What is Sensual Awareness?
Sensual awareness is attention to the senses and stimuli obtained from the senses. The terms sensual awareness and sensuality do not distinguish between negative stimuli (pain) or positive stimuli (pleasure). Sensual awareness and sensuality certainly have nothing to do with self-gratification, immorality, or overindulgence. Our senses provide the information by which we base all of our intuitive thoughts, creativity, and desires, as well as our clear problem solving ability. They help us to determine what is right and what is wrong for us far better than any holy book, psychologist, or pop culture. By becoming fully present in our sensual perceptions we become more sensitive to our passions, our inner compass, our personal truth, or what we call our core values. Core values are true and authentic and are not influenced by the values and judgments of others.
Imagine a scenario where you are in a job that is unfulfilling and has been for several years. However, on paper that job is prestigious and friends and family envy your position. You know that something has to change but you don’t know whether you should go back to school, start your own business, or change careers altogether. The years keep on passing but you fell stuck in the situation and just continue to have no idea what to do. Or imagine that you are running ragged, between your work, your commute, carting children to and fro, PTA meetings, scarfing down fast food in the car 3 or more times per week, and never being able to start that new hobby or get some needed exercise, then lying awake squandering precious sleep time at night fretting about the next hectic day. You know something has to change because this is unhealthy, you are exhausted, and it is beginning to show, but you continue to make no changes because you are torn between where to cut your activities for some relief and being a superhero. Your mind is racing a mile a minute and you just cannot make a decision on how to make life better. These are two simplified examples of how life can be when we are disconnected from our core values.
How Sensual Awareness Reconnects us to our Core Values
In our hectic culture, many of us are not immediately capable of sitting and meditating with a clear mind for long periods of time. In this instance, sensuality just serves as a different form of meditation that may be more a more accessible means to reconnect with what is authentic inside of us, allowing us to observe our condition from a neutral, relaxed perspective. Often we are either too busy in our daily lives to fully recognize our core values or are too accustomed to letting outside influences, i.e. religion, commercial, societal values, opinions of family and friends, etc. guide our desires to easily make decisions that correctly align or actions with them.
Although sensuality does not actually refer to stimuli that are positive or negative, the more engaging and pleasurable the experience, the more easily we can stay in that place of presence and allow our core values and passions to surface clearly. The key to sensual meditation is actively observing through our senses enough to keep us present but yet not so much as to overwhelm or distract us, and that is relaxing enough to quiet mental chatter. We must become aware of our sensations but without thinking about them. We are giving all sensations, both the pleasurable and the unpleasant or stressful ones, a place to simply BE. Without fighting or ignoring or manipulation, we can just observe them and release them, where they will cease to cloud our thoughts and judgments. Essentially here we are giving attention to our body-mind connection. Sensuality is the bridge between the body and the mind, because all thoughts originate with the senses. Get them working together in harmony and see what miracles can happen!
Getting Started with Sensual Meditation
Although sensual awareness as a meditation may be a more easily accessible form of meditation than other forms, it still takes practice. Here is a very simplified practice to get started:
- Find a quiet spot and sit comfortably. If necessary, make the environment more inviting with candles, incense, dimmed lighting, or fresh flowers.
- No need to close your eyes but it helps to relax the eyelids halfway. Begin with slow deep breathing, expanding the ribcage and filling the entire abdomen with nourishing oxygen and releasing the used air and clutter with each exhalation.
- Try not to think about anything, and as the thoughts arise, just release them and relax. Don’t try too hard. Just go with the flow.
- Notice what you hear.
- Notice what you see.
- Notice how you feel.
- Notice what you smell.
- Notice what you taste.
- Be aware of your sensations and notice a sense of calm connectedness.
- Continue to experiment with your sensual meditations in various locations and activities over a month’s time.
There is much more to sensual awareness, so you would be cheated if you stop here. Regular practice is needed to experience the full intensity of benefits such as increased ability to think clearly and creatively in all aspects of your life; the discovery of solutions to problems you may have been struggling with; generating more laughter and fun in your life; experiencing increased self-confidence; and becoming more relaxed with yourself and less stressed. Learning about the concepts of balancing male and female energies within; understanding the chakras, and using and playing with universal energy are also necessary to benefit from a rich sensual engagement with the world.