We are dressed in the scaffold of creation: in seeing . . . to recognize all the world, in hearing . . . to understand, in smelling . . . to discern, in tasting . . . to nurture, in touching . . . to govern. In this way humankind comes to know God, for God is the author of all creation.
These words by 12th-century Abbess Hildegard von Bingen, visionary, writer, founder of monasteries, Christian mystic, and composer inspire the call to awaken the senses. The senses, from Hildegard’s point of view, are conduits to the Divine. Through our abilities to touch, see, hear, taste, smell and discern (intuiting) we gather insight and inspiration about our environments, daily experiences, and life itself with all its wonder and complexity.
Engagement with one’s senses opens portals to inner discovery and possibilities for co-creation with God. Unlike Hildegard’s medieval world, contemporary life often doesn’t provide obvious opportunities to engage the senses. Consider how many times a day you touch something made by human hands versus something from the natural world. Unlike the folks of the Middle Ages, you rarely engage your senses to gather necessary information for personal survival.
The chicken that you will serve for supper is hermetically sealed and FDA inspected when purchased. There’s no need to carefully sample a microwaved meal to be sure it’s fresh and eatable. The T.V. or the Internet provide the daily weather forecast. Sniffing the breeze for the smell of rain is not the preferred instrument for thunderstorm predictions. There are countless other ways your senses are no longer engaged with your surroundings, or with nature and creation. In fact, contemporary life has contributed to the atrophy of the senses. Not unlike the way muscles become flaccid without exercise.
Contemplate how your life might be enriched if you begin to exercise your senses. Can you imagine ways to begin to reactivate your senses of touch, hearing, sight, taste, smell, and intuition to deepen the experience of your sacred connection with life?
What would it feel like to become a co-creator with God as Hildegard described so many years ago? How might your day be enriched if you opened your eyes to behold what’s in front of you with reverence and awe? Perhaps that’s a starting place… simply make the internal shift from seeing the world as you go about your life, to beholding the person, the thing or situation that’s on the path there before you. Try looking with the eyes of your heart and possibly your other senses will follow the example.
See, listen, touch, taste, smell, and discern passionately and reverently as you live each day…become a co-creator with God.
If you’d like to explore your senses as conduits to the Divine you might want to learn more about Belle Coeur’s Mini-Course Awaken Your Senses: Sacred Practices for Vibrant Living.