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Sushama Kirtikar

“Let go of your mind and come to your senses.” Say that again? Did we not just go over an entire column on sharpening the intellect? So, what is this? As the wheel of wellness rotates, the next segment that comes into focus is the ‘sensual self.’ You may rightly object that to be ‘sensuous’ could be considered pandering to the material world of the bourgeois, and therefore highly distasteful. Well, if we can stop being bellicose about this, perhaps we can be ‘sensible’ about it. No pun intended.

Have you ever tried to do a balancing act such as walk on a balance beam, or stand perfectly still in the ‘vrakshasana’ (tree pose) of yoga with your eyes closed? With eyes open and fixed on one target, the body can remain balanced for an impressive period. But shutting the eyes immediately deprives us of visual input to the brain and the body sways and loses its equilibrium. Have you ever found that a bouquet of roses redolent with a full fragrance appeals to you more than even the most perfectly blossomed rose bunch that is devoid of any perfume? Have you ever bitten into a bright saffron mango with perfect texture and firmness only to be disappointed because it hasn’t ripened fully for its sweetness to tantalize your taste buds? Have you ever watched a horror movie with the sound on mute and were unmoved by the gory images flitting on the screen? Have you ever rushed to a beach eagerly expecting to find silky sand to caress your feet; instead had to recoil at the prickly touch of crushed shells? These are examples of our visual (sight), olfactory (smell), gustatory (taste), auditory (hearing) and tactile (touch) senses being diminished to the point of altering our experiences entirely.

Often, we go through life with one or more senses muted, dulled or fully turned off. Imagine what a stilted perception of life we must have. The goal therefore is to amplify all our five (and sometimes six) senses so that we may come alive as human beings. To stimulate our sensuality, we may get immersed in the creative arts, develop an appreciation for drama, film, music, dance, art, photography. The soaring of our hearts on the wings of a rising crescendo of music is as telling as the deafening applause at curtain call. Yard work becomes a carte blanche to play in the dirt as we feel the cool, yielding soil sift through our fingers. Naturalists invite nature to be their teacher and healer. To inhale the woodsy smell of the countryside, to feel the breeze brushing our hair or to listen to the lyrical call of birds is a balm to anyone’s spirit. It does not matter what the activity is, as long as we are willing to receive it with openness and allow ourselves to glean a consummate sensual experience.

By filing our senses we are moved and aroused out of an otherwise banal existence. We pay keen attention to details and appreciate finer nuances of our surroundings, thereby awakening a positive outlook on life. It helps ground us in reality and come to terms with the things that are awry for the moment. It stills an overworked and over-analytical mind. It also helps us be fully present, to be better listeners, to be more sensitive to others. It kindles humanity in us that otherwise gets buried under the pile up of daily strife. Each one of our senses is a gift that we could bathe, feed and nourish regularly. It is as if we are making a resolve to enjoy life fully.

Sushama Kirtikar, a licensed mental health counselor in private practice, can be reached at (813) 264-7114 or e-mail at

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Dr. Ram P. Ramcharran

If you were to unexpectedly die or become incapacitated, that would be shocking for your child. The last thing he or she would need would be for his own medical needs, routines and daily life to be thrown into upheaval as well. You can guard against that by writing a Letter of Intent, providing your child's guardians or care giver with practical information to guide them in making decisions and interacting with your child.

Find below a Sample Letter of Intent for review

This sample gives you an idea of what should be covered in a letter of intent. Your letter would contain far more details than are indicated here. This document is a way of telling people what you want.

To Whom It May Concern:

Re: Our daughter Shanti

Contact the following people if anything should happen to us: Names, addresses, mail and e-mail addresses of other children, extended family, case manager and a close family friend.

Current situation and family life: Shanti is a 13-year-old with autism who lives with her brother and parents. At home, she enjoys reading, playing computer games, cooking, and helping with chores. She enjoys family outings such as hiking, swimming, visiting friends and going to restaurants and movies.

Education: Shanti is included in a regular class at James Madison Middle School with one-to-one support. Her strengths are reading, memory and music. Since she is unable to print by hand, she uses a laptop computer. When class lessons are too complicated, her assistant allows her to access related computer games and programs instead.

Future residence: Shanti would like to someday share an apartment with a roommate. She will likely need a support worker to check in with her daily (or less frequently) to help with activities of daily living, banking, or general support.

Employment: Shanti has a keen interest in animals and cooking, and is skilled with computers. She would probably enjoy working or volunteering at an animal shelter, a pet store, or in the food service industry. Perhaps, she also could find work requiring some computer expertise.

Medical Care: Shanti has no medical challenges. She is seen for a yearly check up by Dr. Raj Shah he is in Tampa, who is familiar with Shanti's strengths and challenges.

Behavior Management: Shanti occasionally pinches and gets teary when she is anxious. The best strategy is to provide her with a written schedule or calendar of what will be happening in the day.

Social: Shanti participates in several community programs, including YMCA sports for kids at the Palm Harbor YMCA on Tuesday’s at 5 p.m., a community cooking class (day, time, location)

Religious/Spiritual Life: Most Sundays, Shanti attends services with us at the Vishnu Mandir Temple. In addition, she occasionally attends youth group social programs for pre-teens and young adults. Guardian and Trustee: Guardians and trustees have been assigned in our wills, which were last updated on Jan. 12, 2005 and are on file with Attorney Barry Smith of Smith and Locke.

Both parents' signatures.


This is just a suggestion of what you should include in the letter of intent. Remember document is what you make of it. You can make it as detail as you like because it explains what you want for your child and this documents shares that vision.

Dr. Ram P. Ramcharran can be reached at

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