This page develops Mindfulness of Breathing and Smelling from Chapter One.
Tastes also seem relatively straightforward. But my experience of the sense of smell is like peeling back layers of a smelly onion, there are so many depths to discover, and i am still experimenting.
Tastes and smells involve inner body awareness. This is an area which is so subjective that it would be easy for any individual to start deluding themselves about how it really feels, and i don't want to get involved in anything an innocent animal wouldn't feel.
So on the subject of inner body awareness, we need to ask young children how it really feels. I need them to teach me. What is a healthy and natural approach to taste, smell, and inner body awareness?
note: the following section is being reorganised. Nov 15th
Separating the In and Out SmellIn Mindfulness of Breathing and Smelling i discussed how important it is to develop our sense of smell by noticing the contrast between the 'in-smell' and the 'out-smell'. Please read the concise summary of The First Smelling Exercise before continuing.
Tasting and smelling are intrinsically connected.
The First Exercise in Detail
When you smell in and out normally – through your nose, you will probably notice the contrast in smells first in your nostrils, and after a few breaths in your entire head. In addition, you will almost certainly notice that the out-breath-smell eliminates the in-smell, and vice versa.
When humans smell-in normally, a large amount of the smell enters through the back of the mouth and is tasted in the mouth. This sensation of the mouth tasting the breath is reinforced on the out-breath, when the air and smell curl round in the mouth, before being expelled through the nostrils.
We can adjust this by breathing out through the mouth. Then it is good to learn that dogs do this. 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-smell. If you open the lips too much your mouth will soon get dry.
Then leave the lips very slightly open, but '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 again through your mouth, the tongue drops again. So the out-smell is tasted, in the throat and the mouth.
Smell-in through your nose and taste-out through your mouth.
Let the residue of the in-smell and the out-smell 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 effects are especially noticeable, if you smear a little Vick, tiger balm, or tea tree oil on the nostrils, and after chewing or drinking something strong – Southern Comfort, toothpaste, garlic, etc.
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.
The following is my subjective feeling on what happens next.
In Praise of The NoseIf we had an image of God here, i would worship Hedgehogs : they can hardly see or hear, but they snuffle like world champions. Their whole reality and sense of self and the world outside, centres on and rotates around smells.
The Habitual Out-SmellFor hedgehogs, their own out-breath body smell is a constant, in relation to all the smells of the world around them. They are so used to their own inside (and outside) body smell and scent, that it happens without them really noticing it.
I've obviously no scientific proof, but i imagine that their out-smell is some sort of guide to their own inner health (in the same way we use visual symptoms), so, even though they don't need a constant conscious awareness of it, i believe they would be very quick to notice and react to any changes.
So, it seems to me, any sensible hedgehog scenting the world, would use the time during the old normal, reliable, habitual 'me-smell', the out-smell – to savour every available new in-scent which they can find.
And – outside where scents change with each change of wind – each fresh new in-smell is savoured and examined, as they notice the slightest contrasts and changes, and search out all the different meanings behind the smells.
The Invigorating In-SmellIt's probably only ten minutes ago that you did first smelling exercise, and you really need to practice it a little first. But let's just imagine we've been doing it all our lives, and now we're bored with our out-smell, our own inside body smell and scent, we already know it. We feel secure in that constant knowledge of ourselves.
We're only interested in the new in-smells around us. We want to know if there's anything edible or dangerous outside of our bodies. So we want to concentrate on the residue of the in-scent even when breathing out, with no interest in our own habitual, normal out-smell.
Focus exclusively, enjoying, and curious about only the in-smell. Sense the residue as it builds up maybe in the entire brain area. Let the feeling spread, examine it. Savour it.
Do this for a few breaths. Where do you sense the scent?
It feels to me, like the sensation extends first to the upper half of my head, and then fills up the entire space above the roof of my mouth, behind the cheek bones, spreading out to the ears and the back of the head. And after a few breaths this sensation spreads to my arms and my body.
My Experience and 'Logical' ExplanationAmoebas have chemoreceptors, this means they have a rudimentary sense of something like, deeper than or combining, taste and smell.
I have a feeling that every cell in my body must have a primitive form of this taste/smell perception for its environment. Scientifically speaking each cell 'responds' to oxygen – i understand this as : each cell senses, tastes and digests oxygen.
All human adults, will be able to remember a time when the smell of a succulent meal, seemed to fill their whole body. I wouldn't be surprised if children and animals regularly felt even faint scents, in the entire head, down their necks, and then into their bodies.
In meditation i often feel the breath permeates the whole body, filling it up to just under the skin, and then emptying out, a bit like a balloon. Smells are carried by the breath; the simplest logical conclusion any clear thinking hedgehog could make is that the smell goes where the breath goes, filling up the body to just under the skin.
My experience is that the smell goes where my breath goes. The smell comes in filling me up to just under my skin. And this sensation is like a combination of tastes and smells.
I taste, savour and absorb the residue of the fresh new in-scent. I digest the in-smell and the sensation is that i savour the scent with my whole body. The taste/smell confirms the impression made by the breathing of the shape of my body from the inside, and the inside skin sometimes starts fizzing, there is a sensation of vital life happening just under my skin. It reinforces the solid feeling of self identity in my body from the inside
This may well be to some extent my imagination – but to argue it scientifically: we know that the 'goodness' in the air we breathe, goes to the lungs where it's absorbed by the heart and circulated around the body in blood, and this 'goodness' is then absorbed by the surrounding tissue, by the cells.
No hedgehog could figure out all the science. From a hedgehog's perspective, they taste and digest the scents, and then they are conscious of it with their whole body. And as far as I'm concerned this is the truth, until it is disproved by science, common sense, or a consensus of opinion from children.
There is one other point, which i would like children to confirm, the sensation is that i digest the smell outwards through my skin, rather than inwards towards the bones.
I find myself wondering to what extent animals can control their own scents. We know they can produce scents for mating purposes, but just generally, how is this digesting and ingesting of smells connected with producing scents?
Smelling is the Active Ingredient of BreathingWithout smelling, breathing gives me a feeling something like a bag, a sheet of skin getting smaller and bigger. And this experience of breathing with it's in-out routine, has consequences on our understanding of life, it tends to stimulate abstract ideas about opposites, balances, and circles of breath and life.
But when i start scenting smells, i feel i ingest the smell. The experience of scenting and digesting is a vastly different process and experience of life and this has its own consequences for our understanding.
Primarily it's a one-way process of absorbing smells. The feelings it generates are more about nourishment ... not an interdependence with the outside world, but a dependence on it, a feeling of reliance on it - i'm not saying this is better, it's just another perspective, it's a balance.
If animals are able to convert the residual tastes in their bodies into their own scents, then smelling – just as breathing – also results in a feeling for the circle of life.
But as i will often say on this subject: any adult or group of adults could easily start kidding themselves about the effects of scenting, and i don't want to get involved in theories or anything unnatural, anything an innocent animal wouldn't feel ...
So, before i can write more, i really do need a group of parents who will question their children, to confirm my 'theories', and then please give feedback.
There are worlds still to discover ... i'm still experimenting. The world of smells and taste are far deeper and stranger than seeing and listening.
Please continue with Return to Normal Human Smelling