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Have you ever wondered what it is like to be blind? Such a disability can be immobilizing for the many, but not for the few. In fact, the few are now inspiring the many under the leadership of Erik Weihenmayer, a 100% blind adventurer who peaked Mt. Everest, Denali, the Seven Summits (the highest peaks on each continent) and kayaked the entire 277 mile Grand Canyon through the treacherous rapids of the Colorado River. (1)
My wife, daughter and I were invited to join Erik for a blind dinner. This is an evening of eating, drinking, mingling (sort of), and listening to Erik’s lecture – all in a pitch black room. You are escorted into the dark dining hall and seated by a blind escort and, in a blink, you are blind.
It was an amazing experience! First, the ratcheting up of the “awe” we had for Erik’s accomplishments, no words could describe! Just finding our forks and knives was a trick. Then, finding the food on your plate with the fork and knife was an even bigger trick. The simple task of having a sip of water was a high risk maneuver. Would I spill it trying to find the glass or trying to find space to put it back down?
Erik climbed Everest blind… and I am struggling to sip a glass of water!!!
After a few minutes of total disorientation, we started to get the hang of it, however, the entire dining room was mostly silent as just about everyone found talking and eating a mostly insurmountable multi-task.
Once we all settled into the process, we found the sensory deprivation delivered a palpable sense of calm. Eating became an inner experience rather than an outer one; meaning that when I eat with my eyes open I am very aware of what I put in my mouth. When eating blind, I was only acutely aware of what was in my mouth.
Knowing what I just ate was determined by a heightened focus of all my senses – mostly taste and smell. This kind of sensory awareness is extremely hard to reproduce with the eyes open in the daylight. We are 100% conditioned to primarily experience the world through our eyes, and that leaves our other senses as a smattering of background chatter.
Dining in the Dark
I invite you all to have a blindfolded meal at some point and see how quickly your senses are driven inwards. Dining in the dark is a simple and fun exercise to do in your home with your family. After you serve the food and drink, everyone blindfolds themselves and Bon Appétit!
Ayurveda is all about becoming more self-aware with techniques such as yoga, breathing, meditation and mindfulness. Ayurveda also mandates the importance of eating each bite in a relaxed, calm, fully aware state. This is a challenge to fully accomplish with the eyes open. You may not understand the meaning of eating Ayurvedically (fully aware) until you experience your first blindfolded meal.
Sensory Deprivation Science – It Works!
A group of 65 participants were split into two groups. One group soaked seven times over 12 weeks in a sensory deprivation floatation tank and the other group acted as a control. Stress, depression, anxiety, and pain were significantly decreased in the sensory deprivation group, and optimism and sleep quality significantly increased. No significant results for the control group were seen. Mindfulness or self-awareness in daily life was also seen in the floatation tank group and not in the controls. (2)
Erik co-founded a movement called “No Barriers” for the so-called disabled. Their motto: “What is within you is stronger than what is in your way.”