, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 330-332
Date: 28 Oct 2012

The Mystery of the Senses and the Spell of the Sensuous

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What is capable of seeing, hearing, moving, acting has to be your original mind.

Chinul, twelfth-century Korean Zen Master

Under special circumstances, our senses can become extraordinarily refined. It is said that aboriginal hunters in Australia, living in the outback, could see the larger moons of Jupiter with the naked eye, so keen was their hunting vision. When one sense is lost at birth or before the age of two, it seems the other senses may take on qualities of acuity far beyond what we usually think possible. This has been shown in various studies, even with sighted people deprived of sight for relatively short periods of time, from days to hours. They show, in Oliver Sachs’s words, “a striking enhancement of tactile-spatial sensitivity,” for example.

By simply being in a room with people, Helen Keller could decipher using her sense of smell “the work they are engaged in. The odors of the wood, iron, paint, and drugs cling to the garments of those who work in them…. When a person p

Excerpted from the book Coming To Our Senses: Healing Ourselves and the World Through Mindfulness by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Copyright (c) 2005 Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. Published by Hyperion. All Rights Reserved.