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It’s been a hard day, or even a hard week. You need some down time, some meditative relaxation—but your mind won’t shut off!
That happens because modern culture presents us, during every available second, with so much incoming sensual stimuli. We’re constantly bombarded with images, sounds, tastes, smells and tactile sensations—which makes it hard to disengage and detach, to find even a moment when the mental bombardment stops.
So here’s a suggestion: resolve, whenever possible, to take some time to yourself to quiet your mind and rejuvenate your spirit. The result will bring greater awareness, enlightenment and happiness. Choose whichever method speaks to your soul—prayer, meditation, a walk in nature, or just sitting peacefully in a silent place—but resolve to give your mind and spirit a respite from all that distracting stimulus.
This might surprise you, though: your five senses actually hold one of the most important keys to deep relaxation and peace of mind. We’ll start with:
Our eyesight—one of the most treasured senses our loving Creator gave us—allows us to observe the natural world in all its forms, which can have a great calming effect. For example: flowing water, which symbolizes spiritual cleansing and rebirth, can mesmerize us. When we watch the crashing of the waves from a turquoise ocean or the crystal blue water running in an undulating river, it instantly puts us at ease. Marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, in his book Blue Mind, postulates that we all have a “blue mind – a mildly meditative state characterized by calm, peacefulness, unity and a sense of general happiness and satisfaction with life in the moment.”
For many people, being near water triggers this “blue mind” state. The sight of majestic mountains and trees can have the very same effect. Nature, in all its glorious beauty, somehow calms the human soul, as the Baha’i teachings point out:
In nature we see the miracle of God’s handiwork, and at the same time realize we are a part of it. So if you want to decompress and de-stress, get out in nature, look into the far distance and gaze on the exquisite wonder of creation. I promise you will feel better.
Our tactile sense or sense of touch can bring us tranquility. When you swim your entire body is lightened as it is bathed and buoyed with refreshing water. Hot baths can ease stiffness and restore sore muscles. Stroking your cat or dog is proven to help people slow down and relax, and even lowers blood pressure. Massage is well known to reduce tension, promote healing and help us unwind. Touch from those we love has extra healing power because we add on elements of compassion, trust and love.
More recently science has discovered that creating art and the simple act of coloring has a calming effect on our brains. This activity incorporates both touch and sight. When we focus on creating something beautiful, we concentrate on our art and not our worries. Psychologist Gloria Martínez Ayala said, in reference to coloring, “The relaxation that it provides lowers the activity of the amygdala, a basic part of our brain involved in controlling emotion that is affected by stress.” Who knew that we were actually decompressing when we decorated our coloring books as children!
These kinds of tactile activities can help us slow down and get back in touch—you’ll pardon the pun, I hope—with our inner reality. The Baha’i teachings say that all of the human senses are gifts from God, and that we should use those gifts in ways that allow us to understand beyond what only our senses will allow. Like the sense of touch—which involves every cell in our bodies—we can perceive far more than the localized senses will ever permit:
Every one of these gifts is an undoubted evidence of the majesty, the power, the ascendancy, the all-embracing knowledge of the one true God—exalted be His glory. Consider the sense of touch. Witness how its power hath spread itself over the entire human body. Whereas the faculties of sight and of hearing are each localized in a particular center, the sense of touch embraceth the whole human frame. – Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, pp. 194-195.