How to Make the Most of the Moment by Engaging Every Sense
A PRODUCTION BY JAN INNOVATION STUDIO
We’re always told to live life to the fullest, to take time to smell the roses, and to always pursue la dolce vita. The sweet life. But somehow, it always feels just that little bit out of reach, like it only belongs to glamorous Italians who have somehow managed to live a life resembling something out of a Fellini film. That inborn joie de vivre so inherent in Italian culture can be elusive to some, but by engaging with our senses more – by slowing down long enough to enjoy every nuance of the moment – a life of passion, mystery and beauty in equal measure may be right under your noses.
Beyond the buzzword, mindfulness is a way of life that subscribes to paying attention to the moment without thinking about the past or future, and to look at ourselves without judgment. Japanese tea ceremonies, for instance, are associated with the phrase ichi go ichi e, which roughly translates to “each moment occurs only once.” The purpose of the ceremony is to focus only on drinking tea and to be in harmony with the people around you while being aware of every sense.
How we engage with our senses is entirely up to us. Whether connecting with ourselves through formal rituals or surrendering to the elements in moments of wild abandon, achieving a meditative state is so personal and unique to who and what we are. But in the end, we all engage with the world through our senses. And in that way, we are all alike. Understanding each sense, then, can help us understand how to live a more beautiful life.
Often considered to be our primary way of engaging with the world, our skin is our largest organ, and the most exposed to the elements. Exposing our skin to nurturing sensations – the warmth of early morning sunlight, the enveloping power of a wave, or the cool caress of the breeze – awakens all our senses by distracting us from the entanglement of thoughts in our heads, drawing us into the moment.
Even at night, we’re surrounded by light, atomic-sized photons that have travelled across the universe at incomprehensible speed since the beginning of time. But they only become perceptible to us when they enter our eyes through our pupils. When they reach our retinas, they spark a jolt of electricity that our brain transforms into an image. Our sense of sight is so automatic that we often forget to savour it, but in appreciating the small details – the way the light catches the water, how a ray of sunshine refracts through a window to project shadows against the wall, or how a wisp of cloud scatters the light into a soft glow – we get a newfound appreciation for what it means to be alive.
It starts with the eyes. Our collected memories give us a sense of how something will taste even before it reaches our tongue, where 10,000 taste buds turn whatever we eat or drink into emotion. It’s that complex network of feelings that shapes our relationship with food, but taste also lies at the core of our survival.
There’s the old philosophical conundrum that poses the question, if a tree falls in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it, did it make a sound? Of course, if there is no ear to hear it, the vibrations of that falling tree would never have been transformed into sound, remaining only vibrations. The same can be said of a wave crashing, the quiet spritz emanated from a bottle of perfume as it is released into the atmosphere, or the gentle fizz of a refreshing cocktail. Take it all in, listen to its subtleties, and let its rhythms synchronise with your own.
So closely connected to our sense of taste, you could argue that our sense of smell brings us into our present moment more than any other sense. It colours in the experience through something that happens internally and therefore feels closer to us somehow. Through smell, we literally breathe in the environment as tiny particles enter our nostrils, giving us clues about our surroundings. Smell is often the least valued sense, but what we seldom realise it that it protects us from danger, like gas leaks, but it also stimulates our appetites, enhances taste and conjures memories.
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