THE CIRCLE OF BREATH/THE SENSE OF SMELL
Kissing a Horse
by Robert Wrigley
Of the two spoiled, barn-sour geldings
we owned that year, it was Red—
skittish and prone to explode
even at fourteen years—who’d let me
hold to my face his own: the massive labyrinthine
caverns of the nostrils, the broad plain
up the head to the eyes. He’d let me stroke
his coarse chin whiskers and take
his soft meaty underlip
in my hands, press my man’s carnivorous
kiss to his grass-nipping upper half of one, just
so that I could smell
the long way his breath had come from the rain
and the sun, the lungs and the heart,
from a world that meant no harm.
Opening: In many cultures scent and the smoke rising from fragrant herbs are seen as ways of making our prayers and meditations more real. In India the early morning is filled with the scent and curling smoke of lit incense stick as an offering to the gods . The rising smoke carries our gratitudes and praise up into the wind and into all that is.
Seat yourself comfortably. Close your eyes. With each breath, feel or imagine the exchange between the outer environment of the air around you and the inner environment of your body. The outer environment becomes part of the inner environment with each breath you take in, and the inner environment releases to the outer with exhalation. You are literally breathing with every form of breathing life. As you sit under this apple tree it is breathing out oxygen through it leaves and breathing in the carbon dioxide that you are breathing out. You are trading breaths back and forth with fishes, trees, grasses, birds, mammals, and the entire atmosphere every breath as long as you live. Our breathing is a daily part of the Earth's breathing. Every single day, all of the life on Earth joins to take one big breath. This happens as plants photosynthesize, creating an increase of oxygen on the daylight side of the planet and a complementary decrease of oxygen on the night side of Earth. Breathe in – day. Breathe out – night. On a grander scale, the Earth breathes as the seasons shift from hemisphere to hemisphere.
What is your favorite smell? What does that smell remind you of?
With each breath air passes over about 5 million tiny receptors in our noses, and we smell. Smell gives us information about place, about where we are. And more than any other sense, it evokes emotion.
Today in your circle:
First, take a look around. Is your altar still there? What happened to the berry you placed there?
• practice reciprocity by sitting and mindfully exchanging breaths with the plants (and the animal who ate your berry?) around you.
• Now close your eyes and breathe in. What do you smell right now?
• Open your eyes. How many smells can you find? Be adventuresome and curious. Get down on all fours and smell the dirt. Smell the bark of trees, rub small bits of leaves and plants between your fingers and inhale the scent. (for this exercise, you may pick a small bits of plants, but be careful not to taste or put your fingers near your mouth or eyes. Also, stick to trees and ferns if you aren't sure you recognize poison ivy!).
• See if you can find
______ Something sweet-smelling
______ Something sour-smelling
______ Something flowery
______ Something minty
______ Something bad-smelling
______ Something pine-like
______ Something lemony
______ Something fruity
• Do any of the smells you find bring back a memory ? another place? Or event? Or person? It is thought that our ability to feel emotions may have evolved from our sense of smell. Do you associate any of these smells with a particular feeling or emotion? Write down any thoughts or remembrances the smells of your circle have evoked.
by Mary Oliver
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don’t try
to make them elaborate, this isn’t
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a silence in which
another voice may speak.