Our senses offer a direct route to tapping our creative well.
If you find yourself caught in a fruitless spiral, disconnected from your creativity, look to your senses, and explore that world with this wisdom from Be, Awake, Create:
While perceptions are limitless, the capabilities of our sense organs are not. For example, we can’t hear the pitch range that a dog can hear or smell as acutely as one. As we age, we may lose our hearing or sense of smell. So, what we perceive is always a limited slice of reality. We adapt, often filling in the gaps with our assumptions, like an amputee might experience a phantom limb.
We try to “make sense” of the world through our perceptions, which are colored by our thoughts, creating our version of reality—a relative truth. The brain acts as a gatekeeper to our sensory experience. It filters the input from our sense organs further, depending on where we place our conscious attention.
How often have you driven a familiar route and not been aware of any of it, lost in thought about something else? When we are distracted by our thoughts, we miss vital information from our senses, like the exit ramp you missed while thinking about what you will say when you get to your friend’s house. It’s important to realize we are always selectively relating to the world. What we presume is reality is only a small slice of the truth.
Cultivating Sensory Awareness
We can bring awareness to our senses at any moment. We may hear the sound of crickets, feel the ache in our fingers, smell freshly cut grass, see the vivid red of a flower, or taste the bitterness of black coffee. Each sensation provides new information about the world: valuable feedback, direct and simple, to use in our creative process.
While feeling a sensation can be simple, discerning what we perceive can be muddled by our thinking. As we grow, we edit our sensory awareness, filtering input based on survival needs, past experience, personal preferences, and social conditioning. We try to avoid unpleasant experiences.
Sensations, however, include pain and pleasure, beauty and ugliness. Our senses do not discriminate in their feedback. Our minds do. We would rather smell the roses than the compost pile, see a sunset than roadkill. So, our mind filters our awareness based on past experience, leading us to numb out rather than experience certain sensations.
Being sentient means that, as humans, we process our world through our sense perceptions and our emotional responses. When we disassociate from either form of feeling, we lose touch with a vital part of ourselves. So, it is important to feel your physical sensations and your emotions to make a clear and direct creative expression.
Greater awareness allows more information to pass through our filters. This leads to more skillful choice making. We can notice how our thoughts and assumptions distort reality, jumping to conclusions based on past experience. Our memory banks are like libraries we constantly reference to make sense of the world. The substitution of past experience for direct perception can muddy our creative expressions.
- Now we have seen how awareness is an essential part of our sensory experience. For this activity, take a walk in your neighborhood, placing your attention on what engages your senses.
- To synchronize your mind and body before starting your walk, take several deep breaths with eyes closed. Feel your breath moving your body and notice the sounds around you.
- Open your eyes and walk outside.
- Relax into your physical sensations. Whenever your mind drifts away from that awareness, take a breath and reconnect to your senses.
- Aimlessly wander for at least twenty minutes around your neighborhood or a park, with no particular route or goal in mind. Just go where you are drawn to in the moment.
- Be curious.
- Notice sensations as they arise and observe which perception is vivid enough to draw your attention. It might be the texture and color of a wall, music from a restaurant, or the scent of a flower, for example. Let curiosity be your guide, investigating further things that either attract or repel you.
- Whatever it is, spend a few minutes just appreciating your experience of it.
- Then let go. Return to the sensations of your body walking until a new sense perception piques your interest.
- There’s no need to hunt for the next perception. Just walk until you are drawn to something new.
- Let your impressions from the walk become the subject of a creative act when you return home.