Tuesday, 28 May 2013

How to get ready for your meditation seat - Incense

Here perpetual incense burns;
The heart to meditation turns...

Meditation needs setting up for. As with everything else it is dependent on a set of conditions; The Buddha's essential insight into the nature of Reality.  We should not expect to be able to move into meditation just by sitting on our meditation seat.  So what can we do to set up the best conditions for us to be able to meditate?

One way of  looking at the conditions for any human activity is to look for three components to be present:

Opportunity / Chance to
Means / How to
Motive / Want to

We are fortunate that we do have the opportunity to practice.  We have been taught or are learning 'how to'. We might have an idea that meditation is a good thing to do but why do we seemingly forget to practise it sometimes.  Perhaps we need to engage our emotions, our aspiration, our heart and this can be a subtle thing.  In this blog I want to touch on the role of  incense and our sense of smell and the effect it can have on our mood.

As we can see from the first lines of Sangharakshita's poem there's something about smell that evokes memory.  I've just come back from a walk in the Spring and the scent of Balsam poplar lifts my mood. I went for the walk because I felt a bit stale. This might be because it's a pleasant sweet smell or maybe it's affecting my nervous system.  In an article in Science Daily the authors report research that Incense ( Frankincense) may act as an antidepressant.
Burning Incense Is Psychoactive: New Class Of Antidepressants Might Be Right Under Our Noses

In a useful article  "A burning topic: how to best use incense Anne-Marie Cook quotes Dr Thom E Lobe, a licensed practitioner in both Western and Eastern medicine. “These organs of smell are the closest link the brain has to the outside and are located very close to that part of our brain that regulates emotions and other important bodily functions. When you inhale incense there is a direct effect on the brain that is measurable and nearly immediate.”

There is some research that cautions burning incense indoors so maybe we could use essential oils in a burner that gently heats a drop or so in water.

What are the kind of things you use or do to prepare yourself for meditation?

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