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Bonnie Bell

Becoming New:
Using Your Six Senses to Empower Your Progress
by Bonnie Gold Bell

You have powerful tools for making progress right in your own hands—and your eyes, nose, mouth, ears and heart. By actively using all six of your senses, you can harness great energy for moving forward and be filled with pleasure in the process. Whether you need to make progress in healing or in realizing other goals, your senses are your inborn allies.

I say this with confidence because my own recovery from advanced cancer has been so empowered by engaging my senses. They have worked like keys to unlock deep resources and capacities. From my cells to my spirit, I have been blessed by my interaction with the living elements around me. In the face of intense challenge, they have helped me to become new. I hope this brief celebration of the senses will support you in your own exploration.

How Does It Work?

Using your senses to become new involves drawing in the beauty-essence of the natural world through each sensory channel. For instance, you can take in the sight of a colorful rose, inhale its scent and touch its soft petals. The uplifting beauty-essence of the flower is really the active agent, and your senses are the means by which you absorb that essence. Input from the senses triggers the organic messaging system that activates responses in your body, mind and spirit. Both modern science and sacred science confirm this effect. We are constantly responding to the sensory stimuli around us. When what we take in feels good to us, it alters our state toward health and optimum functioning.

I use the rose as an example because I have gotten so much healing pleasure from that specific plant. When I first got my diagnosis of stage 4 breast cancer, I knew I had to gain space from the doom that seemed to represent. I had been working with essential oils for some years and was aware that rose oil has perhaps the highest vibration of all the essences. The smell of roses has the capacity to truly lift the spirits and ease the heart. Whenever I began to feel stuck in negativity, I opened the bottle on my desk and breathed it in deeply. I had been lucky to receive a bottle of rose oil as a gift. Since it is extremely expensive, I mostly just smelled the oil. But if I felt overwhelmed, I would put a tiny drop on my heart.

I grow roses on my deck, so I also spent time outside with the flowers. Their visible beauty gave me new life through my eyes, while their scent comforted me. I further worked with the roses by creating images out of them. My husband, David Sun Todd, and I create healing art sourced in natural objects. In this case, we put our rose blossoms directly on our digital scanner and turned them into vibrant mandalas (see "CenterPeace" below). This way, I could gaze on the beauty of the roses all year long and draw on their restorative essence. The roses, many other plants and flowers, the animals and the rocks around me have been my active allies in making new art and a new me.

My senses were, of course, only part of what restored me. I want to acknowledge the incredible help I got from family and friends and especially my husband, David. He evolved a whole system of healing just to help me. I was graced to find my way to wonderful healers of every persuasion and treatments that supported my recovery. I renewed a very deep soul connection with the many-formed Goddess and other spirit allies. But, without a doubt, one of the reasons that I am so well today is that I used my senses to feed on the beauty of life.

Make no mistake, beauty is strong medicine. Like love, its emotional counterpart, beauty is a force of positive change. Our hearts and bodies are awakened in its presence. Even when nothing else can penetrate our suffering, we can be moved by beauty’s touch. It arouses us in ways that benefit both body and emotions. It turns on cascades of chemical support to the cells. In its embrace, we can walk past limits that otherwise seem too daunting. So when I say that taking in beauty through my senses helped me move forward, I mean that most literally.

Your Sixth Sense

I think of intuition as my sense of feeling or directly knowing. Sometimes we speak of "gut feelings" when we are referring to this capacity. It is a sensing that is seated in the feeling core of our bodies, not our minds. Many of us who have a well-developed sixth sense have tried to suppress or ignore it. We may have felt too sensitive or open as children. I was such a child, and reclaiming my sixth sense was crucial to my recovery.

The other five senses work more from the outside in. They bring us data from the world around us that impacts our state. But our intuitive sixth sense works from the inside out, bringing us essential information from our subconscious awareness.

I have always found it valuable to use tools to help me access my core guidance. When I was a young adult, I discovered the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes. The combination of visual hexagrams and symbolic language seemed to quicken my own intuitive understanding. I later learned to work with a pendulum to give myself a kinetic way to read the feedback from my own intuition. Eventually, I discovered that the best way for me to plumb the depths of my subconscious knowing was to make pictures. By re-mixing visual elements to form a symbolic language, I was able to bring my interior wisdom into awareness. Eventually, David and I created our own divination deck that has been published as The GaiaStar Codex: Seeds of a Turned On World. I still use this deck almost every day as a way of bringing my inner knowing to the surface.

