23rd May 2020
Find yourself a quiet, spacious, uncluttered place.
Sit in a comfortable position.
Imagine taking the first sip of a crisp, chilled wine or listening to a beautiful piece of music: most of us instinctively close our eyes to shut out visual distractions. When we meditate on a scent, we do the same.
Apply some lotion or oil on to your hands or wrists. Hold them up to your nose, inhaling deeply three times, with your eyes gently shut.
Bring your focus on the aromatic sensation that you are receiving. Imagine your consciousness dissolving outward into the scent, as if you are touching, merging with it, flowing into it.
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. We find that different scents we meditate upon will create different internal images and emotional experience.
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. 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. 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. In some moments it may be sharp or pointy, at others it may be smooth. Often, as in a well-told story, the centre is the highlight, rich with detail. The texture of a scent is its hallmark tone. Is it sheer, rough, heavy? 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.
Allow the smell to open itself to you, and discover whatever is most beautiful, most remarkable to you.
When you are full, start to turn outward again.
Allow your other senses to come back softly. Wiggle your fingers and toes. Reach out and apply some more lotion or oil on to your hands or wrists.
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)