Sunday, September 16, 2012

The smell remembers when . . .

Imagery can be a powerful thing.  It's central to many kinds of relaxation techniques including guided visualizations and meditations.  But sometimes it can yield breathtaking surprises when least expected.

Scents, those tiny air born clusters of atoms can trigger relaxation, even memories.  Think of how you feel when you're at the beach, imagine the way it sounds, close your eyes and picture in your minds eye the way it looks, and now that awesome smell you associate with the beach.

If you had any success with this brief exercise in guided visualization, the beach you felt, heart, saw and smelled is a specific beach that you have been to and enjoyed.  You've also accomplished a well known stress busting means of relaxation. Congratulations!  If you didn't don't feel bad, that was a really quick, simple example. Usually there is more involved.

If you didn't, or have never been to a beach to visualize (oh the horror!) then try visualizing everything about a special place that you know well.  See how that works? How that feels? Even smells associated with the place?

In our often hectic life, we can be surprised by a sight, sound, or smell that makes us think of somewhere else far away.  Guided visualization techniques not withstanding, I'm sure each of you reading this has experienced something like that.  Specific places often have a complex mixture of cues that remind us of a specific place.  It's the nature of memory.  So just as no two types of flowers smell the same, different beaches have their own complex signature. Beaches not withstanding, think of the difference between the way the air smells in the fall, and in the summer time. Two very different scents yes?

As I've mentioned before, I'm a Stargate franchise fan. I've watched pretty much every episode and movie (except Universe) repeatedly for my own enjoyment.  I've had many dreams where I've been involved with the program, at the SGC, on Atlantis, or on the various ships they have, working with the amazing people there.  I've been through the gate many, many times, but will always remember my first time so clearly.  The Gate system is also involved in some of my meditations.  Specifically one particular planet that I travel to often.  So often I have an apartment there. My apartment is a few short blocks from a glorious beach that I go to quite often to relax.  For me the experiences, and the memories they are tied to, are no less real than places I've been to on earth.  Like a Star trek: Next generation era holodeck, my mind fills in all the details, ones I don't often notice but are etched into my memories with or without my notice.

Before I go any further, let me mention I've not yet been, in this lifetime, anywhere near the Mediterranean Sea on earth. Never spent time at any beach on the Med so I have no scent linked memories that go with it.

My beach on 427 (P4C-427) however is etched indelibly into my heart and mind in ways I'd even not expected. It is a wonderful place and I can often be found sitting there meditating at all hours of the day and night. It brings me great peace. Often when I'm meditating here on earth, in my mind I first go to my beach on 427 and do my sitting there.  So even though I've not fully explored the area, there are scents drifting on the breeze that cannot be missed or mistaken.

I tend, here on earth to eschew scented products most of the time. The chemicals and such they use hardly ever get the smell right.  Which is part of why I'm fond of incense.  It's made of more natural materials.  So imagine my surprise when I bought a bottle of Dawn that was labeled as Mediterranean Lavender and promptly forgot about it until the one I had open was finished.

When I finally did open it and start using it I stopped what I was doing completely stunned.  That was my beach the scent they had put into the soap.  It honestly surprised me so much I had to stop and read the label since I'd forgotten what I'd bought.  honestly I'd not even looked at the label when I got it, I picked it simply because it was purple.  No, I'm not kidding.  But it smells just like my beach on a completely different planet.  That really caught me up short.

I'm reminded of the Trisha Yearwood song "The Song Remembers When."  In it she sings about how a song on the radio can bring back a rush of memories.  I so get that, and it's a common theme, so much so that there are other songs that say basically the same thing in different ways.

In this case however "The Smell Remembers When."  And I have a new dish soap that I'll keep on buying. If only because it makes me think of my other home, far from here.

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