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Author Topic: Senses and your practice  (Read 2072 times)

Anon100

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Senses and your practice
« on: October 21, 2019, 12:41:24 pm »
First, I wasn't quite sure which section to put this in so feel free to move it if applicable.

Well, today I was working and had what I would call a sensory flash back ( for want of a better term ) where a smell suddenly triggered off an image/impression. ( For the curious; the trigger was a mix of cut grass, slight burning and an unidentified smell. The image/sense was of a small community, probably pre norman [ judging by sense and the daub/thatch style buildings. ], sense of being near small safe running water, burning or cooking and generally basic day to day life ).

I'm not saying this was more than a healthy imagination and a love of history but it did make me think ( and also want to share what was a nice experience ).

So, with magic and other more 'spiritual' ( I think this would be the right word but am not absolutely sure ) areas there always seems to be a lot of focus on visualising, although there is the use of insence and singing bowls for instance, but not much talk about the other senses. So I was wondering how you use or find your other senses affected in magical practice ( or in other spiritual aspects of your lives)? 

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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #1 on: October 21, 2019, 01:50:27 pm »
First, I wasn't quite sure which section to put this in so feel free to move it if applicable.

Well, today I was working and had what I would call a sensory flash back ( for want of a better term ) where a smell suddenly triggered off an image/impression. ( For the curious; the trigger was a mix of cut grass, slight burning and an unidentified smell. The image/sense was of a small community, probably pre norman [ judging by sense and the daub/thatch style buildings. ], sense of being near small safe running water, burning or cooking and generally basic day to day life ).

I'm not saying this was more than a healthy imagination and a love of history but it did make me think ( and also want to share what was a nice experience ).

So, with magic and other more 'spiritual' ( I think this would be the right word but am not absolutely sure ) areas there always seems to be a lot of focus on visualising, although there is the use of insence and singing bowls for instance, but not much talk about the other senses. So I was wondering how you use or find your other senses affected in magical practice ( or in other spiritual aspects of your lives)?

I view this as a failing of many authors of not using inclusive language.  You are correct, almost all the literature speaks in terms of visualizing, literally seeing stuff.  But, often the actual meaning of 'visualization' can mean any sense.  We are just starting to see more authors include all the senses when they talk about 'visualizing' a thing (you see a bit more of it when mindful meditations are brought up, because they really do focus on all your senses).

The bad part is this leads a lot of people to think they aren't 'doing it right' because the descriptions talk about seeing a visualization or describe everything in terms of visual clues, and someone might be getting sound or touch results instead, and so they think they have failed at the skill.  Especially with 'visualization' which so many sources point out as key, being 'able to hold an image' in your head for meditations or spell work, but holding the idea or the sensation is just as valid.  If you ground by seeing roots sink into the ground, that is great, but you can also ground by feeling yourself being pulled into the earth or through the sound of bells. 

I struggled with this for a long time, because I am not always a visual person.  When I work with grounding or meditation, I'm often working more intensely with the sensation of feeling (touch) and not visualization (sight).  When information comes to me, it is through clairsentience most times (knowing) and not clairvoyance (seeing).

Scent is actually a stronger trigger for memories for many people than sight is.  I use scent and sound as my investigative senses more than vision....if I think something is wrong, I'll smell for what is off (I pretty much smell every food that I prepare, I trust my nose to tell me if food has started to spoil more than my eyes), or listen to see what alerted me (I will often close my eyes for this, to further block out sight).
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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2019, 05:59:28 pm »
Well, today I was working and had what I would call a sensory flash back ( for want of a better term ) where a smell suddenly triggered off an image/impression.

Of course it's pretty widely accepted (and I believe studies have shown, but I don't have citations handy) that the sense of smell is particularly effective at sparking off old memories and the such.

I plan to mull the question over and post something more when I've a chance (as my tablet is somewhat fiddly) - if I've not done so in a while (and you want to/remember to) please feel free to give me a poke...

Edit to fix a thing
« Last Edit: October 21, 2019, 06:02:00 pm by PerditaPickle »
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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2019, 06:20:39 pm »
So, with magic and other more 'spiritual' ( I think this would be the right word but am not absolutely sure ) areas there always seems to be a lot of focus on visualising, although there is the use of insence and singing bowls for instance, but not much talk about the other senses. So I was wondering how you use or find your other senses affected in magical practice ( or in other spiritual aspects of your lives)?

