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Mindful : April 2017
Carolyn Gimian has been writing, editing, and teaching seminars about fear and fearlessness for the last 20 years. Her work was included in the anthology In the Face of Fear. She teaches seminars on the topic of “Smile at Fear,” including several she co- taught with Pema Chödrön. senses for granted. Mindfulness helps us connect more directly with sense perceptions, bringing us into the present. In mindfulness meditation, by sitting quietly and attending to our breath, we slow down. We aren’t dragged around all the time by our thoughts. Mindfulness in everyday life provides an opportunity to pay extraordi- nary attention to ordinary sounds, sights, tastes, smells, and touches, many of which we nor- mally overlook. Have you ever really heard your refrigerator? What does the paper in your office printer smell like? Have you noticed the bright red lipstick your coworker is wearing today? In modern urban life, we suffer from both sensory deprivation and sensory overload. The deprivation comes partly from the narrowing of our physical environment: we ride the same bus or subway every day to work; we sit at a desk, staring into a computer screen. At night, we go home and often stare into more screens. It’s no wonder we crave sensory experiences, seeking out the best coffee, vegetables, or olive oil while we take up gardening, knitting, or cycling, or we head to the gym or the bar after work. On the other hand, we are bombarded by the excessive sensory input that is part of urban life. Construction noise, bad air, traffic jams, crowds every where—we’re so busy going nowhere. No surprise that we also dream of a beach vacation with no agenda or drink ourselves into oblivion on the weekend. Politics, money, relationships, parenting, and jobs all create stress, and stress tends to deaden us and dull our perceptions. We can’t go on vacation every day or every week, so finding the space and the aliveness within everyday activities seems essential. This is where our senses can really serve us. With all the stresses and strains that we face, our senses can show us and support us in taking a more open and balanced approach to everyday life. These openings to the world are inexpensive. In fact, they freely transmit the beauty, power, and richness of the world. In times like these, let’s celebrate the senses.