Note - this "Inside the Enso" post on sacred scents will be used by our Continuing Residents (a special group who have chosen to stay with the Circle after their 12-week initial term) as the inspiration for discussion questions.
Scents and aromas have been part of sacred spaces for over 5000 years. Originally, perfumes were used in sacred shrines in conjunction with burnt offerings. People burned precious scents such as frankincense and myrrh on their altars. Soon, people began using these rare perfumes on their own bodies and associating scent with spiritual experiences.
Creating a sacred space with the assistance of essential oils, incense, and natural scents is a personal and customizable practice. The scents you choose, the rituals you incorporate, and the intentions you set all contribute to the unique and sacred atmosphere you want to create.
Here are some cross-cultural versions of sacred scents that have endured:
Copal Incense: Copal incense is a resin incense that has been used in Mesoamerican rituals for centuries. It is known for its strong, earthy, and slightly citrusy scent. Copal incense is typically burned on the altar to purify the space, create a welcoming atmosphere for the spirits, and to help lift the prayers and messages to the spirit world. The aromatic smoke is believed to be a bridge between the two realms, helping the spirits find their way.
Below is a very short video about how to burn Copal resin incense from Quetzalcoatl Music Guillermo Martinez.
Source for Copal
Lavender Essential Oil: Lavender's name traces back to the Latin verb "lavare," which means "to wash." This essential oil provides spiritual protection by metaphorically cleansing your spirit. Lavender essential oil has the potential to dispel feelings of depression and aids in regulating our emotional well-being. It is the go-to choice for meditation due to its calming and soothing properties. Lavender essential oil is a valuable tool for enhancing your meditative focus and achieving a deeper state of inner tranquility. Sprinkle one or two drops on your altar cloth or use a mist of 20 drops of lavender oil to 2 ounces of water as a purifying mist.
Source for Lavender Essential Oil
Hand-gathered Smudging Bundles for Purification of Spaces
Smudging with sage or cedar is a centuries-old ritual deeply rooted in Native American and Indigenous cultures. It involves burning bundles of dried sage or cedar leaves and using the fragrant smoke to cleanse and purify a space, object, or person. Sage is often associated with purification, clarity, and wisdom, while cedar is believed to offer protection and grounding energy. The ritual is typically performed by lighting the bundle and waving it gently, allowing the smoke to waft through the area while setting intentions for cleansing negative energy and promoting positive vibes. Smudging is not only a practical act but a spiritual one, fostering a sense of balance and reverence for the natural world.
You can make this even more meaningful by gathering your own plants for smudging bundles. You become part of the sacred process from beginning to end. Here are directions that we wrote for you about how to make your own Smudge Bundles. They take about two weeks to dry, so practice mindfulness and patience.
More subtle than music, ephemeral in nature, scents enhance, inspire, cleanse and renew on the deepest level of human consciousness. We'd love to read your comments and observations about how you use scents as a creative enhancement in your own work.
I received an email from a friend today following up on a conversation we’ve been having about circles in general but particularly “found” circles in nature. She sent me a picture of some roots she had found in a green waste pile and wrote "roots of the Enso Circle?"
Photo by Bosha Struve
And then she followed it up with this photo of a circle of bull kelp that a friend of hers fished out of the surf (she lives in the Northwest):
I sent back a photo that I took this morning of a burned-out tree stump:
Looking for patterns in nature, or just noticing them when you see them is so typical of creative people. Circles, of course, have significant magic and meaning attached to them since pre-history and are often perceiving as powerful and profound symbols.
The ancient Greeks saw the circle as a symbol of infinity and unity. The geometric perfection of the circle represented the idea of a complete, unbroken whole. This concept was also associated with the Greek concept of "monas," or the source of all things. The Mandala, a circular symbol, holds spiritual significance in Hinduism and Buddhism. It represents the universe and the idea that everything is interconnected. By meditating on mandalas, practitioners sought to connect with the divine and attain inner peace and enlightenment. And in Native American cultures, the Medicine Wheel is a circular symbol representing the balance of the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of life. It was used for protection and to promote healing and harmony within the community.
