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Awakening to Arousal

Your arousal response is your body’s natural mechanism for accessing pleasure. Although often confused with the genital swelling that accompanies being turned on, the source and ignition for becoming aroused lives in the sexiest organ of your body - your brain. More specifically in the limbic area of the brain, which is also responsible for generating our emotions and developing memory. Conveniently the limbic brain is co-located with our olfactory bulb, which explains why our sense of smell both heightens our emotional experience and connects us to our memories so powerfully.

Recent research demonstrates that we find things both more beautiful and memorable when they are combined with a pleasant scent.

We know this reality intuitively when we are hungry. Almost any food is more appetizing when our sense of smell gets involved. Yet, often our awareness of the power of scent is masked. Most people are not aware that the casinos and theme parks they are visiting pipe in pleasant smells, which have a positive effect on everything from how long people stay to how much money they spend.

In the same vein, most of us remain unaware of how powerfully our sensory perception is when it comes to initiating and interacting with our own arousal mechanism. It turns out that the long-held belief that desire turns on our sexual arousal and orgasmic potential is mythology. Interesting studies have demonstrated that developing your physical arousal mechanism can and does instigate sexual desire. This is heartening news because tapping into and enlarging our capacity for arousal through our senses is no different than cultivating any other physiological response.

The key to cultivating arousal is through expanding our less dominant senses of smell, taste and touch. It is a strange irony that it is through our five senses that we most directly know ourselves and experience our life. Yet oddly, these quieter senses are often the ones we pay less attention to, and consequently end up having a limited understanding and vocabulary for the ways in which they influence us and our experience of life. Often what we taste, smell and touch becomes a narrow tunnel that constricts us in ways that evade our awareness.

Ponder for a moment...

  • How often do you eat something you have never tried before?
  • When was the last time you tasted something that was new to your tongue?
  • What was the last powerful scent – both positive and negative that stopped you cold?
  • When were you last touched in a way that it was all you could think about?

For many of us, our sense of smell and taste are our least developed senses. Perhaps, we were exposed to a limited array of flavors and scents in childhood, and that became a lifelong and narrow window of what we “like”. The increased consumption of processed foods, which rely most heavily on our innate cravings of salty and sweet flavors don’t work in our favor. In many ways, what we taste is inseparable from both scent and texture. What we don’t experience and have the language to express disappears from view. It is too easy to dismiss the unknown as “unlikeable”. Likewise, our scent language is often limited to “it smells like…” and our recognition of scents are often clearly delineated between pleasant and unpleasant.

But the world of scent cognition that often goes unrecognized everyday is ancient and is the most primal information we process about sexual attraction and compatibility.

It is these senses that bring us most fully into the present moment and out of our constantly reasoning mind. Falling into taste, smell, and touch is the open door to true presence and - not surprisingly - the strong suit when it comes to making love. It is precisely when our quieter senses are allowed to dominate the rushing of visual stimuli and the overthinking that daily life invites that we become more intimately capable, more pliable, and open to the unknown that our sexual selves demand. Imagine not being able to smell or taste; not just a ripe melon, but your lover. It would make the experience almost inaccessible. Practice smelling, indulge in scent, and taste and bear witness to the emotional response that accompanies this. It will surprise you!

Trust your sense of smell to excite you and indulge your olfactory in whatever scents turn you on. Napoleon was notorious for requesting his wife not wash for a week when he was coming home; whereas other people may be all about a freshly bathed aroma. Whatever your preference, know that our olfactory system is our primary sense when it comes to arousal.

Cleopatra famously coated her ship’s sails in rose oil to get Mark Antony’s attention. It is said to have halted the war for a few days. Seriously though, I credit my development of Love Oils as one of the keys to unlocking my own sexual arousal and pleasure mechanism.

Let scent be the gate that unleashes your fantasies and rocket fuel for your passions.