Leonardo da Vinci

The 5 Senses and Our Experiences


da Vincian Life Series Part 5

When I first began studying the life of Leonardo da Vinci, what surprised me the most was his reverence of the 5 senses. Leonardo’s workshop was filled with musicians, fragrant flowers, culinary delights and wine, and he made sure he wore clothing that felt good to his touch.  He believed and wrote that the average human “looks without seeing, listens without hearing, touches without feeling, eats without tasting, moves without physical awareness, inhales without awareness of odour or fragrance, and talks without thinking.” Da Vinci biographer Serge Bramly compares Leonardo’s program of sensory development and refinement of an athlete’s training regimen.


I have often wondered if the effects of stress can be offset be regular sensory stimulation.  When I think of a need to get away, I think of going somewhere remote with beautiful scenery where the food & wine are good, I can get a message with some aromatherapy and hopefully enjoy some live jazz.  If not jazz, the sound of waves crashing on the ocean works just fine. When we visualize relaxation we visualize cutting out all the activities that stop us from exercising our 5 senses to the fullest.


How do we exercise our 5 senses on a regular basis? Here are some suggestions:

Taste – explore wine tasting or take cooking classes

Scent study aroma therapy, with aisles dedicated to home fragrances you can try different ones to determine how they affect your moods.  Leonardo, made his own cologne.

Sight – Visit museums or gardens, learn to draw or take up watercolor painting, take up photography.

Hearing- begin listening to jazz or classical music. Learn the different eras of both genre’s of music.

Touch- This is a tough one, but you can make an effort to notice the feel of your clothing the next time you shop for new clothes. You have to make a concerted effort to notice the feelings you get when you touch something or the next time you get a message.

The key is to learn to discriminate in all 5 sense.  In order to do this, you have to study them enough to be somewhat knowledgeable in a discussion.  As I write this I’m visualizing Micheal Sheen’s character in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” movie (great film go see it).  He’s the “pedantic”  character – talks authoritative on every subject but really doesn’t know much. That’s not what we are going for.  We are exercising our senses so that we can enliven our experiences, improve discernment and find inspiration to solve our daily problems.
Source Material:  Michael Gelb “How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci”; Edward de Bono “de Bono’s Thinking Course”