Scent. Woman smelling flowers during a walk in the woods.

The Scent of Mindfulness—Follow your Nose

Smell is often the most undervalued sense.

For many of us, unless a scent is extremely strong, extremely pleasant, or extremely unpleasant, we don’t pay much attention to it. Even with our limited sense of smell (compared to many animals), there is a wide range of smells in the world that we can enjoy, that can provide information, and that can become another universe for us to explore.

There are many variants out there of the Five Senses Mindfulness exercise, in which the participant focuses on each of their five senses in turn. It’s a great exercise in mindfulness and a good starting point for being more mindful of our senses, but if we can expand this idea into our regular moment-to-moment mindfulness, it will result in whole new worlds opening up to us.

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Rhythm. Bongo Player.

Rhythm

We got the beat!

Rhythm is part of each of our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. Rhythm is defined as a strong, regular, repeated pattern of movement or sound. These regular patterns exist with us at all times—in nature, in our own bodies, in our creations, and in our constructed world. If we are musically inclined, we may notice them and—consciously or unconsciously—live our lives in time with them. Even when we don’t sense them or feel them, we tend to sync with them naturally.

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Food. Man having snack and drinking beer late night in front of the refrigerator.

Food

Man, I am starving!

You hear people with relatively affluent suburban lives saying this. Although it might mean that the person is actually hungry, it’s more likely that they just want some food, either because they’re looking forward to a meal, they’re thinking about a certain food, or they’re just bored.

Unfortunately, there are lots of people who are actually starving in the world.

Whenever my son says this, or something like this, I remind him that he’s not actually starving and ask him if he actually feels hungry. I ask him to pay attention to the signals his mind and body are sending him and to identify them intentionally. I also tell him that it’s OK to periodically be hungry. Maintaining a hungry feeling can be healthy—it can train us to not immediately start wolfing down food when we have that feeling. We’re not meant to be full all the time.

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Tired woman head down with coffee.

Tired

I’m totally exhausted!

Between my busy schedule and my tendency toward insomnia, I know what it feels like to be tired. Everyone feels tired from time to time. Being tired is part of life, and it’s natural to be tired: it’s our bodies signaling to us when we need to get some rest.

Many of us have a healthy relationship with being tired. We might overdo it on occasion, we might burn the midnight oil, we may have long days at the end of which we stretch and yawn and head for the sweet relief of a pillow, a fluffy comforter, and a dark room.

But for some, being tired is a permanent state. They never ever get enough sleep, and sleep deprivation is their new normal.

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Weather

When people talk about the weather, it’s often considered small talk. Something to talk about when you can’t think of anything else. When I talk about the weather, it’s because I’m excited about it. I enjoy talking about it. For many of us, weather is a significant part of our lives and our emotions.

People have different relationships to the weather. For some, the weather is directly related to their livelihoods; they pay attention to it religiously, but for purely practical reasons. They need rain for their crops to grow. They need calm weather to fish. For others, certain weather conditions are necessary for something they’re passionate about, and when they get those conditions, they love that weather because it gives them the opportunity to do what they love. Weather can bring back memories—memories of relationships, memories of experiences. For some, their relationship to the weather is purely emotional. Certain weather conditions create a direct emotional response.

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