Monday, October 20, 2014

The magic of aromas...

I was 16. It was my first summer away from home, working as counsellor in a summer camp. Not only was the feeling of independence coming from the fact I was earning good money all summer, it was also a bit of an act of defiance for me. Imagine: a French Catholic girl who has been brought up to fight for her rights now working in an English camp hosted by the United Church... I was decided to make my own life path. I have many memories from that summer and although I always pleasantly recall memories of Jeff-the-Lifeguard *swoon*... one of the strongest memory remains the scent of my shampoo. I had purchased it with my own money; it was better than the dollar-brand my parents could afford; and I loved its perfume. Now and again, I chance upon that shampoo and the scent of it transports me right back to the feelings of rebellious independence of my sweet 16.

Can you recall a pleasant memory from your childhood? Are there any scents associated with this memory - the blanket, the flowers, the homemade soup or the apple pie? Think of that aroma, and notice how your body reacts. Is there a smile on your face, are your shoulders relaxing, is your breathing deepening?

Since our cavemen ancestors, scents have been telling us a lot about the world around us. Thankfully, we don't sniff butts like our four-legged friends to see how we're doing (that would be awkward at the office!) but we still use perfumes and scents on our body and in our environment to share and receive information about each other. Physically, the sense of smell is the most directly related to the brain; information travels up the nose and into the brain with the least amount of neural transmission, and it impacts brain chemistry. Memory recall can be very powerful when we add a layer of scent and aromas. Scent is a trigger for the brain. When we can connect a pleasant experience with an aroma, it is easy to return to the pleasant state of mind by using the same aroma again and again. The same is true when we have connected a scent with a painful experience - the same scent can instantly trigger sadness, pain or worse, post-traumatic stress.

It is no wonder that rituals through the ages have used herbs and oils to enhance the spiritual experience: with our sense of smell, we can easily be transported to that state of relaxation where it is easier to pray, and where we feel more open to receive guidance. In the context of the Root Chakra, I want to focus on scents that can help reduce your stress and help you feel connected to your ancestors, tribe or deceased loved ones.

I love sage and I incorporate it in my rituals at least on a weekly basis. When I burn sage, I feel connected to the spirit of the land. I feel connected to the First Nations who were here well before my European ancestors. I send a prayer to my several-times-great-grandmother from a First Nation of the Nipissing area. I recall the first time I was introduced to smudging in a Circle led by Elders, and I recall the sacredness of the moment. When I use sage, I deeply connect with all that is sacred. I am transported to a place of peaceful and powerful reverence. So you see, sage is not just for the New-Agey clearing and blessing - make sacred memories with sage by using it consciously in rituals and it will enhance your inner peace.

Cedar and pine are close second, for these earthy scents remind me of time spent outdoors, feeling free and deeply connected to the environment. My body might feel a bit heavier as my energy settles in my body and roots itself in sacred Earth. Stress and headaches are relieved. Immune system is boosted. With pine and cedar, I can feel as tranquil as I would be sitting in a forest clearing surrounded by majestic trees and looking up at the blue sky above me and the rusty pine needles and earth below me. I can breathe deeply and calmly.

Patchouli is a bit more exotic for me and instantly reminds me of Meditation, Reiki and Healing Circles. I love the new incense sticks I just received at my shop - it's the best patchouli I've ever smelled: earthy with a note of floral. Patchouli has been used for hundreds of years as a sedative and anti-depressant; it's an excellent scent to uplift our moods on these rainy days of Fall.

All of these 3 scents are easily found in incense, candles and essential oil formats. When you can't burn a candle or an incense stick, try this tip: purchase a small glass spray bottle. Fill it with purified water, 1 tsp sea salt and about 10 drops of your favourite essential oil, and shake gently to blend. Spritz your pillow before bed, or directly on your skin. Take a few deep breaths as you consciously evoke feelings of calm and inner peace.

To use scents that would connect you with your ancestors, spend some time connecting with your family tree. What activities did they do? Where did they live? What did they eat? How did they celebrate their spirituality? Go from there to find a scent that is meaningful to you. When my grandmother visits in spirit, I can smell her homemade tomato soup; when I want to reconnect with her, I often use the old soup recipe and take delight in the aroma that fills my house. Have fun reconnecting with your ancestors and deceased loved ones using your sense of smell. Remember that October is a good time to honour our ancestors and doing an exercise such as this one can help heal generational issues.

I recently received fresh sage, sage blends, incense sticks and incense cones. If you need help figuring out which scent would work best for you, or if you'd like to purchase sage or incense, talk to me! I'd be more than happy to answer your questions.

Sending you blessings of Love!