awakening the senses

Posted on Aug 23, 2010

One of the things I have loved about living in Europe is that I have discovered an experience of the world from the neck down. When I lived full-time in the US, I spent most of my time in my head, thinking about life instead of living. When I arrived in the South of France, the colors, the sun, the architecture, the natural environment, the food all colluded to awaken my senses, and I found a new way to experience my world directly, through my body rather than just my mind. Now, I move frequently between France, the US and the UK; and I am discovering myself through their different effects on me.

This week I am in England, the land of perpetual rain, cricket, the country inn and the local pub. In the UK, my body craves comfort, seeking shelter from the cold and wet. I notice that I eat and drink more in England; the cold, damp British climate seems to make my body crave more.

The shelter of the British pub is comforting on a cold, wet August evening. The friendly ambiance, filling brew, and hot heavy fare is the stuff that comfort is made of here. Maybe that’s why the British pub is the heart and soul of the social life of England.

According to The Guardian DataBlog, the British Beer and Pub Association counts some 52,000 pubs in the UK today. It is a tradition deeply rooted in the moist, rich soil of British life. Sidewalks are abuzz on Friday nights with people walking to and from their local pub, and it is not uncommon to stop there every night.

If the UK’s heartbeat is the pulling of pints, today that heartbeat is slowing. According to the BBPA, some 9,000 British pubs have closed their doors in the past 10 years, twice the number as the previous 10 years. I hate to see the British pub in decline, but the numbers make me question what we’re all doing there.

I am a cheap date, I am told, because I do not hold my liquor very well. While others might drink five or six pints in a night, a glass or two of wine is usually my limit. Still, two glasses of wine have an effect on me. In addition to the quantity it adds to my daily intake of calories, I notice that too much alcohol dulls my senses. I feel less. I feel less well, I feel less myself, and I just feel less.

Last night I conducted a little experiment. Yesterday had been a tough day; I did not feel well in my skin, as I like to describe it. The world, even in moments of bright sunshine, felt dull. I could not seem to get going. I could not see or feel the everyday miracles in my world. So, last night I drank a half a glass of wine with dinner instead of two.

This morning, I stepped out of bed into my usual routine: yoga, meditation, journaling and morning tea. As I took each step in my morning ritual, I began to notice that I feel different. I feel my connection with the world, and ideas are flowing through me again. So, this morning, I am thinking about drinking less.

For me, the senses are my direct link to my experience of the world. They are beautiful, wondrous, miraculous pathways to the life force that flows through us all. The mind, through the thoughts it produces about life, puts us at least one step out of the flow of life itself. But our senses can put us right back into the bright, colorful, glorious Now. Why would I want to dull them?

England always impresses me with its warm welcome, its gentle smile, its courteous reply. The more time I spend here, the more I appreciate its people. Whenever I’m in England, I look forward to the warm blessings of English life I experience in the pub. But today I will do my best to enjoy its comforts mindfully, respecting the senses I have awakened in France and the mind I have developed in the US.

Just for today, whatever your rituals for living – yoga, walking, meditation, cooking, even enjoying a glass of wine – practice them mindfully. Allow them to awaken your sensual connection with Life. Feel the pleasure of Life flowing through you. There’s nothing like it in the world!

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