..from the Aromatic meditations book in preparation..
Sandalwood is obtained as you might guess from the wood of an exotic tree. Most sandalwood plantations are in India, though some colonies have been planted in Australia. The wood has been used for statues, beads and incense for thousands of years and the essential oil is used extensively in both aromatherapy and in Ayurvedic medicine. It has a sweet and woody aroma that is very persistent; like frankincense it is used to slow and deepen the breathing to aid meditation. It is available as essential oil but can be expensive and it can be hard to obtain high quality oil. It is also available quite readily in the form of incense sticks (joss sticks) but the same caution applies here. Many joss sticks are named Sandalwood that have very little or no sandalwood present in them and while they may smell pleasant, they will have few of the beneficial effects offered by sticks made using high quality ingredients. The wood is sometimes available as shavings or chips and may be smouldered on charcoal to release the scent. If you are lucky enough to possess beads made from sandalwood, they release the scent when warmed by the body. The daughter of a good friend brought me some beads back from India recently and I love wearing them in hot weather as they continuously emit glorious but subtle wafts of fragrance as my body heat warms them.
For this meditation I recommend using a stick of sandalwood incense. If you have problems with smoke, light the stick in the room you intend to use for your meditation and once the stick has burned for ten or so minutes, put it out and leave the room for a further ten minutes to allow the smoke but not the aroma to dissipate. Then return to your room and shut the door. Make yourself comfortable and begin your preparations for meditation. When you are ready, relax and breathe deeply of the fragrance in the air.
You are standing in a narrow street, surrounded by old buildings. There doesn’t seem to be anyone around right now and the street is very quiet and empty. The road is paved with cobblestones made shiny with centuries of feet polishing them. In front of you is a half-timbered shop with a low door and two wide windows on either side of the door. The door is slightly open and you can smell a lovely fragrance of sandalwood; indeed you can see a fine thread of smoke curling through the opening. This is very inviting and you step forward and push the door open and peer inside. Just inside the door a stick of incense is burning, filling the air with scented smoke. The shop appears to be deserted so step inside and look around you.
The shop is a fabulous emporium of arts, crafts and gifts from all around the world. For a moment, you stand entranced, unable to take it all in. There are so many things that attract the eye. Glass cases are filled with imaginative displays of jewellery, all lovingly created and set out to their best advantage. Hopi and Navajo silver lie alongside Celtic brooches set with amber. Statues are dotted around on shelves, carved from wood and bone or moulded from clay or resins. Take your time to look around and see what is there.
There’s a finely carved bookcase filled with rows of books. Some are empty journals, meant for you to write down your thoughts, though the majority are filled with the wisdom of a dozen or more cultures and philosophies. Take a moment to look through the titles and see if there is anything there that appeals to you. You may return later to the books if you choose.
Deeper into the shop, you see boxes of all different sizes and shapes, made from all different materials. Polished and worked silver and rough wooden boxes sit side by side, their lids a little open to invite you to see what they contain. Each box holds a different treasure; go and see for yourself what is in them.
You have the shop entirely to yourself today; you may look at anything you wish to. When you touch them, the locked glass display cabinets open for you. You may take out and handle whatever you like. You are trusted here.
When you have finished exploring the main body of the shop, walk further back and you will see there is a heavy crimson velvet curtain at the back. Pinned to it is a sign that says, “Welcome!” If you choose to, you may go through this curtain and see what is through there waiting to welcome you. If you prefer not to, then please go on exploring the wonders of the main shop or return to the books to browse further. I will return in a little while.
It’s time to go now so step out of the shop and into the street again. There are people bustling around, so leave the door ajar so that the scent can invite someone else in. In your hand there is a parcel; this is the gift from the shop to you. Take a moment or two to see what you have been given and then allow yourself to return to the room where you began your meditation.