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.
Smelling makes breathing feel vital. Animals use their sense of smell to live and survive. Smelling inolves us in life in an actual experienced way; when just breathing this involvement is often experienced, in an intellectual way with the awareness of the function of Oxygen and CO2.
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.
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 the effects of smelling, and the first remarkable and clear effects involve inner body awareness, rather than any panoramic awareness. Smelling is a focusing exercise, and it influences our inner body sense.
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 new possibilities and approaches to life. There are books and meditation classes all over the world teaching internal body awareness. I don't need to emphasise it's importance.
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. But how the body ingests smell is a mystery, and i don't want to do, or advise anything an innocent animal wouldn't do. So, in the pages which develop the senses of smell and taste, i repeatedly emphasise the need for naive young children to draw and colour how it feels for them. I feel we need a consensus of opinion from small children in order to develop a natural, healthy, and effective approach towards smelling.
I invite you to join me in my 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 discover 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. After eating or drinking, you will notice different qualities of that taste all over your mouth.
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.
I have found the following exercise 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', something will close off like a valve at the back of your mouth. This will give you the impression that the 'in-smell' fills behind the cheek bones, the middle, top, and back of your head.
'Smell-in' through your nose and 'Taste-out' through your mouth
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.
If you have any trouble following the above instructions, here is a larger version of this exercise with all the reasoning.
The Exploration of Panoramic Exercises develops my experience of how we digest smells, and how this deepens and confirms a feeling of reality inside our body.
Please continue with The Summary of First Exercises