Flourishing with Sensory Processing Sensitivity
Earlier this month I experienced my annual personal retreat. I began packing three weeks before the departure date. The night before leaving I wanted to go to bed in the afternoon so morning would arrive. That level of anticipation doesn’t often happen with me. I longed to be alone for an extended amount of time. I couldn’t wait to be in nature. I had great ideas for how to spend my time. I loaded my car with six books, two journals, six films, fishing gear, several candles, healthy groceries, and multiple play lists. I had music to write with and music for the road. I had books on tape. I had an agenda that included taking a few hours each day with pen and paper to “sit and ponder” facets of my life including work, marriage, parenting, friendship, faith and health. I had a gut feeling the trip would be good. I had no idea how good or what kind of good.
I didn’t expect it to rain the entire seven-hour drive nor did I expect to talk to a friend for ninety minutes on the Bluetooth. Since I was heading to an area I had spent my childhood summers I put in a play list of music that included those memories. This is where my hsp wiring kicked in. There I was, driving on country roads under pelting rain singing at the top of my lungs to songs that brought me back. The feelings intensified as the song notes lifted and before I knew it tears were racing down my cheeks. It was at that point I had a choice: keep on singing and feeling or switch the music and steer my thoughts another direction. Some call this switching from the right to the left-brain. Psychology labels it self-regulation. Although not as simple as it sounds some of us need to pay attention to what is evoking our deep feelings and sometimes alter our environment when we feel overwhelmed or get to a place where the depth of feeling is bringing on more than we can manage at the time. I enjoyed this looking back and feeling remnants of early attachment to nature and place but needed mental stamina for driving safely and tending to all that would get evoked in the days ahead. I finished that play list and put in an audio book that stimulated my left-brain.
A newsletter on sensory processing sensitivity is not the place to detail a personal retreat. I will share a couple pieces that seem relevant to this cluster of traits.
You can see I came prepared. I had days and nights to fill and dare I say wonderful ideas in how to do so. And then I was reminded why being hsp can sometimes provide a life of its own to its owner. I had so much brewing inside of me that needed to come out. Placed in the right location I was able to take in so much I felt like all I could do was open my arms and receive.
My play lists for writing and pleasure were replaced by the sounds of silence and nature. I didn’t play the classical play list in the cabin. Instead I opened the windows and listened to the sounds of the wind caressing the pines and baby eagles squeaking when their mom brought them food. I could tell when she came and when she flew away. I’d take my boat as deep into nature as possible and drift across the lake. I didn’t pull out my journal since I couldn’t stop staring at the otters, great blue herons and ducks. My hsp senses were not only activated but in ecstasy! I read Wendell Berry poetry out loud and couldn’t finish stanzas because nature kept pouring into me. At one point I was standing in the boat casting and had the revelation of how peaceful and satisfied I was feeling and began to cry. My body felt unusually calm and my mind captured by love. Some of you may be wondering “wouldn’t she be happier sharing that moment with another person?” Ironically I thought the opposite. I realized I live far too aware of others when they are with me and as I’ve aged my senses have only heightened so those moments of fullness and peace and love were taken in because they were all mine to absorb.
I didn’t get to my books. Instead of films at night I sat on the front porch with a candle facing the water and listened to multiple animals sounds that appeared to be singing and playing just for me. I couldn’t believe the sound ducks made when they landed on the water. And what’s with all the night activity? It’s like they waited for the sun to hide and then came out to play.
I didn’t need all those books or play lists or even the journal prompts. I just needed to get there and look around, listen and receive. And receive some more. I’ve already planned my return.
PBS-quality documentary about HSP’s: to read about this exciting venture go to http://hsperson.com/ and read letter from Elaine Aron.
I recall being at an hsp retreat and another attender saying to me, “This is the only place where over five days you hear the words “I’m sorry” a hundred times.” I saw this ad on tv and recalled that comment. Question: why are we apologizing so much? Note: This is not only for women and I am not promoting the product. Sorry about that.
When you change the way you look at things, the things you are looking at change.