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Sensory awareness

Feeding our senses with stimuli to ever heightening levels seems to be a current trend in lifestyle but I worry that it has dangerous consequences. By assaulting ourselves with so many stimuli, we can actually reduce our sensitivity to alarming levels.

A quick glance along the London underground carriage instantly shows 80% of fellow commuters are engaged in various activities, on the smart phone, texting, emailing, playing a game as well as listening to music via headphones, eating and talking with a friend or reading a tablet or book.  But by doing so many things at once, how much of any of these activities are we actually truly engaging with or absorbing?  It appears that we are gradually training ourselves to ignore a great deal of what is happening. The music is often deafeningly loud, but we’re not really listening as we flick through Facebook messages etc. The flavours of our food are often artificially enhanced to satisfy ever increasing desires for more sensation. At home the TV may be on, the radio at the same time and all while we talk on the phone, send a text, shout at the children to behave or use the noisy food processor to juice up a smoothie.  Technological development is constantly providing ever richer experiences, 3D film and TV, digital SFX, enhanced flavours in snacks, louder, more, more and more. My concerns are not about the new devices or technological advancement…it’s all wonderful. What concerns me is how each of us are using it.  The more we assault ourselves with extremes in stimuli, the less sensitive we become and less aware of our poise and what we are doing to ourselves from a posture point of view.

It worries me that if we were in the wild as our ancient ancestors did a million years ago, we would never survive because our senses are so deadened by training ourselves to ignore them. We’d never hear a wolf approaching, or sniff their scent on the wind (they’d be down-wind anyway!), or see the minute tell-tale signs that we will be dinner to another beast bigger than us.

And now here we are at our desks, typing away, ignoring the office noise around, the traffic outside, the pain in our back and stiff neck, unaware we are holding our breath, twisting our back or hunching.

Our sense of awareness is a treasure. All of our senses from sight, smell, hearing, taste, touch and not forgetting our proprioceptive sense (sense of self, position, muscle tension) collectively provide a rich and wonderful experience.  We should give great respect to our wonderful abilities and encourage greater sensitivity and awareness, not deadening them. Horse riders will instantly relate to my comments, because the degree to which we kick a horse will either encourage it to ‘listen’ and sense our wishes, or switch off and ignore us if the kicks are too fierce and frequent. The lighter we signal to the horse, the more it will listen attentively and become more and more responsive.

You might like to experiment and see if you can heighten your awareness of what is going on around you.  If you do not like your environment, or the noise is too much, you still can acknowledge its existence and choose not to be upset by it. Switch something off, do one thing at a time! Keeping your neck free of tension will help with this enormously.

By having Alexander Technique lessons, we are instantly involved in becoming more aware of our poise, our sense of self in the space around us and the habits of tension we have created for ourselves.  The technique provides a means of eliminating the harmful postural tendencies and improving our overall co-ordination, so pain and discomfort caused by tension just disappears. The fine-tuning of our proprioceptive sense enables us to be more accurate in our sense of feeling, so we know more clearly what we are doing with ourselves and how to avoid problems.  But this heightened sensitivity also increases our awareness in other senses, and we get a richer experience on more subtle levels such as gentle scents, subtle taste and even just a joy in living.

Increases in the number and strength of stimuli around us serve to deaden our senses, but by heightening our own sensitivity we may get more out of life, more enjoyment at the same time as benefiting our health.