Meditations for the Five Senses: Eau D’Ambiance (Smell)

By BijaB

Odors are hard to describe, but we can detect more than ten thousand different ones.

Smells are immediate.  They have a mysterious power to them, triggering emotions and images: childhood memories of summer family dinners of barbecued chicken and succulent corn, the first day of school, riding horses with your dad on Saturdays.

In one moment, unexpected emotional memories explode: the scent of past lovers, houses we used to live in, a church we used to attend. But how do we describe the features of a scent? There are floral, fruity, musky, and acrid smells. There are sour, salty, burnt, putrid, and pungent smells. Odors are hard to describe, but we can detect more than ten thousand different ones.

— If you go to the country, you can learn the inner nature of things through smell. You can have a sense for something sprouting, growing, and coming into being, or something fading and dying away. Smells can cultivate satisfying emotional experiences.

— If there isn't a farm nearby, go to a botanical garden, park, or an orchard and sniff the ripening peaches on the tree. Get drenched with the perfume of luscious wet flowers. Experience the fruity smell of tart green apples. Go to a farmer's market and pick up a spicy tomato oozing with deep, succulent, dream-inducing scents. If you can find it, fresh-cut hay smells wonderfully sweet and earthy. Combine the damp and musky odor of a barn, the fresh warm milk from the cow, the sweet rich manure, and the pungent root vegetables. Call it Rural No. 5. Pure smell and pure pleasure!

— Try out your olfactory skills in various places: go to a farm, a zoo, the mountains, the forest, the sea. Smell an approaching rainstorm. Sit in a rose garden, a coffeehouse, a pizza parlor, a chocolate store. Go to a perfume shop, a delicatessen, a bar. Sit down wherever you are and close your eyes. Smell the melange of sensory delights. Allow the various scents to flood and bathe you. Notice how different smells make you feel and how they affect your emotional state.

Stay connected to your body with this body awareness technique.

(Photo: Painting by Deborah Orpallo, "Torrent" -- Gail Severn Gallery, Sun Valley, Idaho)

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