MINDFULNESS OF BREATHING AND SMELLING
Traditional and modern meditations often practice breathing awareness exercises. However, i have never heard of the sense of smell being used or even mentioned, in any breathing awareness meditation or pranayama yoga exercise.
If i'm not aware of the smell, then it is only a narrow awareness of the breathing. It's like hearing electrical notes without the trumpet and violin tones. It's like seeing in black and white instead of colour. Smell adds colour to breathing. Smelling is a vital part of breathing.
Animals use their sense of smell to live and survive. Humans have generally lost any conscious awareness of how it can influence our emotions, psychology, and inner body awareness.
Inner Body Awareness
None of our external senses are as intimate as the sense of smell. We take smell inside our bodies, in a way we don't feel with sounds and sights. We may sometimes feel sounds pass through us, but this is not comparable with the smells which fill us.
It's easy to describe the effects of seeing and listening because they are manifest and obvious. It is very difficult to describe how the body ingests smell. And the first remarkable and clear effects involve inner body awareness, rather than anything to do with panoramic awareness.
The sense of our bodies from the inside is an immensly valuable area of life. Our normal education neglects both inner body sense and panoramic sensing, and both open enormous new possibilities and approaches to life. But, there are books and meditation classes all over the world teaching internal body awareness. I don't need to emphasise it's importance. I add supplementary ideas in the The Exploration Exercises.
With our modern understanding and X-rays of where organs and bones are, we could expect some degree of consensus about the inner sense of body touch, and even visualisations.
I feel a complete lack of any consensus of opinion about how we smell and taste inside our own bodies. I don't want to get involved in theories or anything unnatural, anything an innocent animal wouldn't feel. So, there are a number of questions i would love to have first hand information on: We need a consensus of opinion from small children : where does the breath go in your body? Where do smells go in your body? What can you taste in your body? ... etc. ... (see Chapter 7 : Inner Body Awareness).
Until that happens, i invite you to join me in the experiment.
Smelling and Tasting
Tasting and smelling are intrinsically connected, and they are a far stranger and deeper world than seeing and listening.
Modern day humans are so unfamiliar with their senses of smell and taste, that we need time to relearn them and recognise their potential. To start with, this necessitates focused sensing, it has little to do with panoramic sensing.
With tasting, i'm referring to the taste of our own body, we are so familiar with it that we don't notice this anymore.
Start to rediscover your inner sense of body taste by noticing the contrasts in your mouth – all the different taste areas on the lips, under the tongue and above it, at the sides, the roof of mouth and throat. I notice three qualities, salty, sweet, and fruity tastes vaguely resembling prunes and/or rhubarb.
After drinking or eating, you will notice different qualities of that flavour all over your mouth, follow that sense of flavour down your throat, and into your central body. I find a very vague sense of the taste all over my body, noticably after spicy foods. 'Tasting Development Games' explores this in detail.
And it seems perfectly understandable that every cell in our body, has some form of chemoreceptor, and so, a rudimentary sense of something like taste.
Then, please experience consciously and realise you can taste smells, by opening your mouth and tasting your own out breath.
With smelling, over the next few days and weeks, whenever you notice a good smell – cooking meals or coffee, or at the bakers – take a moment to let the smells fill your whole body.
Find things which are strong and good to smell, flowers, tiger balm, or essential oils, and rub them under your nose.
The following exercise is invaluable to clarify the basics of smelling.
It's essential to develop the sense of smell, by noticing the difference and contrast between the 'in-smell' and the 'out-smell'. This is important for a very practical reason: If you concentrate exclusively on incoming scents, you will soon get dizzy. Noticing the contrasting smell of your own out-breath, regulates the speed of breathing.
The following exercise separates and amplifies the contrasts between the 'in-smell' and 'out-smell'.
Dogs have a slit at the side of their nostrils where they exhale the ‛out-smell'. (See this TED video on how dogs "see" with their noses). This allows the 'in-smell' to remain undisturbed in the nostrils, hang near the smell-receptors, and to build up over a series of 'in-smells', without being disturbed by the 'out-smell'.
To empathise with how dogs smell, as you breathe out, open your mouth very slightly, with the lips just touching and you will 'taste' your out-breath.
Then leave the lips very slightly open, and 'smell-in' through your nose. As you 'smell-in', if your tongue is relaxed, the back of your tongue will automatically curl up, like a valve, where the 'K' sound or 'Q' sound is made. This valve at the back of your mouth stops the 'in-smell' from entering in through the back of the mouth. It sends the incoming scent directly through your nasal canals, filling behind the cheek bones, the middle, top, and back of your head.
Then, as you 'smell-out' through your mouth, the tongue drops again. So the 'out-smell' will now be felt, or rather, 'tasted', in the throat and the mouth. It's necessary to open the mouth only very slightly for many reasons, it will let the 'out-taste' build up in your mouth. Also, when it's too wide open, the mouth will quickly get dry.
'Smell-in' through your nose and 'Taste-out' through your mouth.
This exercise separates, isolates and amplifies the contrasts; both the in-smell and out-taste can build up over a series of breaths.
Let the residue of the in-smell and the out-taste build up - in the nostrils, nasal canals, head, etc., and the mouth, throat, etc., - over a period of five breaths, - savour those taste and smell residues.
The Exploration Exercises develops my experience of how we ingest/digest smells, and how this deepens and confirms a feeling of reality inside our body.
Please continue with The Summary of First Exercises