our senses detect present-moment changes in our environment, turning our attention to the stimuli arriving at our eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin can serve to help ground us in the here-and-now.

Take in the view, take in the detail

Spring in Edinburgh is hinted at with the arrival of snow drops in February. Clusters of crocuses start to arrive in March and daffodils, sometimes scented, follow not that long after. The Meadows’ striking cherry blossom display is currently at its peak and as if over night, fresh new leaves have appeared on trees across the city.

Consider an experiment: take in a vista of blossoms; or really study the detail in a single flower, or pristine new leaf. Be wholly with the experience of seeing colours, textures and shapes for the period of a few breaths. What was this experience like for you?

Stop and smell the flowers

Magnolia, cherry blossom, narcissus and various other flowering plants and trees contribute to the fragrance of spring. Why not – allergies permitting – take a deep breath alongside a blossom of flowers. While doing so, pay attention to whether you detect anything through your sense of smell. Really be with the experience in that moment of how it is to sense fragrance while breathing in. How was this for you?

The sounds of spring

The various species of bird living in the city are in the process of becoming more and more active. Evidence of this is their increasingly prominent morning song (or increasingly raucous chatter in the case of Edinburgh’s giant seagulls). The growing abundance of leaves in the trees has also started to change the character of the wind and the breeze. If you have the opportunity, take a few moments to sit outside, or by an open window to take in the sounds of spring. Notice the different sounds and allow yourself to be with how it is to hear them.

The mind will probably begin labelling what it hears and this OK, but also see if it possible to be with the sounds before they gather too much additional meaning. Notice how it is it to bring your awareness to the experience of sound for the period of a few breaths. Did this support a sense of moving a little closer to the here and now?

Try experimenting with the other ways in which your senses collect the sights, sounds, textures, scents and tastes of spring.

In any given moment, our body receives a multitude of information through its senses. Mindfulness is knowing what is happening while it is happening. I think how we sense the natural world can help support our practice and understanding of mindfulness. I also think bringing our awareness to how we experience the natural world can help support an embodied sense of what it means to be more present in the moment.


Duncan Roebuck Counselling & Psychotherapy