The Importance of Senses in Meditation

If you’re someone who has tried to meditate but find it difficult to sit still and calm your mind, don’t give up quite yet! We may have some advice that may not only change the way you think about meditation but help you get your body and mind into the right state before sitting down for your practice.

First, we must understand that meditation is a state of being where we give ourselves permission to witness our thought patterns and emotional triggers in a calm and objective space. Without any specific goal or deadline, as we meditate more consistently, we will begin to learn more and more about our patterns of thought which then allows us to begin changing them.

The second consideration we can take into account before trying to meditate is with regards to our sensory integration, that is, our vestibular system and proprioception. These two senses can greatly impact our ability to meditate and focus on our practice. So before we dive into how you can manage those two senses, let’s do a quick review of what they are and how they manifest themselves in our bodies.

Life as our senses see it.

Our sensory system, which consists of 8 senses, determine our choices in our daily lives. All our senses have their own, specific needs and the tasks that we undertake without meeting those needs are less productive than when we do. For example our 8th sense, interoseption, makes us feel hunger when we’re hungry. If we were to take an exam while hungry we risk losing our concentration and getting a bad grade. The same sense also makes us feel the need the urge to go to the bathroom. If we were to say go into a meeting before heading to the lavatory to meet this need, then odds are our meeting will be difficult to get through.

Now take a look at all the things you do before sitting down to your meditation practice. If it’s too warm you wear something more summery or it’s too cold you put on a sweater. If you need to go to the bathroom you do just that. If you’re hungry you head to the fridge. You do all these things and more to ensure that nothing will distract you from your practice. These examples I’ve mentioned are all related to our 8th sense, interoception. We feel hot or cold thanks to it. With the aid of our other senses such as sight, touch, taste, small and hearing, we meet the various needs that we have.

There are two other members of our sensory system and when their balance is disrupted a lot of things go awry. These two senses are our vestibular system and our proprioception. Our vestibular system has to do with our perception of space whereas our proprioception has to do with our perception of our body parts. We can pay attention and feed our vestibular system and proprioception the same way we do with interoception before meditating. Doing this can enable us to have a better meditation practice when we sit down to it.

Why is it important to feed the senses before meditating?

What our vestibular system and proprioception need is movement. However, going back and forth between the bathroom, our wardrobe and kitchen doesn’t mean much to these senses. Because what’s needed isn’t random movement. What’s needed is to take into account the dynamics of these two senses.

We already said that our vestibular system has to do with our spatial perception. The kinds of movements that feed this sense is swaying, jumping and spinning. Everyone has their own preferences when it comes down to it. Some of us like spinning about, others prefer jumping. Thing back to the games you used to play as a kid: Did you prefer jumping rope or twirling about? Whichever one you prefered is generally what regulated your vestibular system. Regulating your vestibular system helps you to concentrate. Did you know, for instance, that stimulating the vestibular systems of kids either during breaks or gym class is incremental for their academic success?

Proprioception is understanding how our body is positioned using the information transmitted to our brains from our muscles and joints. This sense is fed through feeling such as pressure, pushing and pulling. Activities such as lifting weights, swimming and playing volleyball are therefore excellent ways of feeding our proprioception. Kids that have trouble with their proprioception are often led to activities that feed this sense. The success that they obtain following the stimulation that proprioception receives is truly remarkable.

Why not move about a little before meditating?

Even as we age, our senses still need to be continually fed. Yet despite this we tend to give ourselves less permission to satisfy these needs with movement.

One of the ways you can rekindle those senses within yourself is by engaging in some form of movement before meditating. There are no rules that you need to follow or a checklist you need to adhere to when doing this. You simply just need to give yourself the space and permission during your day to get in some physical activity and be compassionate with yourself while moving. Stimulating your proprioceptive senses doesn’t mean you need to have a grueling workout. Over the next few weeks, before meditating, try any of the below activities and see what has the best impact for your practice.

  • If you’re able to you can always go for a short walk. We know that as simple as taking a walk is, it’s a kind of workout recommended by most physicians. So, take a walk before meditating. This is a kind of movement we all can engage in easily.
  • Try meditating following a mild workout where you don’t overexert yourself.
  • Yoga is another excellent workout you can try before beginning your meditation and because yoga is so interlinked with many of the principles on meditation, you can even begin your meditation just as you conclude your yoga practice.
  • Stretch for 10-15 minutes before your meditation. Stretch your arms, chest, calves, abs, lower back, and legs slowly and consciously. Let yourself pause in each stretch for 10 or more seconds and really feel your muscles stretching and warming up.
  • Dance! If you enjoy dancing, switch on some music and dance around for 5-10 minutes before you meditate. Dancing not only releases endorphins throughout your body but warms up your muscles and awakens your senses just in time for your meditation!

Once your senses are satisfied, you can relax and create that calm space your mind needs.

If you’ve never tried moving around before your meditation practice, then why not try some of these suggestions? Don’t forget to share your experience with us!

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