Mind your Senses

When we look at health and sickness from an Ayurvedic point of view we learn the importance of our diet, how we digest our food and how our daily routine influences our vitality and resilience in life. Ayurveda also helps us understand the real root cause for how we become out of balance in all the above factors.

It is unique in its recognition of the five senses –sound, touch, sight, taste and smell - describing how their incorrect use is the most profound cause for dis-ease in our minds and bodies. Our senses are the media through which we take in knowledge of our environment. Our first point of contact with all substances and experiences is our senses and depending how we use them we may be nourished, depleted or agitated by this contact.

Our senses are guided by an innate intelligence that is naturally protective. If an aeroplane flies very low over our heads we will instinctively cover our ears protecting them from the loud sound of the engines. When we are young children we hide behind the sofa or cover our eyes when we see something frightening or disturbing. However as we grow more confident in the world many of us chose to be more adventurous in our sensory contact and ignore our protective instincts. We may get into the habit of over use of either all our senses or use one predominantly. We take in excessive sensory stimuli when we listen to music very loud, eat too much chocolate, watch TV or movies for long periods, work on the computer or surf the internet for hours, talk excessively or are forever with our head in a book. Insufficient use of our senses can also be very depleting. Many of us are affected by the shorter hours of light during the winter. Solitary confinement has long been a powerful means of torture and punishment because of the very disturbing effect sensory deprivation has on the mind and will. Our health is also disturbed by sensory contact with experiences that are morally or emotionally repugnant. The effect of watching violent and pornographic scenes on TV, whether it is in films or on the news, is now being widely recognised as detrimental to our mental well-being. Post traumatic stress is another instance where the equilibrium of the mind and body are disturbed by distressing sensory contact.

How we use our senses is a direct reflection of how we use our intelligence or will. When we fail to follow our innate intelligence or knowingness Ayurveda describes this as “prajnaparadha”. This is the weakness that leads us to do actions that we actually know are detrimental in some way but we continue with them anyway. Modern society encourages and places much emphasis on satisfaction of all our senses. We are constantly urged by advertising to reward our hard work by indulging in some type of sensory experience be it eating, drinking or watching all 8 episodes of Friends in one session! Ayurveda helps us understand why ultimately though we are left unsatisfied by this kind of sensory contact and shows us the experiences that really nourish our mind, body and soul. The first step to health and long lasting happiness is to realise that we are fed not only by edible substances but through everything we hear, see, touch and smell. Just through paying attention to what we feed our senses we can both understand our current situation and improve our health and joy for life. Enjoy fresh and lovingly cooked foods, take walks in nature, share the company of good friends, watch a sunset, read something inspirational, give a massage and experience the profound satisfaction of well-fed senses!

Written by Laura Shakeshaft

Laura Shakeshaft is co-founder of Essential Ayurveda and runs a clinic in Lincolnshire providing Ayurvedic consultations and treatment combined with various bodywork techniques. She is particularly interested in researching and incorporating ‘Kaumarabhratya’ the branch of Ayurveda concerned with women’s health, pregnancy and childcare. For more information on Ayurveda and to browse our online shop please visit www.essentialayurveda.co.uk