Hmm, I guess with martial arts and dance being so important to my practice you could say I connect a lot through my kinetic or proprioceptive sense.  I also tend to get a lot of tactile-based psychic impressions.  A few of us in a chat recently were discussing what our personal "godphone" sensation felt like, most were more abstract but mine is most definitely the feel of a hand on my shoulder.

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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2019, 07:55:11 pm »
So, with magic and other more 'spiritual' ( I think this would be the right word but am not absolutely sure ) areas there always seems to be a lot of focus on visualising, although there is the use of insence and singing bowls for instance, but not much talk about the other senses. So I was wondering how you use or find your other senses affected in magical practice ( or in other spiritual aspects of your lives)?

So, I agree with a couple of things already in the thread.

English is a highly visually focused language, much more than the other senses, and there's a general sense that people who mostly function in English tend that way. (Other languages do a much better job of supporting or even privileging other senses.) Above and beyond that, a lot of people have some preferences of their own (though the fact that English is vision-dominant means that people who could have gone somewhere else or visual tend to prefer visual, because it's easier.)

Hence the fact that we talk about 'visualising' and 'making an image in our mind' rather than 'creating the thing in our head'  or some word that better describes that briefly.

(The science on all of this is sort of iffy in places, but the fact people have sometimes very strong preferences, and sometimes weak preferences, and that some of this is culturally and linguistically mediated is pretty clear.)

But you're right, that doesn't work for a lot of people! I'm definitely one of them. I tend to hear energy (as a complex orchestral score, usually without a strong melodic line, but there are all sorts of variations), I'm good with spatial senses, and I get strong scent impressions in some situations.

Several things I've learned:

1) It's possible to improve the relevant skills with time and practice, if you want to.

And for people who aren't visual, I suggest it's worth trying to see if you can get some improvement if you think it might with some more time, especially if you're planning on public ritual or group work, just because even the most inclusive groups are still going to end up more visually dominant, because we have tons of words to describe colours and shapes and visual details, and most of the time we have to work a lot harder in English or be working with someone with enough of the same sensory experiences (or get into really specialist jargon) to describe a lot of sounds or textures or smells)

I started out not able to do visuals in meditation at all, and about seven years later, finally managed reliably. I actually credit playing video games with helping a lot (especially now I work somewhere where I come across research about how our eyes process information and what can go wrong with that fairly regularly). I think that the simplified visual field (less detail, less background 'noise', much more under my control as I was moving around/etc.)  was key in my figuring some of it out.

This is, incidentally, part of why the advice to do altars with stuff on them is worth exploring - a well designed ritual altar, to my way of thinking, entices all the senses (or at least in combination with other ritual actions). Colours on the altars for directions and focus, incense for scent (possibly also ritual perfume or soap from a cleansing bath beforehand), tactile sensations of water and salt and other things we touch and handle (like tools)

2) Work with what you have more solidly down.

Other things that helped when bootstrapping my skills were working with the things I am stronger in (in my case, I'm really good with colour, and I'm really good with spatial relationships and some kind of environmental cues - what does the ground feel like under my feet, is there a breeze?) and the more those were a part of what I was doing in meditation, the easier it was to work along with the visual - but those things are also entirely valid approaches themselves.

In my case, auditory stuff is also a) very strong for me and b) I have a huge amount of formal training in some of it (I was a music major in college - so I have a hard time talking about stuff in my head if I'm not talking to someone who's got that specialist vocabulary, or who I've got enough shared points to compare with, but when I'm just doing stuff for myself, it's great. Except for the stuff in point 3.) So I can use that to help me work with other things, too.

I have a page up on my website with both a bunch of different sensory exercises, and a meditation written to solidly involve all the senses in different ways, if the examples are helpful.

3) Sometimes, different situations change things.

