Discovering Your Senses – Smell

Sniff, sniff… ah the sense of smell. What a primary sense this is! Have you ever acknowledged the beauty and the gift that the sense of smell is? Can you imagine your life without it?

Let’s see what rich possibilities this exploration of the sense of smell can open up in our lives. 

To begin with, I would like to acknowledge that this sense – like the other traditional 4 senses of taste, touch, hearing and sight – has a variety of functions. Did you know the sense of smell is capable of identifying seven types of sensations? Just as a curious fact, these sensations are put into the following categories: camphor, musk, flower, mint, ether, acrid, or putrid.

Coupled with all our other senses, traditional and not, the sense of smell has been used as a survival mechanism for centuries, a primary resource in guiding us to safety and alerting us to danger. At the same time, the ability of this sense of smell to trigger different responses and activate natural instincts allows it to lead us into a state of bliss.

Try this exercise. Just sit for a moment and sense what response the following smells provoke in you:

the smell of your favorite dish; 
the smoke coming from a cigarette; 
the smoke coming from a chimney;
the smoke coming from a chemical factory;
the aroma of a rose; 
the smell of chlorine in a pool;
a whiff of a breeze coming from the sea; 
fresh baked cookies;
burnt toasts; 
the smell of wet grass and soil after the rain.

The response would be different for everyone. In fact, this exercise is a great way to access your pure perception of these smells, without the interference of mental associations that physical environments often invoke. You see a whole series of projections and judgements, which have nothing to do with the actual smells you are experiencing, and that can influence how you feel about a certain smell.

When we associate certain smells with certain people, places or experiences, it leads us into categorizing our experiences and limits the possibilities this sense of smell can offer us. We begin reducing every encounter with a smell into two choices: good or bad, yes or no, right or wrong, likes and dislikes, attraction or repulsion, stinky or good smelling. But what if we were really willing to explore the subtleties of this sense? Would we be able to access the wisdom and intuition that this sense of smell has helped us develop over the centuries?
Migrant populations, for example, would wander in the mountains or in the forest looking for water or for food. The sense of smell enabled them to choose in what direction to travel, when to settle in different territories geographically, close to the sea, close to a river, close to a place where the earth was fertile, so that they could actually grow food for eating, have drinking water, and increase the possibilities for future living and expansion.

Also dogs, trained nowadays for hunting, use their sense of smell to guide them. How closely related are we, as living beings, to the ancient populations and the modern day animals who utilize this amazing sense for survival? With all of the resources available to us as human beings, could we go beyond survival to thrival, if we were willing to extend the application of this sense even further, to explore the possibilities of the 5 senses and beyond?

What do you know about scents and the smells that travel through the air? What information in addition to the initial yes and no, I like it or a I don’t like it could you receive?

There are so many smells that seem putrid, for example, that may be an indication of what the Earth is reacting to. If we are willing to be aware of a smell, could our awareness and observation possibly interact with it in a way that would actually influence the toxic or non toxic nature of chemicals being exuded? Can we change the elements by being willing to acknowledge the components of the smell and thereby transform them?

These are highly sensitive questions. What power does our awareness, recognition and observation have? What possibilities can we open up with an enhanced sense of smell that will create a different future in the world?

Kass Thomas

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