Simple Acts of Calm: Softening the Senses
Our senses are for acquiring knowledge from the outside world. That knowledge is then filtered by the discriminative powers of our intelligence. But when our senses are constantly receiving incoming information without a break we get mental indigestion due to the mind being too full to digest and process information healthily.
Signs of a restless, over-stimulated mind include:
- aggravated dreams
- trouble settling down to sleep
- shallow, rapid breathing
- stress, tension, and even physical pain
Furthermore when we take in junk impressions such as violent movies and TV dramas we can disturb our minds and affect our emotional balance.
There was a time when life was quieter, slower and so we had time to breathe and time to think, but now everything is so fast and polluted by noise and images that we can easily become punch drunk and exhausted, the only time we get to process the impressions of our senses is while we sleep.
Entertaining the senses has become an addiction. People everywhere are constantly fiddling with phones or Facebook, as if we’ve forgotten how to be content with our own quiet company. Our senses are not everything, they serve the purpose of gathering information from outside world, but real perception and real pleasure happens internally. When we connect with our internal world we journey closer to who we really are, there is a beautiful sense of peace and awareness to be found in pressing pause.
For that to happen we need to learn to turn down the noise…
Yoga’s Forgotten Art
Pratyahara is the yogic practice of withdrawing the senses from their external diversions, it’s priceless for healing and resting the mind and for developing true introspection yet Ayurveda and Yoga expert Dr David Frawley has described pratyahara as the forgotten limb of yoga because it is rarely taught in classes.
Reigning in your senses doesn't mean cutting yourself off from the outside world, it means practicing healthy choices in what you feed your senses. Give them nature to see, smell and hear. Give your eyes a rest from computer and TV screens now and then, and your ears a break from noise whenever you can. This lifestyle adjustments alone will increase your sense of calm and help you develop a taste for relaxation.
In softening your response to external stimuli we learn to step back, breathe and observe. That simple shift in perspective gives you space to watch and witness and so you can become more thoughtful and less reactive. We reduce stress and anxiety by stepping away from the window to the rushing world outside and create a space to nurture thoughts of higher things.
How to Soften Your Senses
Taking a break from external stimuli doesn’t have to be something taught in a class. You can simply find somewhere quiet to sit, close your eyes and pay attention to your breath for 5-10 minutes. Try it morning and evening for a week and you will be surprised how rested and calm you feel.
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