Incense for Meditation

incense stick burning | Photo by Denis Oliveira

What is incense any why use it for meditation?

We use meditation to focus and unfold our minds to attain a clearer view of the paths that we cross in our lives. This trains our mind to develop clarity, concentration, be emotionally positive, and have a calm mind to all things that you are feeling or experiencing. Meditation is practised in various ways which include specific breathing techniques and exercises that can help with your concentration. Sometimes we may call upon some additional ‘queues’ in our environment to help catalyse the meditative state; one of these is the burning of incense. Incense burning is an ancient method that started more than a thousand years ago. It was used in numerous distinct civilizations and can be seen in Sanskrit texts dating back many years. Not only it is used for its pleasing aroma but also commonly used to ward off evil spirits hence incense is considered as sacred material for it is believed to cleanse and purify during spiritual practices.

Type of incense used in meditation

The most common kind of incense is Frankincense and Sandalwood which are often used in Tibetan and Chinese medications. Sandalwood is particularly used by Buddhists in their temples and monasteries. The soothing effects come from the unique woody scent that can also stimulate relaxation. On the other hand, Frankincense has certain phytochemicals, a chemical that is liable for human emotions, which influences the limbic systems and cerebral cortex therefore it gives the nervous system a calm state. Both are also used to reduce anxiety, depression, and stress.

multiple incense sticks | Photo by Milada Vigerova
multiple incense sticks | Photo by Milada Vigerova

Why use incense when meditating?

Incense has many benefit during meditation. Burning an incense stick can liberate your space and helps you improve your visualization of good and practical future circumstances. Since not everyone has access to a peaceful place like temples or monasteries, incense can purify and cleanse the area or room that you use in your meditation, and it can be used with various forms of meditation such as ‘Guided Meditation‘. It strengthens and expands spiritual connection, produces a great sense of harmony, and alleviate anxiety and stress. By stimulating a peaceful and serene environment, your conscious minds will be free from chatters and be in a state of focus and clarity.

Meditation is a common method of relieving stress from our modern hectic and busy lives. Burning of incense before the start of your meditation will signal your mind to start focusing and encourage you to clear your thoughts and begin with a fresh outlook for your meditation. Think of it as a trigger to help you body and mind know what to expect next.

What is incense made of?

Incense is commonly made out of tree resins, barks, seeds, flowers, and roots. Aromatic plants are believed to ward off demons and mostly connected to gods in the environment. The two types of incense are western and eastern incense. The eastern incense is made from plants like sandalwood and agarwood. They are grounded and mixed with water and potassium nitrate or saltpeter. On the other side, western incense comes from the tree bark’s gum resins. Since it hardens rapidly, the resins are easy to harvest. Stick incense is composed of fragrance oils and “punk sticks” which are made out of natural materials. The sticks are commonly made out of bamboo and the upper portion is coated with sawdust that can absorb and keep the fragrance nicely. Fragrance oils are made from plants that give off a natural aroma.

There are direct-burning and indirect-burning incense. Indirect-burning is consist of incest that is made by combining different aromatic ingredients which are not suitable for direct burning and requires a detached heat source like glowing embers or charcoal. While direct-burning incense is made out of dry aromatic ingredients that are lit and continuously burn. Direct-burning incense is usually in cone or stick form.

Some types of incense include lavender which stimulates beauty, cinnamon which boosts passion and energy levels, rose incense that nurtures love, sage that cleanses energy field, myrrh for purification and renewal, and amber that can help you encourage and understand difficult life situations, Compared to the usual or basic incense, modern aromas are composed of wide varieties of choices including gingerbread, blueberry, green tea, pumpkin pie, and candy cane incense. Different kinds of incense can give you different feelings, moods, or benefits so it is better to experiment and try each variety so that you can choose the right kind that you need and which you are most comfortable during your meditation.

How to use incense in meditation

1.) To use incense in meditation, you need first to select your preferred incense.

2.) Prepare your area or room that you will be using in your meditation. Be sure to select a spot that’s free from flammable materials that could catch light if hot ash falls on them. Also ensure that it’s not on your best cabinet or priceless side table!

3.) Light up the head of your incense stick or cone with lighter or match.

4.) After it has been ignited, gently blow to slowly extinguish the flame so that it can begin to generate scented smoke.

Incense is considered a natural fire hazard so manufacturers highly suggest you make use of an incense burner or stand. This will can support and hold the ash of the burning incense. It is also important not to leave the burned incense unattended and to place the incense burner or holder in a fireproof surface.

A premium quality incense burning in a properly ventilated room with no less than one meter from your sitting area is the safest and best way of utilizing incense burning as this will prevent you from directly breathing in the smoke coming from the burning incense. There is also incense that is made of natural ingredients that are not harmful to you. It is highly recommended to be wary of incense that is artificial sticks and cones. Moreover, be observant of the color of smoke that comes out of your incense as some unreliable or unnatural incense gives off black smoke which is dangerous to your health.