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 ... and i believe it is only hinted at in Buddhism and Taoism.

If i'm not aware of the smell, then it's only a narrow awareness of the breathing. It's like hearing electrical notes without the trumpet and violin tones. Smell adds colour to breathing. Smelling makes the breathing actually feel alive.

Some animals would probably consider breathing without smelling to be a complete waste of time. Humans have effectively lost any awareness of how it influences our emotions, psychology, and inner body awareness. We are smelling subliminally all the time, but we hardly notice it.

I have only had limited experiences with what i could call panoramic smelling. However, smelling and tasting opened up a whole new depth to inner body awareness.

None of our three 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.

First Smelling Exercise

Tasting and smelling are intrinsically connected, and first we need to explore the sense of taste.

Tasting

With the sense of taste i don't mean food and drink, i'm referring to the taste of our own body, we are so familiar with it that we just don't notice it.

Obviously, food and drink influence the taste inside our body. And to start with, remember how after a rich meal a sense of the taste of that meal is present throughout the body. Your entire body has a sense of taste.

Then, to rediscover the basic tastes inside your body, notice 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 basic qualities, salty, sweet, and fruity tastes vaguely resembling prunes and/or rhubarb.

If you drink something strong and swill it around your mouth, you will notice variations of the flavour all over your mouth. Follow the flavour down your throat, and into your central body. Chapters 6 and 7 discuss tasting in detail.

Then, realise you can taste smells, by opening your mouth and tasting your own out breath.

Smelling

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, fruits, or essential oils, rub them under your nose. Enjoy them.

When you start doing smelling exercises, it is important to notice the contrast between the 'in-smell' and your own '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 is invaluable to clarify the basics of smelling. It separates and amplifies the contrasts between the 'in-smell' and 'out-smell'.

First Smelling Exercise

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 valve stops the 'in-smell' from entering into the mouth. This sends the incoming scent directly through your nasal canals, filling 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 to ten breaths – savour those taste and smell residues.

Savouring Smells in Chapter 6 describes this first exercise in detail.
Chapters 6 and 7 explore how we ingest and digest smells inside our body.

Back to Chapter One : Welcome to the Panorama