One of the things that Michelle and I love about the Enso circle is that it is typically not a perfectly closed circle; it may have a slight opening or gap. This imperfection is deliberate and symbolizes the imperfection and incompleteness of all things in life. It encourages practitioners to accept and embrace the flaws and uncertainties of existence.
It's not a bad idea to start you day with an eye to finding certain patterns as you go through you daily routine - look for three lines together, or the first letter of your name - or circles! Observation, appreciation, serendipity are all parts of exercising our creative intuition.
Here is a site that explores how children learn from nature and its shapes and numbers - I love the concept, and the exercises are fun!
Thanks for reading Inside the Enso! Send us your comments and your circles!
Michelle and I ask our Enso Residents to share their thoughts from time to time about what they have explored and discovered inside The Enso Circle.. This post is by Continuing Resident Waldinei (Wally) Lafaiete, who is a photographer and visual artist and a three-term Enso community member.
As we embark on our creative journeys, I'd like to share a transformative perspective I've gained over time. It goes beyond the technical aspects of art and delves into the profound realm of sacred practice.
In our artistic endeavors, it's essential to understand that creating art is not just about producing aesthetically pleasing images. It's a doorway to a deeper dimension of existence. When you engage in the act of making art, it can be a form of meditation, a way to connect with a higher source of inspiration.
Treating the act of creation as a ritual, a sacred dance with your muse, can infuse your work with reverence. Consider your canvas or photographic frame not just as a physical space but as a gateway to the ethereal. Through your art, you can express your innermost thoughts, emotions, and desires, fostering a dialogue with your soul and exploring the universal truths that unite us all.
The beauty of this perspective is that it transforms not only the art itself but also the artist. It can lead to personal growth, self-discovery, and a profound connection with the world around you. Embracing imperfections, for they too are part of the divine tapestry of existence, is a lesson learned through this sacred practice.
Remember, your creative process mirrors the intricacies of life itself. Creativity is not confined to the canvas; it extends to the way you live, love, and interact with the world. Every moment, every encounter, and every breath can be an opportunity to infuse life with the sacredness of creation.
This perspective has the power to enrich your life in unimaginable ways. Art is not limited to the studio or gallery; it's a living, breathing force that can infuse every aspect of your existence. By viewing artmaking as a sacred practice, you can unlock a profound wellspring of inspiration, transformation, and connection. It will continue to guide you on a remarkable journey of self-discovery and creative exploration.
Art is solitary work. And you like it that way. Often, though, you might want another creative to bounce off an idea, get feedback on a direction for a work in process, or celebrate a finished artwork or project. The Enso Circle provides that kind of community.
When you enter The Enso Circle Artist Residency, you are joining a small curated community of creatives who, like you, are excited about what they are doing and are engaged in the creative process. As a world community, someone is always online to answer that burning question about the materials or process. Do you need help? In the Circle, you can upload an image and get next-step feedback from artists you respect. It is as easy as jumping online and posting your question to the Help Channel.
We all have used social media to connect to art communities. Still, even when they are private, it is too easy to get sidetracked by interruptions with information and advertising on our feed. In the Enso Circle, we wanted a genuinely private community space where we could be ourselves and show our work. We found it in a user- friendly platform called Slack. Only some people like social media. Slack feels like something other than social media because the community consists of twelve artists/colleagues you meet repeatedly in weekly Zooms, in creative conversation, and sometimes even in person. Before long, Slack becomes a home away from home.
A community offers accountability. When we share our struggles and successes in the creative process, the residents help us do what we came here to do. To help us all stay accountable, focused, and self-aware, we've developed a weekly check sheet for our Enso Circle Residents (and ourselves) to fill out and share with the group. It is a shortcut summary of our progress, concerns, roadblocks, and solutions.
The Enso Weekly Check Sheet takes very little time but makes a huge difference in individual accountability. Lyn and I are attaching our version for you to try in your studio practice. Our residents love it and use it faithfully. And if you decide to join us, you'll be one step ahead already with your own Friday Check Sheet ritual. We'd love to know if you used this Check Sheet or something similar you developed. We'd love to hear about your take on accountability.