In specific, a number of people I know have one set of strengths when they're doing their own work, things they have more direct control over - but if they're doing a thing where they're interacting with a deity or a power or something like that, it may swap modes. I get visuals and scents in deity work, and not sound, which is really really frustrating sometimes. (It is near impossible to research what a particular floral scent is without a lot of access to well-labelled flowers in bloom and/or a really amazing single-note perfumer's kit, plus some of the stuff I'm pretty sure you can only get with synthetic approximations. Just saying.)

Every other time I'm doing ritual or magical work? Sound is pretty viable. (Though I still don't get beings telling me things in words.) But not actual conversations with powers.

It is, however, handy to know this about yourself because it can be a useful marker for 'is this coming from inside my head' or 'this is so foreign to the way my brain normally goes that there's something else going on here'.
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Noctua

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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2019, 07:42:48 am »
So I was wondering how you use or find your other senses affected in magical practice ( or in other spiritual aspects of your lives)?

My primary sense involved when doing anything woo-related is almost entirely somatic, or "touch". I struggle with sight-based visualization, and I feel pretty strongly that it's because I've always been a visual learner- those pathways are strongly ingrained with the rational, logic and deduction pathways of my brain and not the instinctual, emotional stuff that's better to tap into for spiritual workings.

For example, I can tell when I'm in a good circle because I can actually "feel" it being erected around me. It's sort of a sensation like there's something close behind me, either a wall or a buzzing electric fence sort of feeling depending on circumstances. Another example is we did an exercise/experiment in my grove recently where we cast circle with several different implements (wands of different woods, an athame, and an iron railroad spike) and some of them were noticeably different in the feel. The coolest one was when we cast with a driftwood wand, because the circle being erected actually felt like water rising up my body.

Anon100

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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2019, 02:28:33 pm »
Hmm, I guess with martial arts and dance being so important to my practice you could say I connect a lot through my kinetic or proprioceptive sense.  I also tend to get a lot of tactile-based psychic impressions.  A few of us in a chat recently were discussing what our personal "godphone" sensation felt like, most were more abstract but mine is most definitely the feel of a hand on my shoulder.

Thanks everyone for replying so far. I'm finding this really interesting and learning a lot

I hope you don't mind my quoting Ashmire to reply to you all. I did this primarily because I found it so interesting to realise that motion could be a triggering/focussing/connecting sense. Now I've read it I can imagine ( I wanted to say 'see' but that's another example of what several of you have pointed out )how it would be so but it just never came to mind before.

I know what you mean about closing your eyes to focus on hearing better Kylara. It does help a lot. And suddenly makes me think - of course there are other 'pagans' out there who have to practice without sight ( are blind ).

I look forward eagerly to hearing your thoughts as well Perdita.

Thats interesting that dieties and others may contact with our secondary sense Jenett. Ill have to remember that as a useful detail to look out for.

Wow Noctua, that sounds amazing.

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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2019, 06:58:06 pm »
My primary sense involved when doing anything woo-related is almost entirely somatic, or "touch". I struggle with sight-based visualization, and I feel pretty strongly that it's because I've always been a visual learner- those pathways are strongly ingrained with the rational, logic and deduction pathways of my brain and not the instinctual, emotional stuff that's better to tap into for spiritual workings.

My experience is quite similar - in my case because I'm a writer, and so much of my 'visualisation' is my own construction, rather than sensing anything external. Touch and 'gut feeling' seem more real to me.

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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2019, 09:33:58 pm »
So I was wondering how you use or find your other senses affected in magical practice ( or in other spiritual aspects of your lives)?

To add to what others have said: my formal training included explicit sense training, to be able to call up and evoke particular sensations.

I can still summon a sense of the flavor of grape juice pretty much at will; it was what I trained on. ;)
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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2019, 11:24:01 pm »
And suddenly makes me think - of course there are other 'pagans' out there who have to practice without sight ( are blind ).

I once had a Craft student who was legally blind (she could see light/shadows and color, but that was about it), who was unusually strongly oriented to the visual aspects of perception, visualization, etc. So it doesn't even always work in the ways one might expect!

