Using Your Senses During Meditation

Sometimes it seems we view our senses as distractions from good meditation. The senses have to be overcome in order to get into that deep meditative space. Something you can try is doing just the opposite—using and actively focusing on your senses during meditation. This is a great activity to practice mindfulness and noting as well.

IStock_000006270894Medium You might start your sensory experience by doing what is called “walking meditation.” Walk around your neighborhood or a natural feature nearby (river, lake, forest, hilltop) and merely take in whatever you sense. What are you smelling? Seeing? Hearing? Touching? Observe and be aware without classifying the sensations. Merely be mindful. You might consider this your “pre-meditation.” Upon return to your house, do a formal sensory meditation in the same way.

You can also do meditations in which you focus solely on one of your senses.

For example, here are some ideas for hearing meditations:

  • Listen to the regular noises around you with your eyes closed. Do you hear a refrigerator humming that skipped your attention before? Are people walking or cars passing outside? What does silence sound like? Pretend you're at a symphony focusing on each and every sound.
  • Meditate with a CD on very quietly so that you have to focus intently to hear it.
  • Plug your ears with cotton balls or even your fingers and listen to the sounds inside your body.

For smelling meditations, try any of the following:

  • Have several fragrant objects in front of you and begin your meditation. Once into a deepened state, place one of the fragrant objects by your nose and just be mindful of the smell. Allow yourself to scan through any memories you have associated with the smell. It is best to pick pleasant-smelling objects (no stinky gym socks). Try a flower, a scented candle, essential oil, cinnamon, garlic, herbs, etc.
  • Close your eyes and merely observe what the space around you smells like. Does the smell convey anything to you? If you smell “nothing,” what does that experience feel like?

For taste meditations, here are some ideas:

  • Place a piece of food in your mouth as you meditate and just let it sit there, slowly melting or softening in your mouth. Allow yourself to focus solely on the taste and experience.
  • Meditate with a clean, “average-feeling” mouth (not after eating or brushing your teeth when there are distinct flavors in your mouth). As you meditate, draw your attention to what the nothingness in your mouth tastes like. Is it salty? Sweet? Metallic? Simply taste your mouth and observe without judgment.

For touch meditations, consider:

  • Get a professional massage and as you lay there experience the touch with the voice in the head silenced. How does the touch feel? Use noting throughout the massage, “Shoulder. Shoulder. Knot. Rubbing. Shoulder.” Be mindful and still.
  • Gather up objects with different textures from around your house and place them in front of you while you begin to meditate. When you are into your meditative state, feel the objects and their different textures. Again, observe mindfully. Feel the texture, the weight, the density, the shape, and the size of each object.

Rather than trying to fight to turn your senses off turning meditation, consider a different approach of exploring them with focus and concentration. 


~ Jillian Avey,