Sensory Indulgence (In the Cards)

Today’s card encouraged me to contemplate which of my senses might need some extra pampering. The two that come to mind are my sense of hearing and my sense of touch. I have felt really over-stimulated lately in terms of noises, and underwhelmed in terms of my experience of touch.

Misophonia misery

I struggle with severe misophonia, which means that certain sounds (mostly those made by other people) trigger rage. I especially cannot sounds “mouth noises” like someone chewing or breathing noisily. My dog has been having bad skin allergies and therefore biting at himself and licking his paws. I took him to the vet but his medications are not fully kicking in yet. My insomnia has been partially caused by being unable to screen out the noises he’s making.

To engage in some self-care for this sense, I am going to put more effort into having soothing music playing when I’m relaxing, as well as taking a drive to the country at some point this weekend to get away from the hustle and bustle.

Touch Hunger

Because I have my dog, I don’t feel as much of a craving for touch as I have in the past. Between my PTSD, asexuality and germaphobia, sexual touch isn’t something I desire with anyone else. I do, however, have times where I’d like a hug or to be able to let my guard down and relax around others. I’m not fully certain how to get my needs met for this sense, but I think some simple actions like a foot bath or brushing my dog’s hair might help.

Which of your senses has been overworked lately? Which might be feeling neglected? Which acts of self-care do you find particularly beneficial for each sense?

A photograph of a card with a pomegranate drawing, a bronze meditation bowl with a wooden dowel, a small candle and a gray soapstone in the shape of a heart.

Honoring Each Sense (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

For today’s simple pleasure, I decided to create an altar to sensory experiences. Children are often encouraged to attend exhibits or engage with toys that stimulate each of their senses. As we age, I think we can easily become overly-reliant on one or two senses to the detriment of a full exploration of the world. Not only do our senses diminish with age, but we may experience unexpected life circumstances that reduce or eliminate a sense from our experience. Our sensory world is therefore ever-shifting, so I think that finding the sacred in it is a valuable experience.

I focused on visual, auditory, tactile and olfactory (smell) sensations for my altar. I left off gustatory (taste) and more complex brain-body interactions such as our vestibular system (sense of balance).

For my sense of vision, I included a drawing of a pomegranate tree. I liked this inclusion because it represents both vision in the outer world and the inner world of mentalizing required to create drawings. Vision is the sense on which I am over-reliant. I look much more than I listen or feel or taste or anything else. I would much, much rather read a set of instructions rather than have to hear someone explain something to me, because I can consume visual information much more quickly. Even though I view something, do I really see it?

For my sense of hearing, I included a meditation bowl that a friend gifted me. I appreciate that it can be used to create a short, high-pitched chime or, if the wooden dowel is run along the inner brim, to create a longer, deeper note. I would say hearing is a more difficult sense for me as I have a difficult time screening out or modulating any sounds that bother me. I have tinnitus as well which adds to my distress.

In relation to touch, I included a heart-shaped soapstone. It is cold, heavy and smooth, which is a combination of textures that I find calming. I use my sense of touch as a way to self-soothe quite often, and have to be careful about the amount of jewelry I wear as I am constantly playing with any rings or bracelets I have on. My tactile senses are generally a source of pleasure more than annoyance for me because of this.

The final sense I honored with my altar was smell. I included a beeswax candle and lit it as I complied my creation. Along with hearing, smelling is generally more unpleasant than pleasant for me. I hate “people smells” on the whole and become over-stimulated very quickly in perfume sections of stores. In part, I think I am sensitive to chemicals, and, in part, I have an extremely heightened disgust response which is easily triggered by any odors I deem unpleasant. Add in the occasional migraine and a low-smell environment is definitely more my speed. All that said, certain smells like fresh bread or cookies baking are delightful, and gentle scents like my candle refresh me.

The experience of creating my altar led me to re-examine my relationship with my perception of sensory information. So much of the rigidity with which I order my world as well as the anxiety I experience in public settings can be explained by my relationship with each sense. A smelly, loud environment is inevitably going to stress me out, and a visually and texturally-interesting one is going to draw me in. I absolutely loved going to the fabric store as a child, and now I know why! For yourself, to whatever extent you are able to use each sense, which ones bring you pleasure? How does this show up in your life?