A Sensory Guide to Crafting Tangible Intention
“Even when our activities are repetitions of activities we have performed many times before, they derive thickness and meaning from memory, our awareness of repetition, and our desire to repeat again… We are, in short, temporal beings, both swimming in a river of time and, at the same time, standing apart from any single moment to observe the sequence.”
- Martha C Nussbaum, Justice for Animals: Our Collective Responsibility
In our journey through the world of intention, mindfulness and rituals, we've explored the power of intention and attention to transform the ordinary into the sacred. We've dived into the concept of tangible anchors, physical objects or sensory experiences that root us in the present, grounding our intentions in the material world. These anchors act as beacons, guiding us back to our purpose whenever we drift in the sea of thoughts and sensations.
In this post, I’lll invite you into my personal mindfulness practice, sharing with you the three tangible anchors that I use during my rituals: candles, a special garment, and incense. Each of these items holds a special significance for me and plays a unique role in creating an atmosphere that promotes focus and intention.
My humble candle
The first anchor is the humble candle. Common as it may appear, the candle for me carries and immense sensory power. The soft flicker of a flame, the subtle aroma wafting from its wick, and even the act of lighting it form a tapestry of sensory experiences that guide my intention into alignment.
For me, lighting a candle is not merely an act but a ritual of initiation. It is a conscious pact with myself: as long as this candle burns, the space of its glow becomes a sanctuary, a sacred space devoted to introspection and presence.
As the candle burns, the flicker of the flame can become a point of focus. It dances, flickers, and sways, like a visual mantra that draws me back whenever my mind begins to wander. The gentle movement of the flame against the stillness around it is a mirror of my own mind - active, yet within a larger expanse of tranquillity.
In the quiet moments of candlelight, I am reminded that our intentions, like the flame, are energetic, vibrant, and powerful, but they too require nurturing. Just as a flame needs air to burn, our intentions need attention to manifest.
The language of cloth
In the modern flurry of living, clothes an often become a mere afterthought, chosen for convenience rather than intentionality. We reach for what's clean, what's comfortable, or what's appropriate for our day's agenda. The notion of clothing, in our harried world, has been reduced to practicality. Unstandable as this is, I believe we may overlook the profound power that our choice of garments can hold.
In my journey of mindfulness, a special garment has become a silent companion, an ally in my quest for grounding and focus. It is a night dress, simple and as soothing as the caress of a breeze, its off-white threads woven with memories of meditations past. When I drape it over my shoulders, it signifies my transition into a space of introspection and mindfulness. It's as if I'm enveloped in a cocoon of peace, safe from external distractions and free to dive deep within my own thoughts.
That said, when choosing a garment as an anchor, the most crucial element is not the fabric or the weight of the garment, nor its colour or its origin. Instead, it is the alignment between the garment's essence and the intention we are striving to cultivate. This alignment is the secret melody that gives voice to the silent language of cloth.
Consider this: Wearing clothes we associate with work or the gym is unlikely to nurture a state of calm and introspection, regardless of how exquisite the fabric may be. Such garments carry the energy of task-completion, of action, and speed – a far cry from the tranquillity we seek in our mindfulness practice.
Instead, our chosen garment should be one that we associate with peace, serenity, and introspection. It should be a garment that echoes the gentle rhythm of our breath, the silent unfolding of our thoughts. It should resonate with the mental state we aspire to inhabit during our mindfulness rituals.
This chosen garment becomes a sacred marker, distinguishing our mindful practice from the rest of our day. In this act of conscious selection, we lend further depth to our practice, embedding our intentions not just in our minds, but in the world of touch and texture around us.
Incense and oils
Smell is an exquisite storyteller. Each aroma holds a tale, a memory, and an emotion. They can carry us across time and space, painting vivid landscapes of moments past. In this way scents are like silent scribes, etching into our memories, making them a valuable companion for our mindfulness practice. Incense, in particular, has found a part in my ritual story.
This will likely not be a surprise. Afterall, incense, in its many forms, has found a place in spiritual practices across cultures and centuries. The spirals of fragrant smoke, as they unfurl into the air, bear witness to silent prayers and intentions, spiralling heavenward.
For my scent anchors, I've chosen a diverse troupe of fragrances, each bringing its own distinct rhythm and energy to the floor. Breu resin, with its rich, balsamic undertones, sets a grounding foundation, helping me anchor firmly in the 'now'. The slightly sweet, minty notes of Palo Santo fill the air next, encouraging clarity and spiritual cleansing. Following this, the sharp, robust aroma of White Sage swirls in, known for its cleansing properties and ability to banish negativity.
Other times, Chacrona leaves and Jagube vine, often used together in spiritual ceremonies, join the dance. Their earthy, forest-like fragrance, serves as a tactile reminder of our interconnectedness with nature, while subtly prompting introspection and mindfulness. As the flame meets each ingredient, it births a scented dance of smoke, spiralling up into the air, transforming the space into an olfactory landscape of the present.
This symphony of scents serves as my compass, guiding me back to my intentions whenever the world's clamour threatens to pull me astray. The transformation from flame to smoke and then to scent is a gentle reminder to return, to sink into the embrace of the silent symphony within. And even when the final trail of smoke dissipates, the aromatic legacy lingers, a gentle echo of my intentions and a quiet ballad of my practice.
Choosing the scent that accompanies your mindfulness journey is akin to composing your unique piece of music. You select notes that ground you, that lift you, that resonate with your spirit. Perhaps you find your symphony in the revitalising notes of citrus or in the exotic melody of frankincense.
Just like the candle and the garment, incense becomes a tangible touchpoint, tethering our sensory journey to our mental landscape and our deepest intentions. As you begin to incorporate incense into your dance with mindfulness, remember, it's not about the complexity of the ritual, but the creation of a sensory rhythm that guides you back to the present moment, back to your intention, and ultimately, back to yourself.
Resonating anchors - Weaving the symphony
Nothing in nature exists in isolation. Each element, from the smallest insect to the tallest tree, comes together to create an intricate tapestry of life. Much like this natural orchestration, our practice can thrive on the synergistic interplay of our chosen anchors. Each one — the candle, the garment, the incense — offers a different piece of the puzzle, an additional layer of texture to our mindful space.
The lighting of the candle gently illuminates the path, marking the threshold between my everyday life and the sacred space I'm stepping into. Draping myself in the cocoon-like of my chosen garment, I feel an immediate transformation, a shedding of roles, responsibilities, and distractions. The ritualistic burning of incense, its aromatic dance filling the air with a bouquet of Breu resin, Palo Santo, and White Sage, completes the sensory frame.
Individually, these anchors lend their own strengths. Yet, together, they sing in unison, painting a vivid, multi-sensory portrait of presence. Their harmonious convergence creates a landscape far richer and more textured than anyone could accomplish alone.
A final reflection
Our journeys to cultivating mindfulness are deeply personal, and often on winding paths. For me, it has been about finding the cadence, the symbols, and the experiences that echo within you, grounding you and guiding you back to your purpose. This exploration asks for openness, for attentiveness, and for the courage to let your intuition lead your way in choosing tangible anchors.
Always remember, the magic of these anchors doesn't lie in their physical form but in the meaning we endow upon them. A simple candle, an ordinary piece of cloth, or an unassuming stick of incense become sacred when we assign purpose to them, when they transform from being mere objects to becoming mirrors reflecting our intentions.
I invite you on this journey of discovery, to find the tangible anchors that stir your spirit and lead you to your own sacred space of mindfulness. Be patient, be curious, and know that your anchors will unveil themselves when the time is right.