I hear a lot about mindfulness these days. The ironic thing about mindfulness is that it is all about getting out of the mind, which is populated by thoughts and imaginations, and bringing one’s attention to experiences in the present moment.
When people talk about present moment, what does that actually mean? What I have discovered in my pleasure research, which is a life project that I started about five years ago, is that presence is about being in my body— being less mindful and more bodyful.
The quickest way to come into the body is to notice sensation. And we have five magical senses through which we can see, hear, taste, smell and touch the world. But in order to get out of our minds and feel more, we have to slow down.
Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language and the last, and it always tells the truth.
Time seems to stand still when I watch a sunset and the colors change from golden yellow to orange and red, or when I listen to a piece of music that makes me want to move my body, when I taste food that is carefully prepared to bring out a variety of notes on my tongue, or when I smell the fragrance of freshly baked bread.
As delicious and rich as all these sensations are, there is nothing that brings me into the present moment more than touch and feeling sensation on my skin.
We came into this world feeling everything around us and using our hands to make sense of the world. This is our natural state—our first language.
Somewhere along the way, our hands have become less about sensing the world and more about getting stuff done—tools to accomplish a task, whether it is holding a phone, typing on a computer or driving a car, for example.
In my exploration of pleasure, I have come back to a sense of wonder and curiosity about the world around me, and I have started to use my hands and my skin as the access point.
As you wake up your hands to sensation, you wake up your entire body to feel more aliveness, which can range from pleasurable sensations to painful sensations…
We have more nerve endings in our hands than any other part of our body, except our mouth and our genitals. And when we slow down our movement, we engage a particular nerve fiber called a ‘C Fiber’. Our C Fibers are part of our somatic nervous system and are linked to our emotional body and sensual touch. We literally have to slow down to feel more.
As you wake up your hands to sensation, you wake up your entire body to feel more aliveness, which can range from pleasurable sensations to painful sensations – what we might label as happiness or joy, anger or grief.
I often wonder if this is why so many of us shut down sensation in the largest organ of our body – our skin – because when we feel, we feel it all. We feel the ups and downs. The highs and lows. This is all part of the human experience.
When we allow sensation, it passes through us. When we resist, the discomfort persists. I have come to view every sensation as a gift, a moment in time that comes and goes. The less I attach to a particular sensation, the more space I open up for the next sensation, the next possibility for discovery about myself and the world around me.
And when I get lost in my thoughts, I come back to the present moment by coming back to my hands. I slow down and feel – it can be anything, from the fabric of my clothing, to a phone, my bare skin, or the skin of my partner. I notice the temperature, the form and the texture. And I find a place where it feels pleasurable on my skin.
This is presence for me. This is being bodyful—feeling a sense of fullness in my body and enjoying the experience of being alive in this moment and every moment.
All photos are from the series With Love, by Berlin based, Australian photographer Libby Edwards. Libby has a natural knack for telling stories through her photographs. Often placing herself and her immediate surroundings in front of the camera, her work is undeniably intimate, alluring and seductive. See more of her work on her website.