Snow in April (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I chose to store all my winter coats away last weekend and, well, it appears my assessment of the arrival of spring was slightly premature. It has snowed not once but twice this week, which is unusual for where I live this time of year. There were a good few inches of snow, so it is sticking on the grass but is also melting quickly as the temperature is near freezing. The most enjoyable sensory experience I had as my dog and I walked around my yard was the fresh smell of green grass and snowflakes. Each breath was rejuvenating even if I’m craving a bit of sunshine and a bike ride. What part of nature did you enjoy today?

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?

Tasting and Smelling Delicious Food (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I am still sick with a respiratory illness but am hopeful that I am on the road to recovery. My sense of smell has been severely impacted and I’ve eaten meal after meal in which the only aspect of the food I could appreciate was its appearance and texture, because I could not taste anything. Today, some scents and flavors are getting through, so my lunch felt like an incredible luxury solely because I could enjoy more than how it looked!

I created a whole-wheat pasta dish with spinach, salmon and home-made pesto sauce. I started by cooking the pasta on one burner while I wilted the spinach on another in a cast-iron pan. After removing the spinach, I then pan-fried the center-cut salmon, skin-side down, in the cast iron. Finally, I toasted the pine nuts and then blended them with locally-grown basil, avocado oil and Parmesan cheese in my Vitamix (I am allergic to garlic but most people would add it in here). After sprinkling on a pinch of salt and a dash of oil, I served the dish in a large ceramic bowl I use for my more elaborate meals.

The creamy texture of the sauce, combined with my renewed ability to detect actual scents like basil and salmon, was so enjoyable. It makes me think of the tens of thousands of meals I’ve eaten in my lifetime and leads me to wonder how many of them I’ve scarfed down without any consideration or appreciation for being able to bring all of my senses to bear. A good meal is my quintessential simple pleasure. Have you cooked anything tasty in the last week? What’s your favorite or go-to lunch? Do you have any mealtime rituals that enhance your enjoyment of food?

Creature Comforts (Daily Works of Art)

Today’s card draw invited me to make art that would represent home. In contemplating this task, I was drawn to the idea of creating an atmosphere more than a visual representation. For me, the concept of home (not my childhood home but my ideal one) captures feelings of safety, ease and connection.

In attending to my senses, my sense of smell, touch and hearing were the ones that rose to the foreground (along with images of candles burning). Bread or cookies baking are cozy smells, but my physical health won’t benefit from having them circulating on a regular basis. I decided to purchase an oil warmer to gently fill my living space with calming and soothing scents. In regards to touch, I am contemplating textures such as a soft robe that I can add to my environment. In terms of sound, I want to find a cheap way to play relaxing music at all times (rather than having to use the same speaker I use for any media as I don’t own a television).

In sum, the concepts of ideal home and spa are apparently the same thing to me! I like the idea of thinking of art not simply as a visual experience, but also as something that incorporates all of my senses. I’ve been to a few parties lately and cannot believe how much my mood and comfort level shifts when the music starts blasting versus when there is only the hum of conversation. The atmosphere sets the scene and I often attribute my reactions solely to interpersonal dynamics I’m experiencing, instead of attending to how much the place and surroundings affect me. Hopefully, in noticing to the setting and viewing it as a way to represent a concept I crave deeply–home–I can then set the stage for fuller presence. What sensory experiences represent home (in terms of what you’ve like it to be) to you? What does home look like, smell like, feel like, taste like and/or sound like? What is one action you could take today to create it?

Experiencing a New Texture (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

I’ve created several card decks but I didn’t feel ready to try a new style other than my Simple Pleasures deck today! I’m struggling with my emotions and wanted to experience something familiar and comfortable. The card I pulled helped me hone in on a sensory experience that reconnected me to nature and to myself.

I chose to focus on the texture of a leaf. The leaf I chose was freshly shorn from the tree, so it was soft rather than brittle. It felt almost paper-thin, especially at the edges. The part that was most pleasant to touch was the stem which was tapered, smooth and came to an abrupt end where it had left the branch. Held in the palm of my hand, the leaf felt nearly weightless.

As I’d written in past weeks, touch is one of two senses (along with vision) that brings me the most joy, and my interaction with a piece of nature provided that for me today. I cannot get over how many sensory experiences I leave only to looking, instead of fully engaging with them through all of my body’s capacities. What was the last natural object that left an impression on you? Which textures do you enjoy experiencing in nature?

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?