Our senses serve an important function. They allow us to receive information about our environments in a number of different ways. Yet, so often, we find ourselves overstimulated to the point that we forget about them. In fact, at times, we even forget that where our senses can be informative, they can also be pleasurable.
Usually, we go through our day to day completely out of touch with the information we are receiving. We wake up to light or dark. Maybe we scroll our phones. Maybe we drink coffee prepared the same way each morning. Maybe we don’t even notice the birds outside the window before flipping on the news. Maybe we eventually muster the energy to turn on the faucet and find a palatable water temperature for our morning shower, only to move on to other things. Think of all this sensory input we hardly notice before we have even left the house!
Engaging the senses is a powerful practice for grounding. It remind us that we need to slow down. It brings us back to our bodies. It heightens our sensitivity. Most importantly, it gets us in touch with what we like.
When we know what we like, we are able to engage discernment. We learn to recognize what we like. What we don’t like becomes less welcome. We start to invite more of what we like into our lives. And, we enjoy these things we like when they arrive, because we are practiced at savoring them! In this way, the senses can serve as a guide to our own receptivity.
Gather a couple of items that give off a pleasing scent to you. For example, you might have some tea or coffee that you know you like brewed, as well as an essential oil you enjoy (my favorite is geranium).
Take these items to a safe, quiet space where you won’t be interrupted. Find a comfortable seated position, perhaps supported by a pillow, if you like. Set the intention with your items to tune in to your sense of smell.
First, close your eyes and direct your attention to your nose. Notice any smells that automatically come to you at the beginning of this exercise. Notice your nostrils. Notice that, when you inhale, the air feels cool all the way to the back of your throat. See how far you can trace it into your body, and then out again.
Begin with the coffee or tea. Gently open your eyes, and then lift the cup and direct it toward your nose. Notice how far away you can detect the aroma. Notice the swirls of steam above the warm liquid. Bring the cup closer to your nostrils, inhaling the scent, getting stronger as it gets closer to you. Feel how it feels to inhale the aroma through your nose. Is the air warm? Is it soothing? What flavors do you detect? Are there any particular notes that speak to you (e.g., fruity, sweet, bold, etc.)? Perhaps take a sip, inhaling the aroma of your beverage as you do, pausing on each flavor you detect.
Gently set your cup down and we will move on to the essential oil. Remove the lid, noticing if you can already detect the smell of the oil. Hold the bottle a comfortable distance away from your nose so you can simply enjoy the smell (this might be right under your nostrils, or 6 inches away, or whatever. I trust you to make the right choice for you.). Close your eyes and settle into the scent. Inhale the air slowly and fully, noticing how the the scent travels to you and through you. Is it soft, sweet, pungent, floral? Where does it hit your palate? Do you detect it at the tip of your nose, or farther back in your nose? Direct your attention to your breath, receiving this pleasurable smell, going deep into your lungs and coming back out again for more. Do this for five breaths.
When you’re ready, gently open your eyes and come back to the room. Notice any differences you feel having tuned into your sense of smell. You might feel more grounded, in touch, at ease. Thank the items you picked out for sharing their delicious aroma with you.