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Perception – People Synaesthesia

Sivananda Saraswati, a Hindu spiritual teacher, who wrote nearly 300 books on yoga and a range of subjects, gave a philosophical view of perception in his “Sure Ways of Success in Life”.

The senses are the gatekeepers of the wonderful factory of the mind. They bring into the mental factory matter for manufacture. Light vibrations, sound vibrations, and the like, are brought inside through these avenues. The sensations are first converted into percepts by the mind, which then presents these percepts to the intellect. The intellect converts these percepts into concepts or ideas.

The external senses are only instruments in the process of perception. The real auditory, tactile, visual, gustatory and olfactory centres are in the brain and in the astral body. These centres are the real senses which make perception possible.

Learning and discovering synaesthesia makes me appreciate Sivananda’s enlightening analysis of perception more and more.

Thomas perceives people he knows well or he likes through all five senses. His remarkable caring personality and his ability of reading people’s minds easily often make me wonder if he will become a humanitarian when he grows up.

Thomas’ colour perception is usually based on an individual’s favourite colour or a noticeable colour association such as a certain colour for a football team. He perceives me in the colour of Purple. I often wear purple tops. Purple is a trendy colour to Thomas. Thinking about me also makes him smell nectarine, taste hamburger, hear people play soccer, and feel soft pat on his body.

Thomas loves both his grandfathers. One smells like peanut butter, the other smells like macaroni. One tastes like lasagne, the other tastes like fish and chips. The most beautiful synaesthetic response he experiences while thinking about his grandfathers is that gentle touch sensation which makes him fall asleep.

One of the most disturbing synaesthetic perception to him is hearing a ghost like sound. That happens occasionally if he notices someone is ill.

When Thomas was five, we took him and Skye to China. One of my best friends invited us for dinner. After we sat down at the dining table, Thomas was concerned that there were not enough chairs for my friend’s dad and maid. He was then told that they were not going to have dinner with us. He quickly went to the TV room they were in to chat with them and to keep them entertained.

After dinner, Skye suggested that we should all play ‘I spy with my little eye’. But my friend’s son was shy and didn’t want to participate as he was not confident with his English. So when Thomas had his first turn, he said, ‘I spy with my little eye, something beginning with T.’ T is the first letter of my friend’s son’s name. After we correctly guessed, Thomas said yes and he wanted the boy to feel included. The boy was very excited and started playing with us.

We don’t usually think about how Thomas approaches things as we often take it as granted. But my friend told me later that she and her family were really amazed by how a young child naturally cared for everyone.

Thomas is still serious about becoming a doctor one day to save people’s lives. Recently, he learnt how much it cost us to have a small laser surgery done on Skye’s nose. He said he would not charge his patient much money as he wanted to help poor people. We told him his heart was in the right place.

With Skye away on a school camp this week, Thomas is enjoying our attention. I am surprised how quiet our house is, and how much less stress we have with our most disorganised son away. The problem is that now with no one else to compare, we start noticing how disorganised Thomas is as well. I have to say, he is still slightly better organised than Skye. No wonder when my husband said to Thomas the other day he was becoming the same as Skye, Thomas replied with his wit, “Skye has no brain. I have a little brain. There is a big difference between nothing and something.”

I know Thomas misses Skye very much. They are best friends. Often I feel they are the only people in the world who can understand each other so well. But when I asked Thomas tonight what Skye smelt like, he put his hand over his nose, “Oh stink. It’s so unfair. I can smell my brother even he is 200KM away!”

There is certainly some sibling rivalry going on …

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