As Christians, we tend to spend much of our time in our heads or “in the Word.” But that means we’re not experiencing all of God’s goodness, according to the authors of Awaken Your Senses.
In the book, they invite readers to engage faith through tasting, seeing, touching, hearing and smelling, through “spiritual practices that engage your whole person: both sides of your brain, all five senses and your body.”
Bible studies, sermons and books are all ways to engage the left side of the brain—the logical, concrete center of our thinking, the authors say, but “experiencing” is handled by the right brain, and that is accessed through the senses. “We need to awaken both sides of our brain in order to experience God,” the authors write.
So how does one engage in “smelly spirituality,” for example? The early church understood scent as an avenue for experiencing God, and today, scent remains part of Orthodox, Catholic and Anglican worship traditions. As a spiritual exercise, the authors encourage readers to recall scents associated with happy memories of a particular person or place: a mother’s cologne, a father’s pipe tobacco, the honeysuckle behind a vacation cabin, the flowers in a wedding bouquet. Given the unpleasant smells of hospitals and bedsides, Ms. Booram proposes introducing a different fragrance in those settings: “the perfume of anointing oil and healing prayer.”
With Scripture references, historic background and concrete suggestions, the authors invite readers to get out of their heads and into a faith that engages both bodies and souls: “Step out with eyes wide open, ears attuned, smelling the air around you, mouth watering for a fresh taste and skin sensitized to feel the wonder of God in each no-longer ordinary day.”
Awaken Your Senses: Exercises for Exploring the Wonder of God
J. Brent Bill and Beth A. Booram; InterVarsity Press, 2011; Paperback, 208 pages