Nancy Conger, CPCC

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Sensuous Spirituality

Is there any spiritual experience that does not come through the senses? Think about it: you have an intuitive flash--accompanied by a visceral "punch" in the stomach. You experience a moment of profound spiritual bliss-- and a vibrating sense of well-being floods your body. You have a psychic blast--you "saw" something before it happened. On this earthly plane our spirits and bodies are entwined. To fully experience our soul, we must embrace our senses.

Your senses feed you information both from outside, such as sounds and scenes and textures, and from the inside, such as heart beating, blood rushing, or stomach growling (plug your ears and hear the great booming going on inside you)! By tuning more acutely into your senses, you increase your spiritual power. You become more sensitive to spiritual messages.

Great spiritual practices intimately involve the senses. For example, in some forms of meditation one absorbs every detail in the surroundings. In the sweat lodge, heat facilitates spiritual cleansing. Mantras create sound and vibrations in one's head and chest. The smoke of incense or sage pleases the eyes and nose. Many practices involve the body at large, such as twirling Sufi dancing, yoga's Sun Salutation and the stand/sit/kneel/sign of the cross sequence of Catholic mass. Taste may be involved, as in Holy Communion at Christian services or bitter herbs at Jewish Passover. And of course, music is integral to spiritual experience. Clearly, the senses are vital to fully accessing our spirituality.

Improve your senses

You can physically improve some of your senses, such as smell, touch, balance, vision and taste. Others like hearing and the magnetic sense (that which allows dowsers to find water, and lost people to find home) cannot be physically improved, but through increased awareness can effectively feed you more information.

Gratefulness is essential

The first step in improving sensuality is to be thankful for your senses and amazing body. Appreciate that you are as much a being of the Earth as of the stars. Many spiritual seekers denigrate the body or see it as a blockade to higher realms, a "lesser" part of our being. This attitude is a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is impossible to truly feel that we belong in the universe until we embrace our natures as physical and spiritual creatures. Bless the senses as the pathways through which you experience everything in this lifetime. They are a link to the divine.

Intention is next

Desiring greater awareness improves sensuality. You may savor the tang of raspberry juice. Listen to the musical drop of water into the sink. Close your eyes and experience the rushing of wind in your ears. This focus will immediately seem to improve your senses, when all you have done is begun to pay more attention.

Exploration stretches sensual boundaries

To tune your senses to even higher awareness, follow your curiosity. Senses must be explored and challenged to keep improving. Explore a little right now: Feel the coarseness of the paper in your hands. Smell the page. Now shake the paper and hear its different sounds. Touch your tongue to the page and notice the taste and texture (and how funny you look!). Now think of one more way to experience this paper through your senses.

Exploration is harder because it's more obvious. People may notice you doing unusual things, such as listening closely to the clicking as you stir noodles, or holding your coffee mug up to watch curls of steam. But it is in these moments of exploration and wonder that you become open to spiritual experience. Remember as a child how a ladybug crawling over your hand transported you to awe? You can regain this spiritual sense of wonder by embracing the millions of simple and holy things all around you. Smell your food, feel a stone building, rub bare feet on the carpet, add green herbs to a dish, or touch the skin of one you love.

Practice keeps you improving

Random exploration is great---but intentional, repeated exercises are key to expanding your sensory awareness. For example, 50% of the population cannot smell one of the main human hormones that we emit, but with daily practice, half of those developed the ability to smell it. Many people find there are foods they don't like, yet by always sampling a tiny bit of everything--even things you don't like---you eventually "teach" your tongue to enjoy a wider realm of flavors.

Embracing the brilliance of the senses is embracing every aspect of life. It's living fully as a physical and spiritual being. Improving and enhancing these capabilities is key to accessing our higher selves. Enjoy this divine and sensual journey!

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