Our human smelling abilities have been severly neglected. We are subliminally smelling all the time, but we hardly notice it. Our own out-breath and smell is a constant in our experience of ourselves, and (except when we have bad breath) we are totally unaware of it.

Smelling Basics

Smells are sensed initially by the tip of the nose and then in the nostrils.

When i smell something strong, or something bad, i recognise it straight away and sense it very clearly in my nose, often at the tip of the nose. This seems logical, it's a wake up signal, either to contract the nostrils, filter out the bad smell and not inhale; or to savour and take this scent in, to ingest it.

The nostrils and smelling are very similar to the eyelids and seeing. But humans hardly ever use their nostrils. We need to do a few stretching exercises. We need a little nostril yoga ...

Perhaps you've noticed how the stink of a bad perfume, hangs around in your nostrils for long minutes after the experience ...

The nostrils adjust to temperature and smells. Unless you live in a hot land, the in-breath is cooler than the out-breath. Cool and dry air is warmed and moistened by it's passage through the nasal canals. The nostrils may even contract a little, to warm or moisten the air on the in-breath.

When smelling-in with a general curiosity for scents on the wind, the nostrils expand.

If you flare your nostrils and just breathe-in, rather than smelling-in, the cool dry air will give you a sore throat. Thus it seems obvious that dogs who flare their nostrils when sleeping, are subconsciously smelling-in.

We can do all sorts of funny things with the nostrils to channel smells, to refine and clarify them and search out the scents. Long forgotten and never used muscles become fully obvious once we start scenting. We sometimes contract the upper nostril while flaring the lower, and sometimes the outer rims narrow and almost seem to hold the smell at the top of the nose ... it's all very interesting, but i have no analysis of it all. Discover it for yourself ...

When dogs smell in a focused way, they contract the nostrils with short sniffs. Some people do this when they smell something specific, like perfume or wine.

After the nostrils, scents pass through the nasal canals. I doubt if any animal or child would realise that they have nasal canals. The sensation of scent fills the entire head and neck.

There is a subsidiary index page discussing Empathy with Animals and the need to ask young children how it really feels, in order to guide us to a healthy and natural approach to developing our sense of smell and other internal body senses.

Smelling Games (Focusing Exercises)

If you experiment only with the 'in-smell' you will get dizzy and heaven knows what. You must first regulate your breathing as explained on the main pages.

Focus on Strong Smells to Stimulate Awareness

Over the next few days and weeks, whenever you notice a smell, take a moment to let it fill you, and then notice the contrasting smell of your own out breath.

Experiment with something which smells nice, a cut lemon under the nose, ... enjoy the smell ... The effects are especially noticeable, after eating or using anything which is felt strongly on the roof of the mouth – Southern Comfort, toothpaste, chewing tobacco – or if you chew sweet chocolate, and then smell mint, after about 10 breaths you will feel a clear divide line on the roof of your mouth. Above the roof and at the sides and back of your head is filled with mint, and in the mouth and below is a warm chocolate taste.

Experiment with freshly cut onion, and then by smelling soy sauce.

Then experiment with freshly cut onion a few feet away on one side and soy sauce on the other, try to smell both by 'smelling in their direction'. I feel sure animals know the direction of a smell, and that they can smell in two different directions at the same time. I feel sure i can do this.

Smell is an ever changing experience out of doors. Since practicing with scenting i have become a lot more aware of petrol smells. I find this unpleasant, but i breathe them in anyway, if i'm aware of them at least i have a choice to move, or not to inhale deeply.

Indoors, where there is no wind, in your own room, most of your in-smell will be a mixture of your own body scent, and your own out breath. This may be reassuring, but it is not stimulating.

The outgoing smell and taste is easy to amplify with coffee, whisky, southern comfort, or chocolate, etc. And it's better to use one simple strong taste, rather than after a meal, when the taste of the meal seems to fill your whole body.

BUT you will need a variety of nice things to inhale. You don't want to inhale the same thing every day, a few days long if you enjoy it, but then it gets boring, and probably has one-sided effects.

Indoors, these days, i often use aroma therapy oils, (from ebay, takes a month from China, 1.50 euro per bottle, go to 'Kiuno' or 'Pyrrla'). In summer, i would advise you to rub your nose in a few roses or honeysuckle, ... empathise with bees.

Trying to find household equivalents is tricky. In my experience, tiger balm and clove oil don't work so well, peppermint oil is good but somehow thin, deeper smells are better like vick, and tea tree oil is very good ... i have little rags and heat them on a lamp ... rub them on my nose ... (and i haven't yet experimented with incense or perfumes).

There must be hundreds of ways of waking up our sense of smell. It needs to be developed creatively over a period of time, with an awareness of the different smells in your everyday life. Please experiment and give me feedback.

Backs to the Wind

I don't know if this checks out in animal behaviour, but it's an interesting closing idea. In front we use our eyes. Sounds and smells are used to detect things behind us. So it makes sense to sit or stand with your back to the wind, look out in front, and listen and smell behind you (with each change of wind).

Please continue with Tasting Games

Back to Exploration : Smelling and Tasting Exercises