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Ironically, contemporary society can make us crazy with too much stimulus—but you can use your five senses to deal with all that extraneous noise and calm your soul.
In the previous essay, we discussed how sight and touch can help we humans de-stress, and in this one we’ll look at the other outer senses, starting with:
For some reason, we associate smells with different times in our lives. The smell of cookies in the oven might take you back to happy moments in your childhood. It’s lovely to wake up to the smell of bread baking, or a breeze wafting the smell of blooming flowers through an open window. Delicious smells make us feel good. That is why realtors often have cookies baking when they have open houses!
There are many other scents that are also helpful—or harmful. The healing art of aromatherapy shows great promise for relaxation and vitality. Essential oils support physical and emotional well-being. The essential oil peppermint reduces fatigue. Lavender promotes relaxation and sleep. Rose oil can help with panic attacks. Rosemary oil stimulates memory and concentration. The sweet pine scent of the forest invigorates us. Smells can put us in a good mood, or when toxic can make us sick, so to lift your spirits, steer clear of noxious odors and surround yourself with fragrant ones whenever possible:
For the sense of sight, the sense of hearing, of taste, of smell, of touch—all these are discriminative faculties, their purpose being to separate the beneficial from whatever causeth harm. Now, is it possible that man’s sense of smell, the sense that differentiates odours, should find some odour repugnant, and that odour be beneficial to the human body? Absurd! Impossible! … Again, if the sense of taste, likewise a faculty that selecteth and rejecteth, be offended by something, that thing is certainly not beneficial; and if, at the outset, it may yield some advantage, in the long run its harmfulness will be established. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 155.
The sound of waves crashing on the shore mesmerizes us into blissful peace. The sweet songs of birds beside a rushing river calms and restores us. Listening to the patter of rain on a tin roof quiets our chattering thoughts. Listening to soothing music can even have a deep impact on the state of our soul.
Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical school found that the sounds of nature, even when reproduced by sound machines, brings increased well-being and stress relief. So if you can’t get outside, do the next best thing and listen to recordings of nature.
Yogis listen to the hypnotic mantra “om” to reach a meditative state. A wonderful speech inspires and elevates our spirits. One of the most powerful of sounds is music. Music therapy used in hospitals has been shown to greatly decrease depression and elevate mood. From “A Brain Boost by Listening to Classical Music: The Mozart Effect”, author Paola Bassanese writes, “‘The Mozart Effect’, is the study of how classical music stimulates the brain.” She goes on to cite evidence that listening to Mozart improves learning and memory. Inspiring music lifts our spirits and can elevate our condition.
The Baha’i teachings elevate the importance of music, saying that it is “the spiritual food of the hearts and souls:”
… singing and music are the spiritual food of the hearts and souls. In this dispensation, music is one of the arts that is highly approved and is considered to be the cause of the exaltation of sad and desponding hearts. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 378.
Lastly, our sense of taste is another of God’s priceless gifts. We all have experienced the delight of a delicious meal. When shared with loving friends, the pleasure is multiplied. I took this wonderful sense of taste for granted all my life. It wasn’t until I was unable to eat for a year due to throat cancer that I realized just how valuable this sense was. Then for some months after, when I was able to eat again, my taste buds were gone and everything tasted like plastic! Now that I’m cured I can tell you there’s no one that enjoys a good cup of coffee and a nice piece of dark chocolate more than me!
As with all the senses, all it takes is to lose it to realize what a very precious gift it was. So take time to enjoy all the delicious flavors and bounty at God’s table, share with friends and savor every bite!
The Baha’i teachings ask us to use our outer senses to the fullest—but to realize, as well, that we also have five inner senses we can utilize:
The inner powers are also five: the common faculty, and the powers of imagination, thought, comprehension, and memory. – Ibid., p. 318.
The common faculty communicates between the inner and outer powers. Use your imagination to visualize your every dream. Let good thoughts lift you up to the heights of glory and gladness, and allow your memory to calm your worried mind by recalling and comprehending that you are cherished unconditionally by a loving Creator.