How would you describe your relationship to your nose?
My nose and I have always had a halfhearted indifferent and capricious relationship since it is very sensitive. I call it: doorway to hell and doorway to heaven.
Last winter I came to love my nose when I was sitting in a public sauna where someone had the great idea to use the heat above the fire for a baking oven. Now this is quite an event and unusual in public saunas.
An employee came in to see how the muffins were doing. She opened the oven and a massive wave of chocolate muffin flavor streamed into my nose.
Sitting there naked and surrounded by others, I had to ride this wave of sensations and habitual reactions – like grabbing for a muffin and eating it. In that moment, different sciences came together inside me and I started to take a closer, more mindful look at the nose.
As a nutritionist I know that olfactory cells are exceptional in the body since they are directly connected to the brain and highly specialized to only one odor per cell. This results in very specific information being processed instantaneously, resulting in a very quick response. In my personal life this means, I find myself in the middle of already “re-acting out” without really becoming aware of the details preceding.
From meditation I know mind’s reactive nature to cling or be averse to pleasant or unpleasant sensations.
My nose-mind-connection usually finds something to cling to or reject fast as lighting. But then, why and when does it become such a doorway to extreme experiences for me?
I wanted to know and started experimenting with basically two intentions:
- Finding out: When is the moment I start to push away or reinforce the experience and how does it influence the experience?
- What happens if I intentionally practice smelling meditation similar to listening meditation, that is, coming back to simply receiving information of the odors instead of grabbing it. Paying attention to pure awareness of bodily sensations while always remembering to cultivate an equanimous and non-reactive mind, instead of getting lost in mind’s story of what I just perceived.
Staying curious and playful I had a lot of fun! And as a side effect I had some very meaningful insights and want to share the most important ones:
- Staying equanimous towards what I perceived I could become aware of the changing going on. No matter how unpleasant or pleasant the odor was, I survived.
- Not getting lost in clinging or aversion, my smelling experience became very rich and so did the eating experience since both are closely connected to each other. There was nothing anymore that dominated.
- Usually, cell hunger perception is a challenging one for me. By practicing smelling meditation for just one minute before eating I could deeply connect to my breath and body and as a gift it helped me listening to cell hunger.
So now, after the experiment, I am happy to find myself in a full-hearted relationship with my nose. It became a wonderful reminder of the changing nature of everything and expanded my mindful eating experience to other dimensions of my life. In total, I can say that my nose became a major teacher for mindfulness both in eating and life in general, and it keeps fascinating me daily.
How about you? Have you thought about your nose as a way to become more mindful? Is smell a powerful sense in your life?
Ewgenia Roth, Germany
Photo credits: muffins Picture: taylor-grote-309695-unsplash; Girl on bridge thanh-tran-347334-unsplash; dog jeff-nissen-574492-unsplash.
Great post! Loved it!
Very warm regards, Liesbet
thank you! I am very interested: Was there a part that resonated with you in a special way? If so, would you share it with us?
You have realized, through awareness and investigation, exactly what the Buddha realized and taught 2,560 years ago about the chain of events from sensation —> feeling tone —> discrimination (or mental formations) — > consciousness.
Smell is one of the best ways to see this chain, as it happens very fast.
You might step outside and go “Ugh!” without knowing what sensation brought it about. Then your mind says, ‘What?” and you realize, ” Oh a smell, an unpleasant smell.” Then the mind says, ” What is that smell?” Then the mind says, “Oh, rotting garbage.”
The SENSATION was simply the olfactory nerves firing.
The FEELING (TONE) was negative, “Ugh.” (Feeling tones can be negative, positive or neutral. If the scent was of roses, the feeling tone would likely have been positive.)
Next comes DISCRIMINATION. The mind says, “What was that? Oh, a smell. A bad smell. Oh, like garbage.”
Then comes CONSCIOUSNESS, as the mind begins to talk about it. “Oh, those neighbors, I think they threw old rotting fish in their garbage!” OR “Why didn’t the garbage man come this week? Are they on strike?” etc. This is where separation comes in, self and other, I like it or I don’t , etc.
When you stop at pure sensation, as you described, in simple awareness, then you are living in a landscape of smells, and it is neither good nor bad, but quite interesting. As you described, smell meditation can be very lovely meditation.
thank you for your comment! Thank you for summing up Buddha’s insight and wisdom with simple and clear words.
It seems to be so simple and I can tell it is so challenging. Can’t we all who investigate closer the nature of things and us? The speed and automatism of thinking, labeling, grabbing is what strikes me sometimes. I remember practicing smelling meditation over my bowl trying to be simply aware. Most of the times I found myself oscillating with my awareness: perceiving the odor. Next moment already labeling “Thyme, Rice, Sweet, Nut, Earthy”. I find it very helpful to label in some situation and this is what we also teach with the beginning of mindfulness, right?
Still I have to say for myself that me labeling during smelling can become overwhelming so quickly. It is still a process of recognition and again seperation in my eyes. The closer I was to pure sensory awareness without labeling, the more effortless and rich the whole experience became.
What do you think about labeling? Or better say: How do YOU apply it as a very experienced investigator?