We first learn about the world by putting it in our mouths—fingers, toes, mother's milk. By tasting we learn to distinguish that which nourishes from that which does not.
Assemble the ingredients for a simple, solitary meal. Choose fresh, unprocessed foods—perhaps a salad, cheese, bread and a piece of fruit. Think about the origins of each food—the long, marvelous journey from seed, mill or farm to your table. Sit down to your feast without any distractions and allow yourself to savor every mouthful. As Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh observes, we can see and taste the whole universe in a piece of bread.
Do a taste test. All you need is a blindfold and an assortment of foods or drinks. The summer before my husband and I were married, we did blind Champagne tastings every Friday night, in a highly scientific quest for the right bubbly at the right price. It was tough work, but someone had to do it. People who are certain they don't like, say, green apples often discover they rank the Granny Smith above the McIntosh in a blind tasting. Without the benefit of sight, our taste buds surprise us.
Hear A Pin Drop
We do our ears a great favor when we create a quiet space and then fill it with sounds of beauty. As Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield advises, "Take time every day to sit quietly and listen."
Give yourself the gift of music, not as a soundtrack for some other activity but as your sole focus. Choose a recording to reflect the day's mood or to evoke the mood you seek. Then lie back with your eyes closed and deliver yourself to pure sound.
Sit alone and close your eyes. Focus on the sounds around you and keep a mental list of everything you hear—an airplane making its way across the distant sky, the drone of traffic on a freeway a mile away, the leaves blowing outside an open window.
Stop and Smell the Roses...and Everything Else
Ask people which sense they could sacrifice and most choose smell; as senses go, this one seems relatively dispensable. But without one's ability to smell, many of life's simple pleasures dwindle or disappear. We are smelling all the time—it is part of breathing, eating, lovemaking; part of taking in the world and responding to the great potpourri of life. We often carry our most vivid memories in our noses. Haven't we all buried our faces in a lover's forgotten shirt, inhaled the sweet essence of a baby's scalp, been stopped short by the haunting scent of lilacs? Such fragrances unlock the storehouse of the mind.
Think about how you would like your house to smell. If it's cluttered with too many competing artificial aromas, throw out or give away products that don't please your nose. Introduce smells that are pure and natural, keeping the overall effect subtle. Instead of air freshener, try a scented candle. Put handfuls of fresh herbs into a pitcher of water. Open windows for at least an hour every morning; air out rooms and fill them with the clean scents of damp earth and freshly cut grass.
Let your nose lead the way on a sensory walk. Take a friend with you and see what good sniffers you are. Can you tell which neighbor is barbecuing chicken? Can you smell rain in the air before the first droplets fall? How far away is that pizza parlor? Humans can detect more than 10,000 odors. How many can you savor on your stroll?