Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Nose Knows

Most people rely on vision as the go-to sense for understanding what's going on outside the body, of course, since eyes are actually part of the brain. They sit at the base of the two frontal lobes; the optic nerve goes straight to the center of the brain. Windows of soul, maybe. Eyes are windows into the brain, definitely!

What about your sense of smell? Do you rely on it? Have you ever thought about it? Close your eyes right now and breathe in through your nose. What do you smell? I smell the coffee I brewed this morning as well as traces of panang curry (last night's dinner), a whiff of lavender oil (I always sprinkle a few drops on the treatment table when I'm working). I can also smell the skanky air of the swamp in which I live, because the window is open. What do you smell? If you're not in the habit of consciously smelling (what a funny phrase), it could take some practice to get in touch with this primal sense. It's well worth it because, whether or not you're conscious of it, what you smell has a huge impact on your emotional and mental state.

What does I smell a rat mean? Or Something is rotten in Denmark. Both phrases convey the manner in which the sense of smell can expand understanding and awareness of things not visible or audible, but well worth noting.

Even if the date on the package of chicken says it should still be good, even if it looks fine, it's well worth giving it a sniff before placing it in the frying pan. Only your nose can tell you if that chicken is still edible. Same goes for other foods, of course.

The sense of smell can help you understand what your body wants at any particular moment. Before I decide if I want coffee or tea in the morning, I smell both. Sometimes one or the other smells delicious, sometimes one or the other doesn't smell right. It's not the coffee beans or teabags in that case, it's my body showing me clearly which way to go. Taste is smell plus texture and temperature. That's why officianados always sniff the wine before tasting, it's why chefs smell the soup before serving. Or at least they should.

Smell is a great diagnostic tool. People with untreated diabetes smell sweet. When people are even slightly dehydrated, they smell like burned paper, at least to me. Unless you never brush your teeth, bad breath is almost always an indication of something amiss in the digestive system.

How about pheromones? You can smell them whether or not you register that fact. Does your date smell good? If not, no matter how good they seem on paper, politely extricate yourself from the situation. If they smell funny, it's not going to work. Believe me!

Scents, aromas, even stinky stuff, can bring memories up into consciousness in the most visceral way. Smell is powerful.

If you have chronically blocked sinuses, you don't have access to a very important way of understanding the world. Try humming, go see the acupuncturist, use a Neti pot (but not too often because sometimes that practice pushes congestion deeper into your head). Unblock those sinuses, please! Life, including a well developed sense of smell, is a marvelous, many layered, complex experience. Without smell, all experience is flattened.

Close your eyes and open the nose, because the nose knows. Shalom!


ellen abbott said...

oh I totally get this. I did not care for the way my first husband smelled and the marriage only lasted 3 1/2 years. I love the way Marc smells and when we were dating and had been apart the first thing I would do when I saw him was get up close and take a deep breath of his skin.

Reya Mellicker said...

It figures you would get this, Ellen.