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Using Scent for Personal Rituals
by Mandy Aftel

In alchemy, meditatio refers to an inner dialogue with an unseen being—God, perhaps, one’s good angel, or oneself. According to Jung, "When the alchemists speak of meditari they do not mean mere cogitation, but explicitly an inner dialogue and hence a living relationship to the answering voice of the "Other" in ourselves, i.e., of the unconscious. The use of the term meditation in the Hermetic dictum "And as all things proceed from the One through the meditation of the One" must therefore be understood in this alchemical sense as a creative dialogue, by means of which things pass from the unconscious potential state to a manifest one." Such an inner dialogue is an essential part of creative and explicitly spiritual processes alike, allowing one to come to terms with unseen and unconscious forces before taking action.

Essense and Alchemy

Certain oils have a long history of association with meditation and spiritual practices. Frankincense, sandalwood, and myrrh 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 helps steady and focus the mind for meditation and contemplation. Cedarwood is a grounding oil that helps to mobilize the transformative powers of the will. Clary sage is an aid to inspiration and insight. Lavender absolute calms the spirit, while bergamot helps you 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, or you can make it into a solid perfume that you carry with you to help you recapture the serenity of your meditation time.

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 breath. For this practice you can simply use strips of water color paper, but you may want to make a single-note solid perfume to rub on your hands or wrists so that you can inhale it during your meditation. Use a rich, multi-layered, full-bodied essence such as orange flower absolute, labdanum, lavender concrete, or (my particular favorite) pure rose absolute. As always, you need not be limited by my suggestions, and you should be guided by your own affinities. Here is a guided meditation that focuses on scent:

Sit in a comfortable position. Hold the blotter strip or 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 yourself from all senses but smell.

Descend deeply inside, bearing the essence of the scent you have chosen, and touch it with your inner 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 experience 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 phase 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.

Here is a formula for a blend specifically to use in meditation. It should be made in jojoba oil rather than alcohol:

Meditation Blend
15 ml jojoba
15 drops frankincense
9 drops sandalwood
6 drops myhhr
9 drops rose absolute
9 drops clary sage
9 drops Virginia cedarwood
15 drops pink grapefruit
12 drops bois de rose
20 drops bergamot

Copyright © 2001 Mandy Aftel.  All Rights Reserved. 

Story of Your Life

Mandy Aftel is a consultant and the founder of Aftelier, through which she creates one-of-a-kind perfumes for individuals and private labels. She is also a counselor who specializes in helping artists and writers, and the author of three previous books, most recently The Story of Your Life: Becoming the Author of Your Experience. She lives in Berkeley, California. Her Web site can be found at www.aftelier.com.


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