Using Incense for Meditation
"Meditation is the discovery that the point of life is always arrived at in the immediate moment." - Alan Watts
For thousands of years, meditation has been used to calm the mind, become more in tune with the way things really are and let go into the present moment. Meditation plays a key role in many religions, most notably in Buddhism and other Eastern religions were there is a strong relationship between incense and meditation.
Incense is the perfect companion for meditation as it helps quiet the mind and increase concentration. If you’re looking for a way to improve your meditation sessions, burning incense can really help with focus. Many meditators also like to use incense to time meditation sessions rather than using a timer. Knowing roughly how long a stick of incense will burn for, you can use incense to indicate when to finish meditating. Shoyeido’s Zen incense sticks are perfect for long meditation sessions. These sticks last for up to 2.5 hours and offer a great alternative to timers for advanced meditators.
In Buddhism, incense is used for religious ceremonies and rituals as it creates an atmosphere conducive to contemplation and spiritual practice. Similar uses of incense can be found in Christianity with the burning of Frankincense in Catholic churches to create an air of devotion and contemplation.
As well as creating a good atmosphere for meditation, incense scent can also be used as an object of meditation itself. With mindfulness concentration meditation practices, usually the breath is used as the object of focus but anything can become an object for meditation. Mindfulness of body sensations, sounds and even scents. The art and appreciation of incense is meditative in itself. In meditation you can take the scent of incense as the point of focus and this can be just as effective at moving into deeper meditative states as using the breath.
Here's a quick scent meditation: Light an incense stick of your choice (preferably a calming/soothing scent like those from Shoyeido and Baieido) and begin by noticing the subtly scent of incense as the smoke reaches your nose. Study the scent, try to identify individual ingredients and look for the nuances in the scent. Is it sweet, spicy, woody, floral? Just taking time to appreciate the scent and study what you’re smelling is a powerful form of mindfulness and can be used for meditation.
Types of Incense for Meditation
Frankincense is a very popular choice to aid meditation sessions. This is one of the most calming incense scents and helps to relieve stress and anxiety, perfect for setting the tone for meditation and contemplation.
Lavender is well known for its relaxing and soothing effects on the nervous system. Burning lavender is great for meditation sessions and even helps wind down before sleep.
Sandalwood is one of the foundational ingredients in incense. It has a creamy, smooth scent that very quickly calms the mind and creates a soothing atmosphere.
Agarwood is another foundational ingredient and acts as a base for many incense sticks. High quality agarwood has an immediate relaxation effect and is a distinctive woody scent.
Zen Incense by Shoyeido
This incense is a combination of sandalwood, cinnamon, clove and spices and comes in three different types - created by Shoyeido specifically for meditation sessions. You can shop the full range here.