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Meditation & Incense

The History On The Uses Of Incense For Meditation

For millennia, people have used meditation to center themselves, relieve stress, and find peace. This sacred act remains popular today, but what would it be without the use of incense? One could make an argument for the claim that you can't have one without the other, as incense often prompts a calming of the mind, and meditation is greatly enhanced by the sweet-smelling aroma. 

Although many may believe burning incense is a modern practice, the act dates back to the dawning of civilization itself. Its rich history connects us with generations past and reminds us that, although time may change the ways of the world, people and their traditions often stay the same.  

Before we can dive into the history of incense, we must first begin by explaining what it is. Incense comes from the Latin word incendere, meaning burning, and speaks of the scent the gum and wood of plants give off while burning. Originally derived from the tree resin found around parts of India, Africa, and the Middle East and considered one of the original fragrant materials used by humans, people have enjoyed the woody, amber aroma of the burning tree resin for thousands of years.

Burning Incense Sticks

Origins Of Incense And Meditation

The Egyptians and Mesopotamians first recorded the use of incense over six-thousand years ago as an ingredient in the balm used during mummification. It was also burned in their temples when they sought to communicate with their deities. The use of incense for religious and secular rites became common practice, making its way to the Greecian and Roman world, where they would use it in censers when performing religious ceremonies.  

Although this usage was not technically called meditation at the time, the incense allowed the users to enter a deep relaxation state, which would often prompt them to have what they considered spiritual experiences.

The Bible mentions the use of incense over twenty times, and we can see its significance as it was one of the gifts the Magi offered to baby Jesus. Other religious texts like the Koran also mention incense as a common practice within temples, where it is still used today. Incense wasn't only popular in the Middle East and West; it also became known as the "perfume of the Orient." The Far East culture has always placed a special significance on the art of meditation, revering it as a way to find inner peace and connect with their ancestors. Due to this passion for meditation, the popularity of incense quickly grew, becoming one of the chief trade goods in the region. It was in the Orient that people began to experiment with different wood and aromas to use in their incense, extracting new essences for use in their preparations. Many different and bewitching scents emerged using the essential oil derived from the tree resin. New perfumes quickly gained popularity, from sandalwood to oud wood, as people developed a fascination for seeing what scents they could create next. 

One of the many benefits believed to come from the use of incense during meditation is its ability to heal not only the mind but the body. Although used as a sacred rite at its start, the therapeutic effects of burning incense emerged over the centuries. For example, ancient Greek, Chinese, and Egyptians used oliban resin as a way to treat lung and liver diseases and facilitate healing. Some resin is even known to contain anti-bacterial properties, which is useful in underdeveloped countries. Indian beggers keep their stem incense by their sides to encourage healing and remain devoted to their deities. Tibetan monks have used incense as a necessary part of their meditation practices for centuries, an act that continues to this day. The beauty of incense is how versatile it is and its many different uses. From house purification and calming the senses to aiding in sleep and providing energy, with incense, you can get the most out of your mediation and achieve the goal you set for it. 

Modern Day Incense

While burning incense is an ancient ritual; it is still commonly used today during meditative practices. There are many fragrances and shapes to burn with many different preparation options. There are two primary forms of incense to choose from, raw and human-shaped, each delivering incredible fragrances to help you get the most out of your meditation. One of the most common types of incense is Indian, which comes as no surprise considering how prominent it is in the nation's culture and spirituality. Modern-day users burn incense during meditation to help center their minds and calm their spirits. The aromas emitted can help block out distractions, allowing them to focus their full attention inward and discover a deep sense of peace. It's interesting to note the prominence incense takes in rituals and services spanning many different religions. From Catholicism to Buddhism, incense is burned during services to help create an environment suitable for connection with the divine. Whether seeking a deity from heaven or within, there's no doubt that burning incense during these mediatory practices has a palpable effect on the experience. For over six thousand years, people have used incense to help create a sacred atmosphere suitable for meditation and spiritual renewal. From the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans to those within the Orient, burning incense was a way to connect with the divine. Modern-day meditation follows the tradition of the centuries, using incense to ground and unite the inner man with its inherent divinity. Next time you light your incense, take a moment to appreciate the action that connects people through time and space. As you continue this timeless tradition, you are walking in the footsteps of those before who knew the power incense has during meditation. 

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