Jenett, and others, have already covered pretty much everything else I might say here, except to note that IME the majority of folks (or the majority of folks drawn to paganism/witchcraft, maybe?) don't have vision as their predominate sense/learning mode; I've been grumbling about the overemphasis on vision for decades - not so much the use of the word 'visualization' itself, since in most contexts its connotations aren't limited to the visual but imply multiple aspects of a concept (so I also get cranky about pagans who parse it broadly in every other aspect of their lives insisting on taking it literally in pagan-related contexts), but excessive use of other sight-related words rather than counterbalancing it with a multisensory range of word choices.

Counter to Kylara's mention that we're 'only just starting' to see this handled better, I'll note that the older ('80s and before) 'classic' pagan/witchcraft books were often better about this.

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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #10 on: October 23, 2019, 02:30:34 pm »

Counter to Kylara's mention that we're 'only just starting' to see this handled better, I'll note that the older ('80s and before) 'classic' pagan/witchcraft books were often better about this.


I think I missed those as my primary learning source...I mostly started learning in the 90's.  This makes me want to go back though, because there are a lot of things that I don't see talked about as much as it was when I was first learning, so it makes me wonder what else was going on before then!
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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #11 on: November 05, 2019, 03:21:22 pm »
So, with magic and other more 'spiritual' ( I think this would be the right word but am not absolutely sure ) areas there always seems to be a lot of focus on visualising, although there is the use of insence and singing bowls for instance, but not much talk about the other senses. So I was wondering how you use or find your other senses affected in magical practice ( or in other spiritual aspects of your lives)?

Sorry it's taken me a while to post again, my laptop has issues (think it's probably palliative care, poor thing) and my tablet's fiddlier [sic] so takes longer.

Anyways, when you mentioned a sensory flashback it made me think of a thing which happens to me with a fair degree of frequency (meaning at least once a year, but sometimes more often). This thing is a sudden flash of nostalgia triggered but something in my immediate environment, perhaps the ambient temperature combined with a certain scent in the air, as of (say) freshly cut grass, autumn leaves or whatever.  I've always put it down to being neurotic but, now that I think about it in the context of your post, I might have to examine it a bit more and see if I feel it possibly reflects anything else as well.

As for the specific senses, I have always felt none of mine are very strong (but especially visualisation) and I'm not good at devoting time to practicing with these (in the sense of using them regularly with a view to strengthening them).

As an example how poor my visualisation skills are, when I'm asked the question do I dream in black and white or colour for years and years I was unable to answer the question as I remembered my dreams as a story, so in words not images!

I have found, however that where I struggle to visualise things in abstract, such as say a random sunset or a fictional mountain top (let alone "healing white light"!), I have better luck visualising myself doing something.  So I might be able to visualise myself climbing/standing on a mountain top, for instance.  This comes in handy when trying to do shielding, which I'd otherwise significantly struggle to achieve, among other things.

Sometimes I have better luck with sound, and can hear sea birds whilst doing a particular guided meditation, for instance.  I once 'felt' a seashell in the sand beneath my feet while doing this meditation, and can almost feel the sea breeze (though I can't manage to smell it yet). And I have difficulty seeing the sun on the waves, though I can manage a general sense of a peaceful sandy beach, cemplete with treeline.  It's a good meditation for involving the different senses now that I think about it (other than maybe taste).  But yeah, I'm really not very visual as a rule.

And as for the 6th sense, with me it's almost non-existent, unfortunately (I wish it were otherwise, at least a bit).  I occasionally love to meditate by gazing into a candle flame but haven't ever been able to scry by doing so.

Now going back to your sensory flashback, it reminds me, also, of a large part of what made me explore Paganism in the first place - I used to read certain material (could be history or fiction set in a particular time in history, or fantasy fiction) and feel a very strong sense of familiarity, nostalgia and "home", while at the same time also getting an almost equally strong sense of the magical (and/or something I can't quite articulate, but something which was really strongly drawing me in, from quite an early age - and this is despite my very weak '6th sense' (not pieced together until much later in life, of course)).

So a bit of a mixture of thoughts and examples for you there, and I do hope it was of some interest  :)
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Re: Senses and your practice
« Reply #12 on: November 05, 2019, 03:46:03 pm »


Darn, typos  :facepalm:  Meant to say "triggered by" in my second paragraph (and annoyingly I did re-read that para several times before hitting post) and "complete with" in my 6th para. But hopefully my broader meaning was still reasonably clear, here. Doh!
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