Today, for instance, I consulted The GaiaStar Codex to choose a visual image for this section. I pulled the card you see below called "Madame Be". Of course! Of all the cards in the deck, this one speaks most directly to the topic of moving forward. Madame Be is a butterfly-being who has gone through transformation and been reborn. Here’s a quote from the passage in the Codex on Madame Be:

"The directness in Madame Be’s eyes is the fruit of thorough self-knowledge. Having endured the crisis of transmutation, she emerges triumphant. Wearing the triple crown of crystal, stone and flower, she is every inch a goddess. From the Earth Stone over her heart blooms a passionflower, symbol of her intense love for the new reality." (The GaiaStar Codex, p. 40)

Sensory Empowerments for Making Progress

Needing a new job, a new love, a new identity and purpose? The stories I am sharing here have to do with progress in healing, but you can use your senses to move yourself forward on any front. What follows are some ideas on ways to use your senses to empower yourself.

Scent is one of our most primal senses. The human body has many times the number of smell receptors as it does receptors for other senses. The input channels from our sense of smell are hard-wired into the limbic centers of our brains where emotion registers. Therefore, we have a strong emotional response to smells, and they have the power to elicit both memory and arousal. Whether you want to let go and relax or gear up, you can use scents to help you.

One way to work with scents is to apply or diffuse essential oils. The main thing to look for is natural essences that have only been lightly processed, versus over-processed or synthetic scents. If you are looking to release old thought patterns and energies to move forward, a bath can be a wonderful way to use scents. Choose smells that make you smile with pleasure, and add a few drops to your bath. Allow the water and the delightful scents to wash away what is outdated and help you breath in new possibilities. This immersive experience works at a vibrational level to refresh your whole system.

You can also use scented oils ritually, to anoint and honor your body (or another’s body) or your sacred objects. By combining touch with smell you create a very empowering event. Good quality incense offers another way to use your sense of smell for growth and expansion. Seeing the light trails of incense smoke rise through the air adds a visual sense of rising spirits. Incense has always been part of sacred ceremonies, since it opens our bodies and feeling to divinity.


From our first swallow of mother’s milk, we come awake in our sense of taste. It is a difficult fact of modern life that many of us are in conflict with this very essential sense. We are unsure that what we take in through our mouths is really good for us—and some of it isn’t. One way to engage with your sense of taste for the sake of growth is to prepare a ritual meal. It can be ultra simple or deliciously rich, but be sure that you feel good about every ingredient. It’s good to clean your kitchen space before you start and take time to enjoy every step of the preparation. If you have special dishes and decorations, bring them out for this ceremony. The beauty of the meal is part of the elevating effect. Add music, candles, flowers or other sensory elements as desired, and then feed yourself as if you were feeding a queen or lord. This is a banquet honoring the progress you are making in your life. Receive every bite with pleasure and self-love.


Whole volumes have been written about the effect of touch on well-being. From the gentle touch of a compassionate helper to the fiery embrace of tantric love, your state can clearly be enhanced through your sense of touch. But without anyone else’s involvement, you can tap into the joy of touch. I found the touch of a silk scarf a very distinct comfort when I was first healing, not to mention the velvety fur of my black cat, Al Khem.

You may also want to be touched on a spiritual level. Just when I was becoming really ill, I had the opportunity to create an image of Goddess Kuan Yin. The "Deep Gold" image (below) started out as a gift for my friend Judy Miller Dienst, a wonderful medical intuitive who has helped me immensely in my recovery. But this image was a precious gift to me as well. Having made this first healing Goddess image, I decided to make more. David and I first made a group of seven Goddesses; one for each chakra in the physical body. Every image featured a traditional Goddess statue, in a mandala setting of nature elements. I call these Goddesses the "Mystical Mothers". I felt embraced in my soul by these Goddesses and that gave me a way to touch into the issue that was perhaps the root of my cancer—negation of my deep feminine nature. As I allowed intuition to guide me in the creation of a larger series of 13 Goddesses, I was shown where I needed to reclaim my identity and power. I re-made the Mothers while the Mothers re-made me. I hope these Goddesses will bring many others this gift of motherly embrace.


Many traditions say that sound, word, or vibration is the originating source of all life. Starting with the heartbeat and the drum, moving into vocal and instrumental music, we humans have always been moved by the wonders of sound. With a whole world of music to choose from, you can find just the right soundtrack for your progress. If you can make music yourself, all the better. Sound can provide a foundation for working with all the other senses, including intuition. Speech and verbal affirmations also fit in this category. Practicing praise—of yourself and of others—is an extremely empowering event.

You can also experiment with making sounds for the sake of clearing out emotional blocks and stuck energies. Many times when my feelings were overwhelming, I would go out beyond our house to a huge madrone tree. This Grandmother tree has an opening so large that I can sit totally inside it. Safe in this living enclosure, I would make sounds that were somewhere between a howl and a yowl. Letting the intensity of my feeling out in this unrestrained vibrational release felt very relieving and moved my energy toward healing.


