Coming to Our Senses
Last night, returning from San Francisco to the rural environment of Occidental, I was struck by the silence. The night was cool, stars crowded the sky and the land was perfectly quiet. I felt like I’d dived into a pool of darkness — refreshing and still. For the first time in days my senses came alive.
Thinking about this later, I realized that nothing has changed the nature of human beings so much as the loss of silence. And with it, the loss of fundamental mechanisms that have oriented us throughout history. For most of human history, we have depended on our sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch to navigate and make “sense” of our world. But as we have moved away from a reliance on our senses to provide the information we need, the mind has become our sole source of guidance.
Instinctively recognizing the danger in this, we’ve attempted to stimulate our senses. Music has become louder and more jarring, movies more violent, food increasingly over-spiced. But rather than being awakened, our senses are increasingly deadened by this overload.
What is needed is not more but less. Less stimulation, less activity, less doing.Just as a plant needs a season of rest in order to sprout new shoots, each of us need periods of stillness in order to grow. In that stillness, our nervous system replenishes itself and our senses come back to life. As our senses regain their rightful place, we’ll come to discover a fuller range of our abilities and access a knowledge that is intuitive and body-based rather than solely mental. In short, we’ll become fuller and more whole.