At a local Dunedin Coaches Network meeting one Thursday night I was having a conversation about my upcoming trip to visit our 4th wonder of the world in India when the topic of diaries came up.
“I always keep a sensory diary” I explained to the group, “one thing that I smell, hear, taste and touch each day when I am traveling to other countries”
One of the members of the group Chris Le Breton then said “sensory gratitude, I love it!”
“So do I” I replied, “Sensory gratitude.”
Not only was I noticing those events, but by recording them I couldn’t help but be grateful for them too.
Chris then contacted me to ask if I would like to join him as part of a study group reading and working on a book aimed at healing the world called Active Hope.
In the book by Joanna Macy and Dr Chris Johnstone, they describe Gratitude as getting better at spotting what’s already there.
In their book they say more resources have been consumed in the last fifty years than in all preceding human history yet we’re not any happier, and depression has reached epidemic proportions. They claimed if a medication were invented with similar benefits, we’d probably see it described as a new wonder drug.
As part of the homework, we all began writing a gratitude list to each other. But I was already sending a gratitude list in the morning and I found sending another list in the evening repetitive. I wondered how I could do this differently so decided to apply my travel diary concept that Chris referred to as “sensory gratitude” to the process. Instead of writing general things I was grateful for, I would write 10 things I was grateful for smelling, hearing, tasting and touching.
This is what my first list looked like.
1 the smell of freshly cut flowers that Diane put on our hall table!
2 the sound of the voices on X factor last night! Incredible!
3 the taste of the strawberry jam on my toast this morning!
4 the feel of my walking rope that Jo holds one end of and I hold the other
5 the sound of Saturday mornings – I love that noise!
6 the feel of the rain that plopped on us when we were out walking!
7 the warmth and taste of my morning cuppa!
8 the feel of the blankets that keep me warm at night
9 the sound of a barking dog – they are so funny!
10 the sound in people’s voices when they start talking about what they’ve always dreamed of! I love that!
After I sent this first sensory gratitude list, the others in the group responded in kind. First Kieran, then Chris, then finally Robyn.
“The sound of birdsong when waking at Michelle’s”
“The hug with Woosh my horse when i got home”
“The sound of the rain smashing against the panes of the window this morning as I snuggled in bed”
“The kisses I blew at the man aggressively honking me as I cycled back from the pool”
“The crunchiness of the Organic apples from last Saturday’s farmers market”
“The taste of chilli con carne I cooked tonight for tea”
“Listening to the classical orchestral piece "Harold in Italy"
“The smell of the garlic ciabatta as i took it from the cabinet at new world supermarket”
“The smell of mum’s fire in the lounge last night”
“The warmth of the electric blanket when i woke up cold in the night”
“The feeling of sunshine on my face at the breakfast table this morning”
After Kieran had done his first list, he was about to go to sleep when he remembered the best experience of the day wasn’t on the list… Here’s what he wrote in a subsequent email:
“It happened whilst i was riding my bike.
I was coming home on my bike gliding downhill at a fast speed down the gravel road on the mountain. Wind on my bare face (I have shaved off the beard) the smell of pine needles in the air and my bum bumping on the soft bike seat and feeling the bumpy gravel under the tires with my feet on the pedals. All i can hear is the wind rushing past my bike helmet.
On either side of the gravel road is bush and scrub with a forest behind the scrub on the right hand side of the road.
I was literally gliding down the bumpy gravel road leaning low and forward to maintain speed enjoying the sensation of the wind on my face when suddenly 2 Rosella flew out of the bush on the left just in front of me and then they both swerved to straighten up heading in the same direction i was riding in right in front of me 1 chasing the other. The 1 that was chasing was just a few meters in front of me flying straight ahead of me and at the same speed as me so i got to see the stunning green feathers on its wings the bright red and white feathers on its neck and then it was like watching it in slow motion as it fluttered its beautifully green and blue coloured wings for more speed and swerved to keep straight then glided straight as an arrow.
It was an awesome and thrilling experience that seemed to have no timeframe… I was totally engulfed in the moments.
Like never before in my life I felt like i was a bird flying with them and time stood still…
Then suddenly they sharply turned right and flew up high in a pine tree in the forest.
I was close to tears of joy and wonder but too excited to cry!
Now that was an amazing sensory experience. Wind on my face bumpy bum from gravel road bike ride smell of pine needles and then the stunning Rosella arrived.
Bless you all for your gratitude’s which are enriching the way i experience life too.”
Kieran made the comment that to shut off from the visual world was a blessing, not a curse and in doing so it heightened his awareness of his other senses and made him look at the world in a brand new way. A way that wasn’t dominated by sight.
Thanks for seeing the beauty in being blindful Kieran!