Fragrance is fascinating and powerful. The extensive body of biopsychological research that documents the close association between the olfactory system and emotion shows that scent provides an accessible gateway to positive feelings by the powers of association, the workings of our memory system and broader therapeutic properties explored in the aromatherapy literature.
Fragrance adds its own special watermark to our experiences and can be a simple doorway to shifting feelings, soothing, uplifting or energising.
We live in continuous interaction with the flowing scentscapes of our lives, but most of us do not hone in on just how special scent is. Here are some suggestions for a simple scent meditation. It does not need to be long. It does not need to be perfect. It is simply about learning to notice the fascinating nuances of fragrance and to harness its therapeutic potential in our every day.
Find yourself a quiet, spacious, uncluttered place and make yourself comfortable.
Apply some drops of essential oil to your Inhalation Pomegranate, or simply apply some lotion or oil on to your hands or wrists. Inhale deeply three times, with your eyes gently closed to shut out visual distractions.
Bring your focus on the aromatic sensation that you are receiving.
Push aside simple reactions - “yes, I like this” or “no, I don’t” - and try to experience the fragrant notes you are connecting with as alive, vibrant and unique.
Slowly, build an immersive picture of the essence within you - the essence of the essence. Imagine it as a shape, an animal, a memory, anything that comes to you as an impression of the scent. Different scents will create different internal images and emotional experience for us.
Allow for your instinct to surface - we have an innate feeling for natural aromas; they take us back, they pique our imagination.
Let your sense of smell wander.
Notice the details of the fragrance.
Is it layered or one-dimensional? Perfumes have shape and texture - shape arises out of the direction in which the fragrance moves as the perfume evolves, like the shape of a melody. Is it smooth or rich? Bright or dull? Complex or sharp? The vocabulary that comes to mind often overlaps with those we associate with wine and food.
And then, of course, there are memories that a scent conjures and the feelings it arouses. What does the fragrance remind you of?
Allow the smell to open itself to you, and discover whatever is beautiful, or remarkable to you.
When you are full, start to turn outward again. Allow your other senses to come back softly.
Inhale again deeply as you gently open your eyes, allowing the outer world to merge with your inner one through the film of scent.
Based on Mandy Aftel's meditations in Fragrant: The Secret Life of Scent (2014) and Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume (2001)