Sensing the World

There is something special about the air this evening. I’ve just been standing on the front step after meditation, breathing in great gulps of it. Ahhh! Mmmm. Wonderful air, wonderful humid air. And the wind is up, blowing our flags against the guttering. That’s our International Buddhist Flags strung along the length of the house at window and door height. I see that they’re getting frayed as the wind snatches and catches them on the flaking paint. Ahhh, wonderful humid air. We might even be getting some rain soon. Perhaps a storm.

A chap came for meditation this evening. Together we stood on the step, admiring the air. He thought it even smelt clean. He could be right, the air could even be cleaner. Perhaps something to do with the extra moisture.

My discriminating sense of smell rarely comes into play, for the most part there is nothing that grabs my attention one way or the other around here. Nothing either heady and pleasant or heavy and unpleasant. Although there is a local wood mill that, when the wind is from the right direction, sends a cloying smell into this neighbourhood. It doesn’t last.

Now I’ve traveled back to the morning, in Reading England, when it dawned on me I’d just committed to living with sewage! That is, the almost constant smell of sewage. I was outraged. The smell was in the towel I dried my face on, the bedding I’d slept in. Gusts of it blew in around the window and door frames mixing with the incense smoke as we sat for meditation. There was no getting away from it and I was just about to take on the priorship at Reading. A permanent position with a permanent, truly terrible, smell!

Right there and then I had to come to terms with the situation, and accept it. In the process I was forced to look, not for the first time, at how the discriminating mind works together with the senses. Wanting and desiring the pleasant, rejecting and recoiling from unpleasant. There is nothing like entering into an all consuming, all embracing, stink to get ones attention. I grew to be grateful for my time in it’s presence. For one thing I learnt not to complain, make comment or draw attention to ‘it’. Complaining doesn’t make anything better. “It”, by the way, is called the “Whitley Whiff”, named after the neighbourhood most effected.

It is dark now and the wind is gently blowing a twig against the guttering outside of my room. But you should have heard the racket before we cut the branches! A monk once kindly said to me, “Where ever you are there will be sound”. He could have also said; “There will always be smell, sight, sensation, taste…and thought”. What we do with them is our choice. Ay?

Sense: The faculty through which the external world is apprehended.

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2 thoughts on “Sensing the World”

  1. The wind caught my attention last night also. I like this post. The world through your eyes.

    My biggest sense challenge used to be unwanted noise. Now, its unwanted thinking!

  2. Thank you for a lovely post.

    There is a scent that comes around rarely. Every time it happens, the sense of smell carries me right back to a day when my mom arrived to pick me up after a weekend with grandma. Mom swept me up in a hug that enveloped me in her fresh, outdoor, clean air smell. Now, whenever the conditions are right(once a year?), I am momentarily a happy child in her mother’s arms.

    My neighborhood is a few miles SW of “Mt. Trashmore,” the local landfill, and the main road from the east passes right next to the sewage treatment plant. Yesterday I was in the sunroom (my “garden” space)talking to my roommate, who was doing her laundry. When she removed it from the dryer, one of those scented fabric softener sheets fell out on the floor. I felt my airways tightening in response to the strong perfume, a reaction that doesn’t happen with the sewage or garbage odors, by the way.

    What Rev. Mugo’s post brought up was that my emotions hadn’t responded in their typical negative style, labeling the smell as “bad” and my roommate as “bad” for “causing” my shortness of breath.

    Could it be that Buddhist practice works??!!??!!

    P.S. Brain science indicates the olfactory nerve (smell) is the quickest route to memory.

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