When recovering from cancer surgery, thankfully many years back, Genevieve Lane, an alternative medicine practitioner, suggested gentle walking “with a twist”: amble while engaging the senses. Wandering the neighborhood accompanied by my senses helped build trust in my body again. When my mind wandered I simply shifted to a different sense choosing from the rich array: smell, sight, touch, sound and taste!
Sensing where we are, a new destination, can work the same way. In Mexico City recently I sat outside on a lovely patio of an eight room “Casa”. Sitting for a moment instead of walking, before heading out into the vast city, felt like the right activity. With my eyes closed a cool breeze lightly touched my legs. From an elevation of 7,382 feet (2,250 mt.) the strong sun warmed my cheeks. In addition to noticing the in and out breath, sounds dominated my awareness: enthusiastic cheers from a school courtyard; “cut, cut, cut, cut”, perhaps the work of building construction; an air conditioning system turning itself on; the acceleration of cars and buses on the street below.
Helicopters roamed over the city not too far away. Another excited roar nearby then sudden quiet. Unremarkable tastes in my mouth in contrast to yesterday’s resplendent lunch. My body felt the aliveness of a vibrant place. Opening my eyes I enjoyed the neatly lined up potted ferns on the wall in front of me- so orderly. Feeling relaxed and assured, it was time to venture out into the Roma Norte neighborhood, one of sixteen plus “Colonia”.
How do we begin to understand where we are? Sometimes it can feel overwhelming to grasp our environs, especially in a city as large as Mexico City. Similarly, when we’re at home or work, difficult situations can arise suddenly and we might be unsure how to react.
Understanding what’s happening in our body is a good place to start. We garner valuable information from body sensations, feelings and thoughts. We were just two small humans in the dense cultivated lake bed of Mexico City with 21.2 million people, the most populated city in the Western Hemisphere. Connecting with our senses helped us feel grounded.
Here are some suggestions for getting your feet on the ground, whether traveling or in daily life:
Centering first. Before running out the door take some time, even five minutes, to gather yourself. This might mean sitting or eating a good breakfast slowly, writing a few thoughtful postcards or personal emails, or just considering what’s on the calendar. What’s most important about the day?
Mindful eating and drinking. Even if there is little time for enjoying a sandwich, whatever you decide to ingest, deliberately chew and swallow. You’ll enjoy the moments more. Even eat a little less while fully aware of your choices. Since unaccustomed to many of the authentic foods of Mexico, we ate very slowly and savored each bite. We were delighted by wine from Casa Madero, the oldest vineyard on the continent.
Sitting and Sensing. While waiting for your travel buddies or co-workers at a meeting, sit and sense. Quiet your mind and go through each sense: sight, sound, touch, taste. Notice how your body feels.
Like recollecting a childhood experience, our senses can often trigger a lovely travel memory: the salty rim of a glass, pungent salsa in the taco, fresh papaya melting in our mouths or lively music from Ballet Folklorico de Mexico. Through our senses, experiences become richer and fully embodied! Viva Mexico! Viva life!