Perfume and the Soul: A Meditation
We love the breathtaking book by Mandy Aftel called Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume. In the chapter Perfume and the Soul she talks about the oldest role of scent, predating its use as a cosmetic, as a vehicle to the realm of the spirit. Read on for a guided meditation by Mandy that focuses on scent, as well as her formula for a homemade meditation perfume.
Adapted from Essence and Alchemy: A Natural History of Perfume by Mandy Aftel (Gibbs Smith, 2001)
Certain oils have a long history of association with meditation and spiritual practices. Frankincense, sandalwood, and myrhh have long been recognized by many religious traditions for their ability to tranquilize and clarify, and in general to bring us back to ourselves. Benzoin’s sweet, resinous odor steadies and focuses the mind for meditation and contemplation. Cedarwood is a grounding oil that mobilizes the transformative powers of the will. Clary sage is an aid to inspiration and insight. Lavender absolute calms the spirit, while bergamot helps one to let go.
Aromatics can be used to purify the place where you meditate, and to create an atmosphere conducive to peaceful reflection. The consistent use of a blend that you have set aside expressly for the purpose of meditation will give it the power to transport you into the desired state of consciousness. You can use it to anoint parts of your body or an object to hold.
You can meditate on scent itself, an excellent way of setting aside the concerns of the day, calming the mind, and deepening and slowing the breathing. Use a rich, multi-layered, full-bodied essence rubbed on your hands or wrist.
Here is a guided meditation that focuses on scent:
Sit in a comfortable position. Hold the fragrant part of your hands or wrists up to your nose and inhale deeply three times. Keeping your eyes open, imagine your consciousness dissolving outward into the scent, as if you are touching it, merging with it, flowing into it. When you reach the point of saturation, close your eyes in order to detach from all senses except smell.
Descend deeply inside, bearing the essence of the scent you have chosen, and touch it with your vision of the scent. Build an inner picture of the essence—the essence of the essence. Imagine it as a phantasm, an animal, a memory, anything that seems to you to be entirely conjured by the deep impression of the scent. You will find that each scent you meditate upon creates a different internal image and meditative experience.
Turn outward again. Repeat the outer and inner phase in alternation until your soul feels full. This exercise will help you to carry in your consciousness a living connection with a particular essence, and through it, with the spiritual dimension of scent in general.
15 ml jojoba oil
30 drops frankincense
18 drops sandalwood
12 drops myrhh
18 drops rose
18 drops clary sage
18 drops Virginia cedarwood
30 drops pink grapefruit
24 drops bois de rose
40 drops bergamot