Sunday, December 1, 2013

Wait, I thought we only had 5 senses....

We all know that we have 5 senses: taste, touch, smell, vision, and hearing. And some people have to claim a 6th sense, which is usually something ridiculous like knowing when something is about to happen or about the weather or if some one is a decent human being or not. That's really not a sense, that's more like discernment and wisdom. BUT I just learned something new at a recent therapy conference I went to.....

So I am working at a child development center where we see a ton of different, unique kids with a multitude of skills and abilities. One of the challenges we are seeing more kids dealing with is called sensory integration disorders. Basically, their bodies and brains get easily overloaded with all the sensory input that the world around them is constantly trying to hit them with. Have you ever been in a candle shop that started to make you nauseous from the over powering smell? Or been at a rock concert where the volume was a little too loud and you just wanted to close your ears? Tried to try tapioca pudding but just couldn't get over the frog-egg texture? Shopped in Walmart?  These are just teeny, tiny examples of what a child with a  sensory integration disorder deals with 24/7. In order to help therapists understand what it's like to be one of these kids, several of my co-workers taught a mini conference on it this fall. It was a blast. Basically we put fully grown, neurologically "typical" adults into sensory overload and then gave them various strategies to cope and regulate their brains and bodies. Ever wonder why you chew copious amounts of gum when you're trying to focus on that difficult task? Why listening to classical music takes you to that happy place? Why that lavender bubble bath is just so darn relaxing? It's a way of using your sensory system to bring yourself back to "normal".

Here's the kicker, though. We don't have 5 senses. We have SEVEN. Yup. There are two other sensory systems that are integral in being a human being. Number six is called proprioception. It's the one that tells your brain where your body is in space, what your limbs are doing and where they are at any given time as well as the amount of strength and force you need to move your muscles to do what you want to do. Know some one who is super klutzy and trips over invisible rocks on the sidewalk? They probably don't have the best sense of proprioception. They're always bumping into things and not too coordinated. The lucky sense number seven is related to the vestibular system, which contributes to balance and your sense of spatial orientation to gravity as well as movement and balance. This sense tells us which way is up and helps keep us on our feet. If you've ever been swept away in a ginormous wave in the ocean and found yourself swimming endlessly looking for air but you just can't seem to locate the surface, this sense has just been messed with.

In the therapeutic world, this information helps us work with children by focusing on the systems that may be interfering with learning. In the spiritual world, this has huge implications. The Bible tells use that we are made up of three parts: the body, soul, and spirit. Our bodies are obvious, that's our physical, living, breathing, organic matter. Our souls are our thoughts and emotions. Our spirits are what separate us from the rest of the animal kingdom and connect us to the Kingdom through the Holy Spirit. (That is a basic explanation, maybe one day I'll write a whole blog on that, but for now if you have questions let me know). How else are we supposed to wear the armor mentioned in Ephesians? Anyway, long story short, not only do our physical bodies have 7 senses in the natural, but we also have 7 senses in our spiritual bodies. Think about it. Jesus uses this language all the time. Not only was he constantly "seeing" what the Father was doing, but he was telling us to as well. He was perpetually telling the Pharisees that whoever had eyes should see and ears should hear. He wasn't suggesting they were all blind mutes. The other senses are referenced throughout the Bible, too. Psalm 38 says, "Taste and see that the Lord is good." And we are to eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus.  There are plenty of references to the typical 5 senses. But what if we had all 7 senses in the spirit as well? A proprioception to know where we are in relation to the rest of the Body, where our spiritual "muscles" are, and how they're flexed. A vestibular system that tells us where we are in relation to the Holy Spirit (who is our center), our movement in the spirit, which direction we need to go, and whether or not we are in balance. Ponder it for a while. Makes sense.

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