Friday, April 23, 2010

Coming to Your Senses

Why is it that something like a rainstorm can stir up memories? It is because our sense of smell is connected to a part of our brain that contains memory. Of course, exactly what memory is triggered can vary, but sensory memory itself is an involuntary reflex.

Of course, there are some scents that have a generally good reception, such as vanilla, cinnamon, rose, orange and so on, which is why there are so many perfumes and colognes which include these scents. Things that we generally experience as repulsive are warnings from nature, our self defensive mechanism. For example, natural gas does not have a smell. That is something the gas companies add so that we can tell when there is a leak.

Then we have things that are individualized, and so certain herbs and spices will remind us of home cooking and evoke pleasant thoughts, although the particular scents that do that may be linked to our family backgrounds and what we have experienced as delicious meals from our past.

So the rainstorms this week have evoked different feelings in different people, bringing us inside to avoid getting soaked, and then we go inside again in order to do some inner work. Whether it is playing a musical instrument, reading, journaling, meditating, sewing, beading, spending time on a hobby or other activity that we enjoy. The scent of the rain may prompt those choices as well.

Music also has an aspect of of involuntary recall. Ironically, it was after WW2 that therapists working with veterans who had suffered brain damage discovered that spoken language and lyrics in music are two different things, stored in two different parts of the brain. There were injured vets who had problems speaking, but when a favorite or familiar song came on a radio or record player, they could sing along with it.

So when music evokes powerful emotions within us, we again have those variables to consider. Although there are some pieces of music that seem to reach across time with their ability to soothe us or excite us, some of the music will have everything to do with what we have spent a lot of time listening to.

When you are creating a pleasant atmosphere and nurturing your mind and body, the sensory stimulants that will work best for you are very influential. You probably have been doing this unconsciously to some degree. Now when you do it consciously, you can create even better results.

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