Last time, I wrote about Yoga Nidra, a practice of pratyahara, or detaching from the senses. Practicing sensory detachment is an important part of creating intentional habits and rhythms that nourish us. And, it helps us be fully present with those sensory experiences that are worthy of our full attention.
Experiences like the one I chose for self-care around Seattle this week: indulging in a 3-course lunch at Toulouse Petit.
What is sensory indulgence?
In a word, pleasure. And in another word, mindfulness. For me, sensory indulgence is about active participation in pleasure derived from sensory experiences. Enjoying an extravagant mid-day meal on a (sunny!) weekday isn’t something I do very often, so I made sure to give each moment my full attention, while it was happening.
Why indulge in the senses?
Again, I’m going to say pleasure. But this is pleasure without baggage. No guilt, no compensating, no punishment, no wondering if it’s deserved. Indulging the senses is an attentive exploration of pleasure. In knowing pleasure, and paying attention to what brings us pleasure, we can integrate our experiences into our minds, bodies and spirits and we can nourish ourselves in a way that is deeply satisfying.
How to indulge the senses?
Decide to pay attention. Whether the experience is a meal, a bath or a walk on the beach, all that is required is to slow down enough to take notice. At Toulouse Petit, I felt the warmth of the sun shining through the full-length widows near my booth. With each bite of ricotta gnocchi and wild mushrooms, I paid attention to the texture and the way the creamy sweetness of the gnocchi complimented the earthy flavor of the mushrooms. I was aware of the murmur of conversations around me and the sound of the ice clinking in the water pitcher. All of it helped to ground me right there in the present so that this experience of pleasure could become part of who I am.
Highlight for me
The beignets. In seeing a small stack of the little french donuts covered in powdered sugar being carried to my table, I felt wondrously giddy, as I had long ago in the courtyard at Cafe du Mond where the tiles were covered in powdered sugar. And as the plate was set down on the table, I felt deeply comforted as I had when I was a child waiting in my grandmother’s kitchen while she fried bits of dough on the stove. To return to present, I took a deep breath, letting go of those past pleasures with the exhale, and took a bite.