In the previous articles about meditation we didn’t much mention setting the mood because it is not absolutely necessary, especially for the shorter five minute sessions. Or so you’d think. The very thought of meditating (or any spiritual practice in fact) begins preparing the mind and body. Confirming it with actions – a ritual if you like – further readies us. The “ritual” can be as simple as turning your electronics off and arranging your favourite seating for meditation.
There other accompaniments to setting the mood for meditation such as soft music, dim lighting, candles and or incense, the latter also having benefits outside of meditation. Besides smelling ‘orright and being evocative – smell is a sense that often evokes strongest memories – the use of incense would carry at least some of the benefits of aromatherapy. For someone who uses it regularly in meditation and then lights up at other times, the vibe around the meditative state tends to return. It is calming. Well that’s my experience. I was somewhat surprised to find there is rather more to incense than meets the … nose.
I should say at this point incense can be an irritant for some people. Perhaps consider using scented soy candles or an oil burner in its place if concerned about the smoke and particulates of incense which are worse than cigarette smoke apparently.
Burning incense is more than symbolic. Religious and spiritual advocates have been rabbiting on for centuries that incense is good for the soul. As it turns out it is also good for the brain. By inhibiting or exciting cells in the olfactory area of the brain smells are creating changes in the brain. Smells can influence mood and emotions. While it is fairly safe to say any pleasant smell has a positive influence on mood some, such as frankincense, have been shown in studies (see list at end of article) to lessen the symptoms of depression and anxiety. Frankincense is psycho-active. It is good for our brains.
The articles and studies mentioned below support the notion that the benefits aren’t just psychological but biological. We can surmise that pleasant odours would have a positive impact on mood. It’s a reasonable notion, and certainly supported by aroma therapy. In turn olde Ayurvedic and natural medicine texts are likely to be correct about the use of incense.
Some of the scents that are known (as opposed to being clinically proven) to have a benefit:
- Lavender – relieve stress
- Sandalwood – creates awareness
- Cinnamon, citrus – increased focus
- Jasmine – hormonal balance, libido boost
- Frankincense – subject of a cited study, relieves depression; increases creativity.
You may wish to be more selective when next choosing incense, essential oil or scented candle and consider your mood and the intention for lighting it up in the first place.
May your days be suitably scented,
Further reading (recommend cinnamon or citrus 🙂
This Curejoy article has a fuller explanation of the dangers of incense burning
The Journal for the Federation for American Experimental Biology Abstract: “Incensole acetate, an incense component, elicits psychoactivity by activating TRPV3 channels in the brain”
Science Daily, Burning Incense is Psychoactive
Less science more information