A day of PLAYFULLY-DELICIOUS PLEASURES
AWAKENING and DELIGHTING the SENSES
At a recent conference that brought together University research lecturers and therapists, the key speaker (Bob Duggan) spent some time talking about how so many people deaden their senses through their life-style and dietary choices. Coincidentally, I had a workshop coming up which was exactly about awakening and enjoying our senses and sensitivity more consciously. The more we develop our fine-sensing, the better we recognise what is or is not beneficial for us because we connect with our innate wisdom, rather than making decisions based purely on habit.
It can be a lot of fun using experiential exercises to explore all the senses. There’s also some serious learning to be had that is a vital aspect of healthy relating. As you become increasingly sensitive to your own likes and dislikes you’ll want to express them in ways that feel good and honest and reflect your own truth IN THAT MOMENT. It's about mindfulness. It's about being an attentive listener - to your inner self as much as to the other person - and responding appropriately. When you’re clear about your boundaries and you know they’ll be accepted and respected that allows a feeling of safety which in turn allows you to relax and enjoy more deeply the deliciousness of your senses. Safe sensuality brings us alive and is deeply nourishing!
How to deaden your senses
- Trauma or hurt
- Causing an emotional barrier
- Processed and junk food
- Lack of exercise
- Stress, overwhelm, time-pressure
- Drugs (including medication)
- Alcohol, Coffee
- Pessimistic attitude and ‘negative’ emotions
- Resistance to change
How to bring your senses/yourself alive!
- Healing therapies
- Fresh, high- life-force foods and drinks
- Movement and a well-oxygenated body
- Relaxation, reflection/meditation
- Nature Optimism, feeling loved and accepted
- Open to change
Blindfolding or just closing your eyes is a great way to heighten sensitivity to touch, smell and taste as well as encouraging greater acuity of hearing.
Exercises to awaken the senses have to be tailored to the experience of participants, how comfortable each person is with touch, showing and sharing feelings, therapeutic awareness etc. In my last group I had to juggle and adapt the exercises to suit someone who was very cautious (initially) and had no experience of group work, while another participant was an experienced course leader himself. It’s a special pleasure to see shy participants (such as the one just mentioned who was doing this type of thing for the first time) courageously risk, trust and open to the process. As everyone builds up their sense of safety they allow themselves increasingly to receive the deep heart-nourishment of no-agenda, non-sexual intimacy, of enjoying our natural sensuality in a straight-forward, down-to-earth way. That’s something that is so much needed as our world of outgoing busy-ness takes us away from connection to our deeper selves.
Do you find it easier to give or to receive?
The pinnacle of the day is a half-hour lie down (receiver) while the giver – in a fully-present, heart space - slowly and sensitively provides a journey of the five senses. I love to observe the attentiveness of the giver and to sense the surrender into pleasure of the receiver. One participant described (after that exercise) how freeing it was for her as recipient to not feel obliged to take care of or please the giver. She could allow herself to be 100% in the experience. I’d also noticed how her giving was an act of total devotion which drew out her creativity and heightened sensitivity. It contributed greatly to the opening and healing of ‘her’ recipient.
Unconditional love flows in the room as givers give while receivers feel free to uninhibitedly enjoy the focused, no-demands/no-expectations attention. This delicious experience provides various levels of nourishment way beyond tastes, textures, sounds and smells. The mind chatter is stilled; the satisfied heart and spirit are at peace. All this is possible because we began with exercise structures to establish a sense of safety.
TRUST is a pre-requisite for RELAXATION which is a pre-requisite for ENJOYABLE heightened sensitivity! So, the group starts with communication exercises to build up trust; it’s not just the usual getting to know each other, it’s also about getting to know yourself better and how you feel in relation to each other participant. We naturally feel drawn to some people more than others. We all know that it’s easier to feel open-hearted to someone we trust and love than it is to someone unknown who scowls at us. Nobody has to do anything they don’t want to do and I strongly encourage authenticity in communication. Partner exercises are structured so that you feel confident to ask for the kind of touch (for example during a shoulder massage) that is exactly right for you, from that person who is giving it, and according to how you (and they) feel in that moment.
It’s a wonderful phenomenon how our feelings toward a person (or situation) change as we get to know them, taking us perhaps from critical judgement initially to compassionate understanding, then later on to open-hearted acceptance.
We do not have to be consistent – how often is non-consistency a complaint, especially from guys about women! – but actually there’s a bubbling up of joyful freedom that comes once any of us accept our changeability. As we become more in tune with our truth/needs/wishes in each moment and allow ourselves and others more acceptance and flexibility, we are released from self-imposed limitations. The Delighting the Senses workshop is an opportunity to observe your conditioned responses and playfully let go of some of your established behaviours which may be based on pleasing others rather than being your authentic self. Most of us learned early on in life that certain tactics, words and behaviours bring (a risk of) rejection and punishment while others result in people approving of, liking or loving us. However, it is often at the expense of suppressing or twisting our genuine feelings. I remember a time in my own life when I didn’t even know what I’d like; why? Because I’d become so highly attuned to feeling into what others wanted and pleasing them that that had priority over my own wishes. I was unhappy and suffered periodically from depression because I was ‘killing’ the connection to myself, Source and my natural ‘joie de vivre’.
How often are we fearful of being totally honest, perhaps with low self-worth due (partly, at least) to not having been heard/listened to, seen or acknowledged enough in the past, and maybe still now? To bring healing and to feel safe enough to let go of this past programming, I believe we need to:-
- Experience healthy relating and communication skills that leave all parties feeling accepted and acknowledged in our differences and similarities, whether it’s about physicality, feelings or viewpoints. Let’s practice letting go of being right or wrong.
- Step out of an unconscious victim mentality,
- Embrace self-responsibility, which brings with it a realisation of empowerment.
Soooo, although a day of playfully delicious pleasures may sound – and in many ways IS - fun and light-hearted, it is actually a taster day into something with a great deal more depth and potential, especially for anyone new to the concept of self-responsibility (by which I mean releasing ‘blame’ and replacing it with ‘taking charge of your life’ in a way that comes from a sense of connection to yourself and your heart-wisdom).
Who attends a Delighting the Senses workshop?
It may be first-timers who are curious to explore new ideas combined with an easy, relaxed day. Other participants may or may not be familiar with the idea of conscious communication, but are more or less comfortable with touch, sensitive self-expression etc. Most are there to ‘stock up’ on the Feel-Good factors that come from authentic connection, heart-nourishment, fun and laughter.
There may also be touching moments of recognition of our inter-connectedness; vulnerability and tenderness may be prompted by the clear-boundaried environment in which every person experiences being respected and honoured in their differing needs. We may also experience that strange paradox of how allowing ourselves to feel and express more can actually support us in becoming stronger and clearer in our core Being.
This workshop could be seen primarily as a mindfulness exercise that playfully and consciously explores the senses, or as an antidote to fear on some level or as a step on the road towards answering the deep yearning for spiritual connection within the context of human relationships. For me, it’s about the pleasure of being human with the ability to immerse ourselves in sensations and savour our sensuality; it leads me to the joy of Let-go, surrendering to that place of Presence, of One-ness…….and gratitude!
About the author: Jacqueline Kareh is a health detective and holistic health practitioner with many years’ therapeutic and meditation experience. Her joy is to provide an environment and self-empowering ‘tool-kit’ which allows others to heal, thrive and blossom. As well as working with individuals, Jacqueline regularly runs groups such as Detox & Holistic Weight Loss, Delighting the Senses, and Soul Inspiration.