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John W. Travis, M.D. & Regina Sara Ryan
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Introduction to Sensing

Sensory information (light, heat, touch, sound, odor, taste, movement, and so on) is the second form of energy input in the Wellness Energy System. Vast amounts of energy are received from our environment and channeled by our physical senses (and possibly through other senses that are less well understood). These energies are necessary for our protection and survival, and they serve as our most basic form of communication.

If the doors of perception were cleansed, man would see things as they are, infinite. - William Blake

It is through the senses - seeing, touching, smelling, hearing, tasting, temperature, movement (kinetic and kinesthetic senses), and others - that we come to know and enjoy the world. Our ability to work, to feel pleasure, to communicate with others, and to impact the world is directly related to our efficient use of sensory energy. In the context of wellness this means appreciating the senses, taking care not to abuse them, and using them more creatively.

Everywhere there is sad evidence that many of us have lost our senses." You probably know people who burn their skin, allow it to blister and peel, and then go back for more in an attempt to look "healthy" and "sexy" in their summer clothes. The noise of dishwashers, air conditioners, power tools, trucks, and loud music invades everywhere, making us irritable, angry, listless, or unable to sleep. Loud sounds from machinery and music can actually damage our delicate hearing mechanisms and cause headaches and hearing loss. When it comes to tasting, many of us tax our digestive systems constantly with food that is too hot and beverages that are too cold, ending up with burnt tongues and stomach pains. We move apathetically through an environment filled with chemical pollutants, hoping that we're not absorbing too much nuclear radiation from the power plant upwind. The more we abuse our senses with these types of overstimulation, the more we dull ourselves to their subtle warning signals - the body's cries for help, for balance.

The flip side of this sorry state of affairs is the withdrawal from sensory stimulation. Our fears cause us to freeze up when we are being touched. With depression and boredom, we turn inward and often neglect our need for sunlight and fresh air. With grief, we numb ourselves to the outside world as we attempt to cope with a loss. Studies of young mammals clearly indicate that early deprivation results in lowered activity, improper physical development, and many failures in sexual functioning.*

Your senses are marvelous instruments that require vigilance to keep them in tip-top operating condition. Becoming a skilled technician in their care and creative use is one of the foundations for wellness. This chapter is your owner's manual for the senses. It will deal with touch, movement, temperature, sight, sound, and smell (taste is covered in the next chapter). This chapter is about coming to your senses.

* Montagu, A., Touching: The Human Significance of the Skin (Perennial, 1986), 31-37.

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