Standing barefoot in the wet grass, a dog on a lead in each hand, I opened my senses wide to the morning.
The scents of wet earth and heady tropical flowers. The cooing of zebra doves and ongoing chorus of songbirds in the trees and lushly verdant ravine. A hazy morning illumination on the mountains rising like a dragon’s spine, a misty crown on the summit of Puu Konahuanui. The squish of wet grass and muddy soil under bare soles, the soft caress of wind moving over my skin. A lengthening of my spine and a subtle sense of my body opening outwards, as if drawn gently by fine gossamer threads of silk or sunlight.
It is a moment of quiet communion with all that surrounds, and noticing the expansive effect upon my bodysoul when I tune into that conscious exchange.
In the past week since my return to Hawaii, swept up in the events of the Hawaii International Film Festival, and trying to assist my partner who is the Executive Director with the dozens of details daily, from invoices to transportation issues to ‘handling’ of celebrities, I find myself just slightly out of sorts. Summoning my inner extrovert while standing at cocktail parties and gala receptions with festival sponsors, film actors, directors, and producers, I’m rubbing shoulders with the glitterati. Meanwhile, the quiet tranquility of my little poet’s cottage feels very far away. A couple thousand miles, at least.
Such is life. I remind myself that an occasional change of scene and pace is good, but there’s only so long I can spend in the noisy shallows before I must head back back to deeper water. And I always need a tangible connection with nature.
Sometimes, when I’m feeling disconnected from the root of myself, as in social or urban situations, I find myself going over the ‘Soul Skills’ outlined in my book: seven basic practices that nourish and invite expansion in the bodysoul. Each one is paired with an embodiment exercise to help ground the concept or practice in an experiential way. Countless soul skills exist, I’ve simply offered a few key ones in The Bones and Breath.
Often, even when I’m in my preferred environment at home or in what we commonly call ‘nature’, I’m honing in on Soul Skill #2, Open Your Senses.
So it was that a couple of times this past week, standing at an event or navigating the maze of the city, I simply reached out with my gaze and touched a tree, imagining my hands on the rough bark or tracing the smooth, shiny leaves, and taking a moment to simply ‘feel’ it. As always happens with this sort of perceptual shift from head to heart, immediately there is a shift in respiration, along with a cascade of subtle physiological changes in the body, including the heart’s dominant rhythm. Instantly, I felt a softening of my body, a sense of subtle relaxation, a gentle ease that replaces the agitation or angst I was feeling just a moment prior.
Very few people realize that the heart is as much an organ of perception as are our more commonly recognized senses of sight, taste, smell, kinesthetic, etc. This perceptive ability exists largely because our cardiovascular pump generates a very strong electrical field—the most powerful in the body, one that extends several feet—that detects all manner of subtle information in the sea of energy and sensory input in which we live immersed. And though most of us aren’t paying attention in our busy, disconnected lives, there is always a response in the heart to what is presented to the senses.
When our heart emits coherent patterns—at one beat per second, these are essentially the same frequency as the wavelength found in nature—the brain and the rest of the body entrain with those rhythms and we function at optimal capacity. Most of the time in our busy manmade lives, however, the heart actually produces so-called incoherent rhythms, which are tied to our mental dominant and frequently distressed state of being.
Coherent is better.
If we focus on the heart and our senses, shifting consciousness from the brain, coherence increases. A surge of input and sensation streams into us through our expanded heart’s field and awareness, a quiet tide of ‘life force’ and information, which we largely perceive as affect and emotion. (I’ve detailed all this in some depth in the penultimate chapter of Bones, “Wild Soul, Wise Heart.”)
The Soul of the World speaks in a language far older than words. To begin to decipher and learn that ancient form of communication, we need only understand that the heart responds to what is presented to the senses in an intuitive, nonlinear fashion, and that our entire physiology and sense of well-being shifts as a result. In humanity’s mentally dominated world, becoming consciously embodied is a skill that most of still need to learn and cultivate.
As a first step, we can open our senses. And as I am frequently encouraging you, gentle reader, breathe. Listen. Feel.
When we soften our mental and somatic armor and dilate the heart’s field, a shift occurs. Breath deepens instantly, gaze relents, body relaxes. We move differently. An easy grace animates us, a counterpose to the linear, segmented, mental-dominant mindbody. Once again we become warm, welcoming, sensual flesh rather than a hardened, protective exoskeleton. The world is erotic, a lover waiting to be discovered and made love to.
Authentic individuals don’t just inhabit their bodies in a different fashion; they inhabit the world differently. Alive rather than numbed. Feral rather than fashionable. With a wild soul and wise heart, they inspire others to loosen up and savor the dripping, honey-like, raw sensuality of life uncontained.
The body is the soul’s prayer.
Soul Artists know that soul is in the body not the brain. For a life of deeper connection and meaning, to inhabit the world in a feeling way, we must descend from our heads to our hearts. Soul Artists know too that the gift each of us must bring emerges in a different way when we fully inhabit our bones and breath, and that our connection with the world becomes more authentic and full spectrum when it involves an exchange from the core.
Gentle reader, here’s hoping that wherever your day leads you, whether that is to the office or the shopping mall, to the kitchen or the seashore, that you will take a moment to pause and reach out through your open senses. Touch a graceful tree or a jagged stone, even just visually. Inhale a deep breath. Move your body in a catlike stretch. Focus for a moment on some natural thing and feel it, and notice the immediate shift that ensues in your physiological (and even emotional) being. Doing so, may you find yourself anchored back in an expansive, rooted sense of yourself… slightly less disengaged, distracted, or distraught.
And may you remember that all that is required to shift our experience is a simple shift of perception.
Our senses are the threshold where we greet the world.
I wonder, what beautiful thing is calling out to you to be noticed right now? And if you offer it your attention, what shifts in your bodysoul?