I just attended a weekend of lecture regarding the twelve senses. As a therapist, this was highly interesting and entertaining to me! Many people assume there are only five major senses; in physical therapy we tend to work with eight senses; in Waldorf Education we work with twelve senses although there is now a catalog of hundreds of senses. Our lecturer described the senses much like a tree, with senses coming off of trunks into branches, twigs, twiglets, etc.
The twelve senses can be broken down into three groups of four: the lower sense of touch, life, movement and balance are often what we should as parents and educators be working on in the Early Years, because they have such strong correlation to the sense we are working so hard to develop in the high school years (the sense of hearing, the sense of word, the sense of thought, the sense of Thou). In the middle are the middle senses that help us take in our world and mediate between the lower senses that concern our own body and those higher senses that include how we relate to others. Those higher senses include how we hear and listen to others, how we perceive speech, how we understand the thoughts of others, how we know “Thou” – the others in our life and where we end and they begin. If all this is new to you, have a peek at this past post: http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/22/the-twelve-senses/
All the senses work together; most functional tasks in life use more than one. To me, though, touch is a bedrock of so many of these senses and one that so many children have challenges with. If touch is defined primarily not by the surrounding circumstances that involve other systems (is it hot? is it cold? etc), but by the experience of “this is where I end, and this is where something else begins”, we can see this connection to the very highest sense of the twelve: the sense of Thou. Where do you end? Where do I begin? What are the boundaries between us?
This is one of the first senses just assaulted in American society. From taking the baby away from its mother and immediately bathing the baby, washing away the vernix, to the myriad of vaccinations that puncture the skin (and I do NOT want to start a debate on vaccines at all, but it is worth noting the extreme differences in the number of vaccines it now takes to be “fully vaccinated” compared to in the past), to the ubiquitous car seat as a method to carrying infants, to putting infants away from their families in day cares where babies are not held or carried in a sling but put “in” things to plastic toys that are really made of oil and just a front for being a true substance to be touched…It is both saddening and maddening.
If you are the parent of a child, especially a child ages birth to three, I urge you to hold your child, give your child new experiences of touch through natural toys, natural fibers, natural colors in your home. Let your child squish leaves, play in the mud, and swim in a lake. Let them brush the dog and eat berries with the juice running down their arms. The tiniest of our society has the most incredible of work: to get messy and get dirty daily!
If you have an older child that you feel missed these experiences and is showing challenges in the higher areas because of this, the good news is that it is not too late to go back to the lower four senses. In fact, in the cases of learning challenges, social anxiety, difficulty with social relationships, the situation demands it.
Much love, many blessings, more musings to come,