Desperate, I reached tiredly for the bottle of hand balm I keep near my bed, hoping the familiar and comforting scent might help. I cupped my hands to my face and took a deep inhale, trying to focus on the scent — something that’s easy to take for granted after 7 years of loyal use.
With extracts of vetiver, sandalwood, and petit grain the scent was grounding in every sense of the word — my hands smelled of earth, as if I had been digging into soil. I could imagine the dirt beneath my fingernails and wished I could inspect them more carefully in the dark. I recalled the time I first smelled it in store and audibly wondered how anyone could find it appealing. I might have further considered what makes our individual preferences in scent so subjective and vulnerable to change, only I was finally, at last, asleep.
I’m reminded of how inconspicuously precious scent is to us. Our noses may tune out the scent of a candle burning in the background, but its effect on us and our mood isn’t any less enhanced. If we carefully avert out attention back to the candle, it's not difficult to appreciate its molten wax, the dancing flame, its warm glow.
I find that applying this concept of mindfulness can turn an everyday action into a considered and meditative ritual — of which, I have a few. While everyone has different rituals they resonate with, for me, it’s some of the most ordinary parts of my day that I regard as the most meaningful and restorative.
My day usually begins with the beckoning meows of my cat, Ginkgo. I like to imagine that by now (he’s almost one year old, a Pisces!) he has a similar appreciation for the morning ritual. He runs downstairs, trusting today will be like any other day. The window blinds open, the kettle boils, the coffee beans grind, two eggs on the frying pan and wet cat food in Ginkgo’s bowl. All to the tune of Michael Barbaro’s reassuring voice on The Daily.
To anyone else, it's routine, but to me, the orchestration of it all is as nourishing as the meal itself. There’s a comforting reassurance that comes from performing this daily, and knowing I could close my eyes and still know where to reach or where to step. What would otherwise be a hurried breakfast is now the first step of my everyday self-care ritual. I take my time finishing my coffee, sometimes in silence, and consider my day ahead.
This notion of ritual, of course, extends into my own personal care routine. When it comes to skincare, you could tell me these products do nothing for me and I would still ceremoniously pat into my face my toner, serum, moisturizer, treatment oil, eye cream, and SPF. I sometimes suspect I care less for these products’ promised effects than I do my enjoyment of their application. This all occurs as I kneel in front of my bedroom mirror, somehow giving a religious weight to it all.
I’m convinced my fascination with skincare comes from watching my mom get ready for work every morning as a kid, and seeing the time and attention she would put into her hair and makeup. At the time, I didn’t understand that the effort we spend on grooming ourselves isn’t always for the benefit of others, but rather an act of self-care and self-love. A moment to ourselves and for ourselves.
The backdrop to all this is of course my home. I care deeply about design, and so it's important for me to incorporate an element of ritual to my environment, and I try to achieve this through scent. I appreciate the physical ritual of creating a scent at home: lighting incense, diffusing an oil, lighting an oil burner or a candle. This is yet another opportunity to slow down and practice mindfulness. With incense especially, there’s clearly this historical background that’s deeply tied to ritual and ceremony. As a stick of incense burns, its meditative to watch the ribbons of smoke delicately rise as it burns through entirely.
As someone who is more introverted and has a low threshold for socializing, imbuing these moments with meaning and regarding them as rituals allows me to feel grounded and prepared for the day ahead. I think it’s important we all feel attuned to ourselves and safe in our minds and bodies, and we should consider how certain everyday actions can support this, however small they may seem.
- Harry Osuna
Harry Osuna is a design enthusiast and an avid traveler currently based in Los Angeles. When he’s not online searching for vintage furniture, he’s at home spending time with his cat, Ginkgo. You can keep up with Harry here.
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