Meditating with aromatics

The following is a table of contents for the book I have slowly been working on. I’d be interested in any suggestions for things that you’d like included, any special scents you feel I have missed out, or that have significance for you.

This is one of my winter season projects and I need a bit of a kick in the pants to get going.

Provisional List of Contents

Introduction: About this book

Who it is aimed at and why has it been written. How to use the book

 

Chapter One: Introduction to meditation

History, cultures, benefits, spirituality etc

Chapter Two: Introduction to aromatics

What are aromatics, history of the use of aromatics through time, science of aromatherapy, limbic system etc, benefits of using aroma in daily life etc

Methods of use (incense, vaporisation, smelling strips etc)

Chapter Three: Basics of meditation:

Posture, setting, timing, breathing, music etc

How to use the guided meditations

Preparations, relaxation, grounding, recording of experiences

 Chapter Four: Everyday Aromatics

Using ordinary and familiar scents to deepen meditation

May include:

Orange, chocolate, coffee, bread, mint, lavender, vanilla, rosemary, apple, honey, aniseed, strawberries, pine cones, freesia, hyacinth, honeysuckle 

Chapter Five: Less Ordinary aromatics

Exploring less familiar but readily available scents

May include:

All spice, patchouli, white sage, rose, lemon balm, eucalyptus, seaweed, cloves, cinnamon, cedar wood and sandalwood

 Chapter Six: Exotics

Using exotic substances (but all available through mail order or from specialist shops)

May include:

Frankincense, benzoin, amber, myrrh, storax, labdanum, spikenard, sandarac, dragon’s blood, elemi, jasmine, neroli, opoponax, colophony  

Chapter Seven: Seasonal Scents

Using seasonally available scented substances to enhance meditation through the year

May include:

Snow and ice for January, snowdrops or hyacinth for February, narcissi or daffodils for March, lilac or violets for April, may blossom for May, roses or elder for June, elder or linden for July, strawberries or honeysuckle for August, hay or pencils and paper (back to school!) for September, apples or pumpkin for October, bonfire or toffee apples for November and clove-orange, mulled wine spices or pine for December

Chapter Eight: Scents for sleep meditations

Specially selected soporific scents and words for meditations to aid sleep and dreaming

May include:

Lavender, hops, chamomile, clary sage

 

Chapter Nine: Where to go from here

Suggestions for own explorations

Feedback reports from “guinea pigs”

I aim to have a small selection of friends write a little about their experiences using the meditations

Chapter Ten: Sources

Bibliography, suggested reading, useful sources for materials, helpful websites

Afterword: About the author

Short bio and thanks

Easter thoughts

The walk to church is enough to make me aware first that my new shoes are not as comfortable as I  thought and second that I am nervous about going. Church and me are not a comfortable combination these days.

This is probably my 30th Easter as a member of the Church of England(well since confirmation, that passing out parade for teenagers that saw my entry and not my exit) but the last three I elected not to go anywhere and we celebrated Communion at home.

It’s not the people that bother me about the established churches; it’s what the institutions do to those people and by default what those people do to me.

In this case, I am a total stranger. No one in the building we are fast approaching knows me from Adam(or Eve for that matter) and I take comfort in that anonymity. OK, so we are a little conspicuous in certain ways; maybe I ought not to have worn my rainbow coloured Nepalese jacket if I’d truly wanted to be inconspicuous.

  Inside the flint built church a familar range of odours meet me; the unmistakeable fragrance of old hymn books, candle wax, flowers and something else I can’t initially place. The place is bright with spring flowers and the scent of lilies and narcissi is so evocative of Easters long gone I feel tears spring to my eyes. I feel both at home and a complete stranger.

I usually choose my seat in any public building with a view to rapid escape, and in a church, near to the back as possible. I choose a pew(yes, those excrucating inventions of Victorians) near enough to the back so I know I can run for it if I feel the need but not at the immediate back. That’s just too obviously a newcomer’s move. 

A moment of quiet follows ; head bowed, I shut out the chatter of people around me and check for the divine prescence. Gotcha God! That’s OK then. The service starts and as the organ plays and people sing, I let my attention wander, like a dog exploring. Just as long as it doesn’t mark its territory, we’re all right…

  In the sanctuary tall candles burn, their golden flames creating a sweet heat haze that makes the stained glass images in the east window ripple and shimmer as if animated. A newer, stronger fragrance wafts down to me: incense. I assess it: Prinknash for sure, Basillica or maybe Abbey.   I sigh with some pleasure; sensualist that I am, I count it a plus that this place caters for my own personal little quirks and tastes.

The sermon doesn’t send me to sleep but it does make me want to put my hand up and ask questions: “Please sir, I don’t quite understand…” and the music, the singing irritates me. I question the why of it all; why the hymn sandwich? Why an organ, that most thunderous of instruments? Why?

The central part, the consecration rushes upon me and finds me unprepared; I rush to examine my soul and find it much as it usually is, in a sort of permanent state of first-thing-in-the-morning unreadiness, sleep in its eyes and its collar turned in on one side and out on the other. I tenderly straighten the collar, rub a damp metaphorical hanky round my soul’s sleepy face and declare it won’t get any readier and follow, head bowed to the altar where I kneel and take a fragment of hard bread(it tastes like no real true bread and reminds me of a mental image of sailor’s hardtack, a good image in this seafaring town this church with its walls covered in memorials to men lost at sea for many centuries and still not home) and a gulp of good red fortified wine.

  Back in my seat, I allow my soul to ponder on the Host and my tongue to revisit the taste of port(for surely port it was, and again here in this small port town, what better drink(other than grog) for communion?) I think the non-comformists have a poorer experience of communion for their replacing the wine with fruit juice. Somehow Ribena just doesn’t have bloody enough a colour, with its bland sweet taste without the kick of alcohol to bring the soul back to the understanding that this is blood, His blood and my blood and the Earth’s blood too.

Hallelujah, He is Risen. Like night follows day and day follows night, life follows death and death follows life; Easter follows Lent and the year moves on into Spring and year in and year out the cycle continues.

This year I jumped into the cycle again, running fast to keep up and make that leap and now I feel dizzy with too much experience and too many thoughts, and with  the feeling that one day, I may take that bread and wine and my soul will be standing there, scrubbed and ready and in her best, and not, as this day, like a grubby street urchin made passably clean and presentable to casual inspection, and ready to run at the slightest hint of danger.

One day.

Scenting Integrity

I’ve long been a great fan of scented smoke, be it joss sticks or “proper” grain incense, much to the chagrin of my mother who thought it must be something to do with hash…

I’m a bit of a geek when it comes to it. I don’t think I can count how many brands I have tried. The incense from Greater goods http://www.greatergoods.co.uk ticks all the right boxes for me. Beautful scents, not too smokey, long burning, reliably combustible and more important yet, fair trade. If you have a look at their website you will discover they do great things in the world of workers’ rights and so on, and  this adds extra sweetness to their incense. Many joss stick companies use children and the conditions are appalling.

For all this, you might expect a massive extra in the price range. Not so. They’re about the same price as any incense stick bought at your local bing-bong shop (s0 called because of the cacophany of windchimes usually hung outside!).

I had an article published this time last year on the use of aromatics in a sacred context in the magazine Sacred Hoop and I am in the slow process of writing a book of meditations using aromatics of all sorts, including incense. Incorporating scented smoke into your life, whether for prayer, relaxation or simply for pleasure and air freshening is a very rewarding experience and using incense from Greater Goods, it means it will also be rewarding for those who make it too.