Have you any idea how profound the sense of smell and taste can be? Consider this: When there are bad odors in the air, people drive very aggressively and car accidents increase in number. Did you realize that, for most of us, when we are exposed to the scent of lavender, we experience a feeling of peace and calm. Examples are numerous!
Did you know that the sense of smell is 10,000 times more sensitive than any of the other senses and that the response is immediate. It goes straight to the place where emotion and memory is held.
So watch what you are breathing — and tasting…
In yoga, we learn to examine the world around us so that we better understand how we are internally influenced. This is done in many ways, but, ultimately, we come to recognize that the “play” of the world does not define us. We come to know who we are as beings of Light and Love, but this is usually a process and does not happen overnight, even if we have recognized glimpses of Truth in an instantaneous fashion. Most of us need some help along the way, often in the form of lessons and steps.
The Eight Fold Path of Yoga is a complete system to bring us to awareness. In this lesson, today, we complete one part of it. It is called pratyahara. It is about learning to control the senses so that we can better focus on our True Self. We need to first understand the subtle influence the senses have on us, how to work with them, and use them to enhance our lightness, happiness, and joy in living. We have already spent some time with the senses of sight, sound, and touch (in Lessons 7, 14, and 21, if you care to review). Now we give attention to the remaining and more subtle two senses — smell and taste. They are surprisingly powerful and may influence you much more than you might expect.
LESSON TWENTY EIGHT
THE SENSES OF SMELL AND TASTE
Whenever I smell cookies baking, I am back in my mother’s kitchen at Christmastime, seeing her open the oven, removing the cookies and placing them out to cool a little so that I can taste one while it is still warm. Anytime I smell a fresh tomato, I remember picking them from my father’s large vegetable garden, of his explaining about ripe tomatoes, taking them into the house and eating them right away. The scent of lavender reminds me to be calm and restful. The smell of peppermint, even in the peppermint soap I sometimes use, energizes and lifts my spirit. Whenever I have a taste of chili con carne, it is football season in my mind. The roses I just picked from my garden always brings a feeling of love, romance, and beauty. Some say that when you smell roses, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is near.
What about you? What scents and tastes brings memories rushing into your awareness?
If the sense of smell were not so important, we would not have access to thousands of perfumes and colognes, to deodorant and breath mints and even Odor Eaters. We are a smelling population.
I have grouped together the sense of smell and taste because they are closely aligned. Have you ever noticed that your enjoyment of food may decline if you have a cold and stuffy nose. Smell and taste work together. Smell is known to be the most powerful and primitive of the senses. It attaches to memory and emotion in a way that the others may not. It bypasses thought process and brings memory alive. It is the only sense that moves directly into the brain (the hippocampus and amygdala) through the limbic system and bypasses routine thought evaluation. Imagine the power! If one loses the sense of smell, usually appetite declines and food “taste” is different.
Because these two senses are so tied to memory, emotion, and survival, here are a few ways to become more keenly aware of their influence:
- Make a list (in your mind if you like) of those fragrances and foods you find pleasing.
- When you respond in negative manner to either sense or taste, take note. Is a memory being tripped? Can you find a way to avoid the experience? Can your learn something of value from it?
- If you know your mood and sense of enjoyment in life is enhanced by certain smells and tastes, consciously make them a habit .
- If your routine requires that you be around smells and tastes that are unpleasant, how might you adjust your reaction to remain in a state of equilibrium and at ease.
- Can you see that none of these senses actually alter who you are, at the core of your being? Yet they can enhance your life.
I remember hearing a story many years ago about a group of followers of a certain esteemed guru who took them on a “conscious” walk. Their mission was to see everything as part of Divine Consciousness, of God. As they strolled along the street, a bus passed them, emitting a black cloud of noxious exhaust. Everyone reacted, finding it repulsive, harmful to the environment, irresponsible of the driver — except the guru. She reminded them calmly that everything is part of the Divine — even that.
So let all of your senses bask in Divine Light, even as you bring more knowledge of the senses into your everyday life.
With love and namaste, Deanne
For more, go to http://www.deannemincer.com