Sacred Sensual Home: Everyday Soul Scents

I stepped into a warmly lit bakery and caught a whiff of what I imagined was a lemony vanilla cloud made of love. That happy scent swirled around me and I inhaled deeply, eyes closed, luxuriating in the yummy, uplifting aroma. I felt joyful and comforted; my day got infinitely better from there.

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It’s these little everyday sensory moments – a chorus of chirping crickets lulling you to sleep, the flicker of candlelight – that boost your mood and keep you in sync with your highest self. This is the sweet spot where you find flow and can easily access your inner guidance.

With the holidays upon us (yay!) I thought it would be fun to focus on scent (think: pumpkin, pine, cinnamon and sage). Yes, scent triggers memories and has therapeutic benefits, but there’s a simpler reason to inhale: sniffing something nice makes you feel good – body, mind, heart and soul.

Your home can be a scent sanctuary. Although essential oils are a reliable go-to, it’s nice to just grab what’s on hand – a jar of ginger, the grapefruit shampoo – as an easy way to tap into your soul-self throughout the day.

So how do you use those everyday items to get the same benefits as sitting on a meditation cushion?

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The key is being in the moment: after zesting the orange make sure to take a good whiff, savor the scent and revel in the pleasurable sensation. (Many times I’ve let out loud groans when sniffing coffee beans at the market). For extra credit, actively appreciate the miracle of your five senses and how this physical world is set up to make them swoon.

So easy, right? And you’ll feel like you’ve been perched in lotus position – peaceful, inspired and at one with your true self.

When I got home from the bakery I looked around to see what I could use as easy-to-reach scents for staying (or getting back into) in a high vibe state. I found some very basic stuff you might already have on hand too, and then I just started playing around. Here’s what I came up with…

Meyer Lemon

I had a bag of these in the fridge – they’re goldeny yellow and sweeter than regular lemons (but the old standard would work fine too). First I put them in a bowl on the counter so I could enjoy their cheery color and subtle, uplifting scent. Then while making dinner I cut one and started squirting it on, well, everything. That continued for the next several days, the tangy acid brightening fish, garlicky kale, white bean soup and a yogurt/ginger/vanilla concoction. With each squeeze I inhaled deeply and let the fresh, energizing scent have it’s way with me.

Another good option is to slice a few of the glowing beauties and toss them into your bath along with some luxe oils and Epsom salts. Don’t forget to breathe, breathe, breathe as you sink into the warm water.

Essential oil alternative: try mixing lemon and vanilla oils in a glass bottle filled with water (about 20 drops each in 8 ounces of water, I usually just guess) then shake like crazy and spray your whole kitchen – it smells luscious and feels celebratory!

Clove

There was a little jar of whole cloves hiding in the back of my cupboard. I’m not sure why or how long they were there, but they still had a strong aroma – spicy, earthy and autumn-y. Cloves go well with a sweeter citrus like orange, so I pulled the old Girl Scout trick and poked the cloves into a few tangerines. You could use them as pomanders to spruce up a stuffy closet, but I just set them in a bowl on my dining room table. Whenever I walk by a wave of orange spice kisses me right on the cheek – very high vibe.

Essential oil alternative: make a custom autumn mix for your diffuser with clove, cinnamon, orange, clary sage and rose… warm, grounding and spicy-sweet.

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Eucalyptus

I’d bought a drape-y variety to fill out a simple arrangement of purple Alstroemeria. The aroma was very subtle (okay I couldn’t really smell anything), but then I remembered when I visited a friend over the summer he had a bunch of fresh Eucalyptus tied to the shower head. I felt like I was getting an aromatherapy spa treatment as the warm water relaxed my muscles and coaxed the plant’s oils into a cleansing and rejuvenating steam. My sinuses cleared. Even better, the gunk in my energetic vibration evaporated. Sweet release.

Essential oil alternative: eucalyptus oil is earthy, but in a more medicinal way than, say, Myrrh, which is much sweeter. Put a bunch of fresh or dried Eucalyptus in a vase on your bathroom vanity and sprinkle it with the oil. Mellow it out by adding lavender or boost it’s invigorating effect with peppermint.

Lavender

Ah, the reliable go-to relaxer. Even though it’s nearly the end of November, I hadn’t had the heart to cut the plant that had thrived outside in a pot all summer. But the temps were expected to drop quickly so I trimmed off all of the remaining sprigs. Right now they’re in a vase, but I’ll dry them and maybe zhush it with some dried baby rose buds to nudge it in a romantic direction. I just like the way it looks in a pretty dish on my desk – when things start feeling stressful I pick it up and inhale.

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Essential oil alternative: I admit that I use the oil more than the actual plant. It’s one of those home staples – there’s always an organic lavender-infused shea butter next to my bed – that has infinite uses. It’s good straight up and also mixes well with all sorts of company: ylang ylang for a sexy vibe, pine to rev it up, citrus to be playful and clove to add zip. Create your own collection by mixing your favorite combos into unscented body lotion. Apply often.

Enjoy experimenting and remember… happy nose, happy soul.

Feeling Blue? Soothe Your Senses

Heartache enriches you as much as victory.