One of the reasons sight is such a powerful sense is that we can see inwardly as well as through our eyes. Sight ties into imagination, which has been shown to have a profound effect on our well being. Both kinds of vision are powerful and can bring you new energy.

One way to activate yourself through sight is to contemplate an image that you find inspirational. I have found there are several levels to this kind of visual meditation. It’s always good to start by simply taking in the beauty of the image, its colors and shapes, its overall impression. If you are inclined, you may also feel into the vibration or energy of the image and notice what it awakens in you. Beyond that, you can relate to the image as an interface through which you can tap into reservoirs of grace. Feel that you can draw on the energies of the cosmos though this visual portal. Whatever you need can be taken in through your eyes and inner vision. This kind of contemplation can be done with eyes open, though you may also let them close. You will still be in touch with the vision that is potent for you.


The only expert on your intuition is you. Working with divination decks or intuitive counselors can be a big help in connecting you with the reality of your subconscious capacities. The more you see the reflection of your inner knowing, the more you can learn to trust it. The trick is to remember that what is being revealed to you through the deck or the personal reading is your own information. It comes from within you, and you are the one who best knows how to understand it.

Another good way to exercise your intuition is through journaling. Experiment with what may help you write without editing or censoring yourself. I find, for instance, that if I take off my glasses so that I can’t quite see the words clearly, my writing is freed up to be less linear. Through creative journaling you can connect with streams of inner information that will surprise and change you.

Combining Your Senses

One of the most effective ways to empower yourself is to use all your senses together in a personal ceremony of progress. First use your intuition to discover your specific intention. Once you feel what you want, state it as fully as you can. Then use all the other five senses to bring your intention into reality. By combining scent, sound, touch, taste and vision in a personal ritual, you create a powerful synergy within yourself. All the energies in your body and spirit are awakened and focused together. This can really move you toward your goal.

Inborn Magic

Our six senses can help us overcome one of the greatest emotional obstacles to moving forward—helplessness. Perhaps we feel stuck in a bad job, a difficult relationship, or a frightening diagnosis. It is easy to slide into despair. Using our senses, we can change the biochemical climate within our bodies, and thereby mobilize changes at many levels. The fundamental choice to move forward must, of course, originate in the soulful core of being. Once chosen, though, the path to renewal is greatly catalyzed by the senses.

One additional benefit to working with the senses is that they connect us with the ever-changing Mother Earth. Some people speak of an emerging New Earth, some see a shift in planetary time, and others point to the eco-technological impacts of our global culture. In the face of inevitable changes, our senses help us come into harmony with our dynamic world. When we dwell in the senses, we downshift from a rushed pace into the slower pace of organic life. Emotions and mind come into resonance with the deep rhythms of the body, promoting integration and well-being. We notice the beauty around us, and we use it to grow. The more we practice this inborn sensory magic, the stronger it gets. We find that we have, at our fingertips, the power to become new.

Images and Text © 2004 Bonnie Gold Bell and David Sun Todd.

GaiaStar Mandalas by Bonnie Bell and David Todd
                    Healing Mandala Wall Calendar by Bonnie Bell and David Todd

Bonnie Bell
Bonnie Gold Bell and David Sun Todd are partners in life and art. Together, they have created a large library of Nature-sourced images in which the beauty of Earth is married with the uplifting energy of cosmic spirit. The spontaneous natural shapes and intentional geometries in these images work together to convey vibrational blessings. Bonnie and David’s work has evolved into a new form of medicine art that empowers personal and planetary transformation.

Neither of these co-creators was originally an artist. Bonnie spent two decades traveling the world as a spiritual educator and healing priestess. David was a writer and editor for a spiritual press and director of a software company. They have been guided in each step of the creation of the art, and now in its many uses as tools for change. Bonnie and David offer personal healing-empowerment sessions using their images. David does Cosmic Healer Transmissions, and Bonnie offers coaching on Becoming New.

The two artists’ work appears in numerous publications including their book, GaiaStar Mandalas: Ecstatic Visions of the Living Earth, containing 90 full-color mandalas and the story of how their art came into being. They have also created a divination deck The GaiaStar Codex: Seeds of a Turned On World. Their Healing MandalasTM series includes a yearly wall calendar, a screensaver and large square notecards. Their newest art series is the Mystical MothersTM, goddess mandalas that have come from Bonnie’s deep recovery process. Bonnie and David also offer fine art prints of their works, which bring the vibrant blessings of heaven and earth into many homes and healing centers.

Bonnie and David’s goal is to put their image-tools into the hands of people who want to heal themselves and help re-vision the world. To learn more about their art and offerings, please visit their website http://www.bellandtodd.com




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