Drop anchor into the sea of now through mindfulness and the senses.
Busy mind. Tired body. Feeling unfocused and sometimes overwhelmed. Sound familiar?
Our busy lifestyles and overstimulating environment mean that we’re always on the go and there’s always something to do – there’s precious little time just to slow down and be.
There’s a saying oft used in yoga: Where your attention goes your energy flows.
If your attention is flitting around all over the place between past, present & future; getting lost in the past; fretting about the future; or judging and wanting to change what’s going on now, then your energy is going to feel diffuse and scattered – no wonder you’re tired and feeling confused!
But you don’t have to feel lost and out of control.
I’d like to remind you that we all have five things which are always available to us to bring us home; to drop anchor into the sea of now.
We can only ever truly experience our senses in the present moment.
We can’t experience a beautiful sunset which we saw a week ago (we can remember it, which is a very different experience).
We can’t smell or taste the meal we’re going to eat tonight, until that moment arrives of cooking and eating it.
Experiencing our senses only ever occurs NOW.
Remembering this is a powerful way for us to help ourselves when we’re feeling overwhelmed by events, thoughts or our emotions.
Just as a ship’s anchor keeps it safely moored into its harbour no matter what gales blow or choppy waters it is anchored in, our senses can provide that anchor too, to help us regain or retain equilibrium when the winds of change are blowing, or the choppy waters of strong emotions such as anger, grief, regret or fear are churning us up.
The sea of now
It’s really very simple – we just have to remember to do it!
So, make it a daily practice. Spend a few moments each day and focus on each of your senses in turn to come out of your head and into this moment:
- What can I see? Just look around you and notice the colours, shapes and textures of what you can see in your immediate environment.
- What can I hear? What sounds are coming and going? Just listen, without judgment.
- What can I smell? What scents are there? Food, perfume, plants. Just experience the scent without labelling or judging.
- What can I taste? Is there any particular taste in your mouth at the moment? If there’s no taste, just notice that.
- What can I physically feel / touch? Notice the temperature of the air on your skin, and where your body is in contact with the chair or ground. Feel into these physical sensations. Just stay with the raw physical sensation without judging or naming.
How does that feel?
Do you feel more present?
There’s a technique in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) called “Anchoring”. (NLP is a bit like the user manual for your brain helping you to get in charge of your thoughts & feelings.)
Anchoring is used to induce a particular frame of mind or emotion, such as happiness or relaxation. It usually involves a touch, gesture or word as an “anchor”. You use and reuse it and your brain then begins to make an automatic connection between that act or word and the state you’ve associated with it.
It’s a bit like the feeling you get when you lie down for your relaxation at the end of your yoga class. Over time your brain has been trained to know what’s coming. So the simple act of lying down on your yoga mat can start to induce the relaxation state.
The senses can help us to create anchors to deal with overwhelm, stress and anxiety. Listening to a particular piece of music which calms us; or looking at a picture of a place or person which makes us feel content and happy.
But there’s one sense which is particularly powerful.
The sense of smell.
It’s the only sense which is directly linked to the part of the brain (the amygdala) responsible for emotions, memory and survival instincts: it’s responsible for tagging events with emotions – creating a deep and strong unconscious memory.
It’s why the sense of smell seems to, uniquely and strangely, take us straight back to an event or memory in a visceral way. A smell can take us straight back to childhood. The strong smell of tomatoes-on-the-vine takes me straight back to my nan’s greenhouse where she grew tomatoes!
So, we can use this to our benefit.
Research shows that particular scents affect our brains and can alter our mood-state in particular ways.
Floral scents (such as lavender or rose) have calming effects. Tree, herb and grass scents have a grounding & soothing effect; mint, citrus & spicy scents can have a powerfully energizing, uplifting and warming effect.
So, if we choose a scent, or blend of scents, which induce a preferred mood-state we can use that as an anchor in everyday life to shift us out of negative thought and feeling habits.
We use the inherent links between the scents and feeling-states to proactively induce how we wish to feel.
We train the brain to associate the smell with a particular feeling. And add in some positive affirmations and you’ve got a very powerful tool for emotional health and wellbeing.
- If we’re feeling over-stimulated and stressed we can carry around some lavender essential oil with us and have a sniff, or mix it with a carrier oil and apply it our skin. Affirm: I relax into peace.
- If we’re feeling jittery and ungrounded, we can inhale a scent which is known to have a grounding effect such as lavender, clary sage, frankincense or patchouli. Affirm: I am grounded, safe and secure.
- If you’re feeling tired and lethargic inhaling peppermint or citrus scents can uplift you. Affirm: I am awake and full of abundant energy.
Connect to your sense of smell. Breathe deeply and smoothly. Notice the physical feelings the experience of the smell brings about in your body. Maybe feelings of tension melting away. Feeling the ground beneath your feet. Feeling zingy and awake.
Soon enough just smelling the scent will induce the feeling. You’ll become more present and the real you will emerge – joyful, loving, present and enthusiastic. You’ll drop anchor into calmer waters!
So, remember to come to your senses and come into this moment: come home to now.