Some consolation, right? You feel crappy. Screw the enrichment. It’s time to wallow, dammit.

There’s no shame in that. Wallow big, wallow deep. Make it the best wallow you’ve ever had.

Eventually, something inside of you will yearn to feel good again. That’s your natural state of being – your spirit always hangs out in that high-vibe state – and you’ll seek to rise up to it, over and over.

Here’s the bad news: You can’t go right from feeling devastated to feeling happy.

Here’s the good news: Yes you can.

Just not all in one swoop. The chasm is too wide. You can’t see the other side and your legs are too weak to a big leap anyway.

Here’s the key: think in increments. Look for one small, easy thing you can do that feels good.

Look for what soothes and pleases your senses: Pet your dog or cat. Slide into a favorite sweater. Light some lavender incense. Give up your seat on the train to an elder and notice that it feels good to stretch your legs.

These may seem like excruciatingly small steps, especially when chaos seems to be swirling around, but one self-nourishing act will lead to the next.

The morning after the election, the only thing I could do was sip my warm cup of coffee. It was a simple pleasure I had control over when it seemed like the world had turned upside down. It helped me feel just better enough to go to the myofascial release class I’ve been taking. Doing something good for my body lifted spirits. After that I had enough momentum to make a healthy, satisfying soup for lunch.

Feeling bereft was being replaced by feeling fortified. I was slowly but steadily starting to rise back up to my natural state of wellbeing.

Next time you’re feeling blue, don’t try to power through it. Instead, take a warm bath with rose or vanilla essential oil. Find a water sounds station on Pandora and take a nap swaddled in soft blankets. Go for a walk and stop for a hot chocolate. Savor it.

Don’t worry about whether you’re being self-indulgent. You are. And that’s fine. Taking whatever steps you need to feel better isn’t weak, it’s empowering.

In fact, the more consciously you care for yourself, the quicker you will ascend back to your natural state of feeling centered and whole. You might even feel even better than before.

What’s one simple, nourishing thing you can do to feel a little bit better than you do right now?

Do it. Then do another.

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Focus on Your Pleasure Points… 3 Steps to Maintaining Good Mood Momentum

sunset-circle-topI love my mornings – they’re peaceful and sacred to me. That is, until the dual leaf blowers start. As I’m pouring my first cup of coffee, on cue the maintenance crew of a nearby grocery store fires up not one but two blowers that are so loud they could be in my living room. This aggressive noise is one of my pain points (especially in summer when there were about two leaves but they kept at it for the requisite 15 minutes).

When I worked for an interior designer I noticed that much of her job was to remove minor but daily irritations. She’d replaced banging trash cans and toe-stubbing ledges and viola… a happier homeowner.

It’s not so easy though when a pain point is coming from a source you have no control over. A car alarm during your precious meditation time or a co-worker who stops by to chat when you’re in a state of creative flow – certainly your familiar with these sharp pokes.

Annoying? Yes. But they also can take you from feeling light and cheery straight into a dark scowl, or worse, the dreaded downward spiral.

Those leaf blowers are SO loud! They’re really annoying me. My peaceful morning is now shattered. I woke up in a great mood and now I’m cranky and it’s only 7:45 am. I should be better at maintaining my cool. No, it’s not my fault. It’s their stupid fault. They’re ruining this neighborhood. I should move. Oh yeah, I can’t afford to move right now. I’m a loser for not being further along and able to afford a lovely home where I have more control over my environment. I’m stuck. This sucks.

 

Wave goodbye to the sunny mood momentum. And with it, there goes your intuitive guidance and sense of flow.

So what can you do instead?

After a number of irritable mornings, I tried a new response. Between sips of warm coffee and bites of sweet fruit, I opened my notebook and wrote pages about all of the pleasurable stuff in my life. Immersed in my own thoughts as they tumbled onto the page, the annoying noise seemed to disappear. I didn’t even notice when they turned off.

And that’s the key. Create a bevy of pleasure point go-to’s and grab onto one immediately when a pain point arises. Sensory experiences are a great way to counteract your irritation and replace it with what you truly deserve – peace and joy.

A car alarm flairs up during your meditation? Light some lavender incense and do a couple yoga poses till it passes. As your over-chatty co-worker appears, click into your collection of cute kitty photos or serene landscape shots and glance at them frequently as they prattle on.

These small moves can prevent the downward slide that can wreck your whole day. You might not be able to eradicate the pain point, but when you focus on your pleasure instead you keep control over your experience of it.

Here’s the 3-step way to stay in control of your good mood momentum:

1. Know your pleasure points. Make a list of easy to reach feel-good experiences. Think about what feels good to look at, listen to, taste, touch, wear and do. Gather supplies and be prepared.

2. Know your pain points. When you’re aware of what pushes your buttons you can have a conscious response instead of succumbing to a sneak attack.

3. Be ready to shift gears as soon as a pain point surfaces. Choose how to react and remember how good your pleasure points feel.

The biggest payoff may be this: What you focus on expands. The more attention you give to your pleasure points, the more satisfied and in control of life you’ll feel.

My pleasure point list is long and highly satisfying. Good thing now that it’s autumn… Bring on those falling leaves.

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