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Pave Your Path to Relaxation With the Five Senses Meditation

Five Senses Meditation
Take advantage of your portals unto the world. Instead of shutting down the senses, send one into overdrive to reach a state of bliss.
WellnessKeen Staff
Last Updated: Apr 9, 2018
Traditional meditation techniques rely upon turning off all sensory input to focus your attention more fully in the mind. This tried-and-true technique is effective, but it can take quite a bit of training to learn to let the internal noise go - our minds are used to concentrating, and beginners especially may find themselves fighting intruding thoughts so hard that they never reach a real meditative state. Not so relaxing, really.

Meditation doesn't always have to be about enlightenment or achieving nirvana - if you're simply using it as a relaxation technique, you may find that it's easier to reach a state of calm by focusing on a single sensation. This is where your senses come in.

Sense-based meditation is best when you focus on the input from a single sense - if you've ever meditated to music or on a mandala, you understand. Allowing yourself a source of highly controlled input makes it easier to quiet everything else, and the path to relaxation becomes paved with grass rather than boulders.
Sight
Woman concentrating during meditation
Mandalas are familiar visual cues, intended to guide your mind down the path toward your soul, but they are by no means the only visual meditation cue. Try a flickering flame, a beautiful view, or even a piece of art. The only requirement is that the scene is relatively still. A city street, for example, offers way too many distractions.
You could choose a particular spot on the street to focus on, and you may even find a sort of serenity while staring at a single, unchanging part of the bustling whole, but it takes a pretty trained mind to stay focused in that kind of situation. Keep movement small, subtle, and to a minimum for best results.
Sound
Woman meditating in nature
Meditating to music can takes different forms. It may be a quiet background accompaniment meant to drown out external noise, or it may be a huge aural input, meant to guide you down a certain path. Music isn't the only auditory input choice - a gentle rain shower or thunderstorm, a waterfall, and crashing waves are all rhythmic enough to provide stimulation without distraction, but irregular noises work too. Sit in the garden and listen to the sounds of nature.
If you live in the city, listen to the distant sounds of traffic. As your focus narrows the deeper you go, all these sounds eventually devolve into their own unique rhythm.
Scent
Woman meditating in good fragrance
Aromatherapy is based on the notion that certain scents can bring about certain feelings - if you've ever had a lavender oil massage, you know this to be true. Experiment with the enormous array of scent vehicles to see what sorts of feelings arise. Simmer scent oils on a burner or dab some on your clothing. Place incense around the room - Nag Champa is famous for being conducive to spiritual exploration.
Naturally-occurring scents have a special charm of their own, and made more poignant by their impermanence. Smell the fresh-cut grass, or meditate in the middle of a pine forest. Take a meditation break while your pie is baking, and allow your reverie to deepen as the aroma from the oven grows stronger.
Touch
The fact that our sense of touch is closely connected with our moods is well-documented, and touch-based meditation makes it clear. The trick is to funnel your entire conscience through your fingertips and truly experience whatever it is you're touching.
It's important to choose an inanimate object to avoid distractions - although stroking your child or pet may be enormously relaxing at other times, it is the patient child or pet indeed who will sit still enough for a distraction-free meditation session. Think more along the lines of silk scarves, nubby blankets, coarse weaving, or even outdoor choices like damp earth, flower petals and dried leaves.
Taste
Woman meditating with tea
Taste-based meditation is the most difficult to do distraction-free, but it can be very rewarding if you plan correctly. Most tastes last only for a short period before we have to replace the taste in our mouth. The constant hand-to-mouth motion is very distracting, so choose something that you can hold in your mouth for the entire session. Chewing gum works, but chew rhythmically for best results. Hard candy can work, or a liquid with a lingering taste, like mouthwash, wine or cream.
Tea is said to be a great meditation aid, but the taste doesn't linger - place a cup at face-level, and use an elbow straw. Meditate with your mouth on the straw and allow a slow, steady stream of tea to pass through your lips and down your throat.
Overall, you can find serenity wherever you seek it. But having a few tricks up your sleeve helps you get there quicker, in any state of mind.