desert pic
I‘ve written before about exercises designed to help you re-connect with your senses and with nature, most notably in my review of David Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous, which included this exercise:

I locate myself in a relatively open space — a low hill is particularly good, or a wide field. I relax a bit, take a few breaths, gaze around. Then I close my eyes, and let myself begin to feel the whole bulk of my past — the whole mass of events leading up to this very moment. And I call into awareness as well my whole future — all those projects and possibilities that lie waiting to be realized. I imagine this past and this future as two vast balloons of time, separated from each other like the bulbs of an hourglass, yet linked together at the single moment where I stand pondering them. And then, very slowly, I allow both of these immense bulbs of time to begin leaking their substance into this minute moment between them, into the present. Slowly, imperceptibly at first, the present moment begins to grow. Nourished by the leakage from the past and the future, the present moment swells in proportion as those other dimensions shrink. Soon it is very large, and the past and the future have dwindled down to mere knots on the edge of this huge expanse. At this point, I let the past and the future dissolve entirely. And I open my eyes…

When I commented that this exercise didn’t work for me, several readers were kind enough to send me exercises that had worked for them, or exercises that they, as yoga, meditation or other professionals or religious teachers, taught others. As anyone who has had the misfortune to watch me dance or swim can tell you, I’m a slow learner of things that require self-consciousness and coordination, and I’m also very easily distracted, so I tried these without success.

I recently discovered the blog of Canadian poet Feith Stuart, and the other day she published an exercise that she calls ‘sensualization’. Here’s how it works (I’ve edited it down a bit):

  1. Create sacred space. Sacred space is more a state of mind than an actual physical place. Turn off the phones, television, music. Make sure you wonít be interrupted. Light some incense if you donít find scent distracting. Light a candle, choosing a colour that feels right to you.
  2. Relax. Crucial and not so easy. Find a position thatís comfortable for you. Forget the instructions youíve been taught. Energy will flow as you will it, not in accordance to all the so-called rules. If youíre comfortable lying down, lie down. If youíre comfortable cross-legged or in lotus, so be it. Whatever feels best and most appropriate for you is most appropriate for you. Once you find the position you feel most comfortable in, let yourself remain in that position for a while without doing anything more. Begin to focus on your breathing. Donít worry about slowing it down or causing it to be more even. This will happen simply by virtue of the attention you pay to it. Breathe in and out until youíre feeling quite calm.
  3. Set Your Will. I call this third step ëgroundingí but you can call it whatever you like. When I say ëgroundingí I mean that Iím rooting myself in the head space Iíve chosen. Iím letting my mind in on whatever Iím about to do and Iím anchoring myself to the earth. You might call this ístating your intentí. You might say a prayer. However you wish to tell yourself that what it is youíre about to do will work. Continue breathing.
  4. Sensualize. Let yourself experience your intention in whatever way you can. Name it out loud if that helps. Donít force it. Be open to whatever way this intention wishes to come into your mind – as a smell, a taste, a sound, an image, or simply as a knowing. Keep breathing. Flesh it out. Make it louder or more intense. Pretend it into something you have no doubt you are experiencing in the moment, and when your inner nag tells you itís all bullshit, acknowledge that the inner nag thinks that, and keep going.
  5. Anchor The Intent: Use as many of your senses as you possibly can in this step. Declare that this thing, whatever it might be, is yours. Itís not on itís way, itís here. You arenít waiting because you already have it. Sensualize yourself as being in possession of it. Feel what it feels like in your body to have it. Taste success. Hear someone tell you that itís yours.
  6. Release The Intent: Let it go in as physical a way as you can. Blow it up into the heavens if you like, or send it through your palms and into the earth (my favourite way). Think about all the ways we make wishes – throwing pennies in wells, blowing out candles, etc. Use that ingrained habit to your advantage by incorporating it into your sensualization, surrendering your intention to a power bigger than you are, and it is a necessary step, so if you have trouble imagining a power bigger than you are, listen to thunder or gaze up at a mountain. Powers bigger than you are everywhere.
  7. Be Silent: Donít blather to everyone about what youíre doing. Write it down in your journal, and keep working on it until you see results, but keep hush.
  8. Make An Offering, an expression of gratitude, to whatever/whoever works for you. To the Gods, to the Earth, to your higher consciousness, to science, even. Offerings can be simple, or something especially meaningful to you, Give something of yourself.
  9. Act In Accordance: This is the most difficult step. Youíre going to find yourself arguing with yourself like a loony. Fake it until you make it in this case. Whenever you start doubting yourself, shift your focus. Start thinking about something else entirely. Remember what the little ritual releasing you did. Focus on that. Focus on the fact that the process is already underway. And then do something that will lead to your intention.

I confess I cheated in transcribing Feith’s prescription, removing the sections that struck me as a bit far-fetched, and trying to alter this from an all-purpose realization-of-desires exercise to one more specifically attuned to reconnecting with one’s senses and with nature. What I like about it is (a) it anticipates some of the problems most of these exercises seem to produce for me, and tells me how to get past them, and (b) it’s simple and free of pretense and new-agey jargon, yet very prescriptive, providing examples to clarify the instructions. I can’t say it has worked completely for me, but I’ve just tried it a couple of times, and I can see it working. It helps me imagine.

The ninth step is an act of affirmation, of confidence and optimism that what you are trying to achieve will succeed, has already begun to succeed. This is, of course, wishful thinking, but that doesn’t invalidate it. I have learned that really believing, really wanting something to happen brings about changes that tend to increase the likelihood of them happening. I remember nearly thirty years ago, having sent in 150 resumes trying for my first ‘real’ job after graduating, and getting only one interview, which was unsuccessful, I went directly and somewhat desperately from that interview to the main floor of the building, looked at the directory of other companies in that building, picked one, rode back up to the floor, walked in cold and asked the receptionist if I could speak to someone there about what it would take to get a job working for that company. Whether it was out of pity or respect for my determination, I got an interview with a senior partner who told me he liked my aggressiveness and advised me what I would need to learn to work there, and three months later I had six job offers in that industry. I picked the company that had been good enough to grant me the unscheduled interview, and worked there for 27 years.

Another believer in the power of wishful, positive thinking is Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams. In The Dilbert Future, Adams, one of the world’s greatest skeptics, devotes a whole chapter to the power of affirmations.

Let me know if it works for you.

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  1. Doug Alder says:

    What you have just described is, in essence, the practice of magick. It is a focussing of the will then setting it free and is done by both solitary practioners and groups. It is a very powerful technique.

  2. feith says:

    Yup. Magick. I actually wrote the article for a group of pagans who wanted to know how to practice magick without getting stuck at the ‘visualization’ stage.FYI, most practitioners of magick in this day and age recognize it as nothing more than a tool to kick our minds and wills into action – the art and science of changing consciousness in accordance with our will. In other words, all magick really is is teaching ourselves to believe we’ll see results before we see results.Since you had at my article, I was wondering if I could reclaim it with your edits? You made it very layman friendly and I appreciate it greatly. And by the way! It was a thrill to be in your blog. :)Feith Stuart

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