Opening Channels: Smell & Taste

Capturing your location’s spa essence involves data from all the senses.  We’ve captured sight and sound, now let’s focus on smell and taste.

Close your eyes, inhale quickly, taking several short sniffs.  Now sit back and let the information travel to your brain. What do you notice?  Is the smell earthy? Floral? Pungent? Herbal? Smoky? Write anything that comes to mind in your journal.

Sometimes the general smell of an area is hard to place.  If this is true of your location, try smelling individual things close up.  Consider smelling flowers, grass, earth, wood, upholstery, paper, hay–whatever items you find in your location that evoke feelings of relaxation, joy, peace.  Catalog these items and scents in your journal.

Taste and smell are closely related.  While I do not recommend putting items from your location in your mouth (unless your location happens to be an orchard, vegetable garden or vineyard), you can capture the flavors of your location with some imagination. Record these flavors in your journal.

To be honest, the smell/taste portion of recreating the spa essence of Assateague Island was NOT my favorite part of this exercise!  My smell/taste palette consisted of seaweed, shells, sea foam, and some washed up sea life…not exactly the kind of thing I want to recreate in my home!  I was able to gather the earthy green smell of cord grass, the woody smell of the boardwalk, the smoky smell of seaside bonfires and the fresh smell of sea air to enter into my journal.  I tasted the saltiness of the ocean and the herbal sweetness of cordgrass, and by using my imagination, I connected the freshness of the sea with the taste of cucumber and smoked seafoods that may help me recall this beautiful place.

Here are some of the things I sniffed:

Sea plants
Grab a journal and camera and start collecting!
Cord grass

Opening Channels: Sound

Once we’ve captured the sights of our location, it’s time to listen.

From your centered and aware state, close your eyes and start bringing sounds to your attention.  Listen without judgment since everything you hear is part of the essence of the location you’ve chosen.

Some sounds will be easily noticeable.  Write down in your journal the first sounds you notice.  Journal everything you hear.  Once you feel you’ve captured the superficial noises, try listening deeper. Isolate background noises and those that blend together to create that delicious “white noise” that so many of us use to meditate or fall asleep. Just what makes up that white noise?  Is it wind blowing through the trees?  Is it street noise?  The hum of an air conditioner or fan? Write any details that come to mind in your journal.

I found it helpful to capture the sounds of the beach on audio. Here’s what I heard at Assateague:

Opening Channels: Vision

Now that we’re centered and present, it’s time to gather input. What exactly is it that you find relaxing and nourishing about this location? To capture its spa essence, you’ll want to gather as many details as possible.  That means opening pathways of receptivity to take in details from your surroundings as well as notice the internal feelings the area evokes. For me, the most apparent thing to capture is the visual aspect.  That’s where we’ll start.

From your aware state, take a look around you.  See the location without judgement. Let go of any anticipation of what you should see.  What do you notice? Are there certain colors that pop?  What about background colors/neutrals?  Do you see any intriguing patterns that would be symbolic of your location?  How does the sun light your location? How about shadow? Try to imagine the scene blurred…what is the predominant color? How about accents?

Photograph anything that catches your eye and record in your journal why you chose to include it. (If you don’t know why, that’s okay!) Certain details will intrigue you–make sure to include them even if they seem random or don’t seem to fit in with a preconceived color scheme.  I find it helpful to take a picture of my spa-essence location on the grand scale, then get right down at eye level with the elements I’d like to recreate. Here are some of the examples of things I “saw” on Assateague Island. These details will form my spa room color palette, as well as patterns and lighting.

Blue crab shell photographed for its rich blue/brown color and leathery appearance in contrast with sandy neutral/taupe.
Receding surf photographed for the repetitive bubble pattern in the foreground.
Sea plant photographed for the rich orange/yellow accent against taupe sand. Also love the shiny round shape of the fruit.
Breaking wave photographed for the gray/green color and how the sun shines through the wave.
Jellyfish photographed for its glass-like illumination and pattern
Boardwalk photographed for wood grain and color

It’s About the Journey

Okay, I’ve chosen the location that has the feel of the spa sanctuary I’d like to create–in my case it is the Assateague Island Seashore in Virginia. I have my camera and my journal.

Now it’s time to slow down, get centered, and prepare to receive the emotion-evoking input from this beautiful setting!

For me, the transition from go-go-go to ahhhhhhhh is not an easy one!  Slowing down is a journey.  If you are one of those talented individuals who can move from activity to stillness quickly, feel free to skip this blog entry!  For me, the first step in moving from activity to receptivity starts with the physical body.  The simple act of walking to my destination helps me to leave the day-to-day behind.

If your location requires a journey, as you walk, take the time to draw your attention away from the day and into your body.  Notice how it feels to move, how your feet feel when they hit the earth, how the wind feels through your hair, etc.  If your location is close by, try stretching gently or practicing QiGong or Yoga, bringing your attention and presence into your body, leaving other thoughts for another time.

When you feel like it’s the right time to stop moving, stop and sit.  Pull out your journal and write down any fleeting residual thoughts flowing through your mind, promising to come back to them at a different time. If you enjoy meditation, feel free to practice a few minutes of centering meditation, imagining yourself breathing a stream of light from the center of the Earth, up your legs and spine, through the top of your head and up to Heaven. Then breathe the light from Heaven, through the top of your head, down your spine and through your legs and back down to the Earth’s center.

When you feel like you’re fully connected to your location and present in the moment, you’re ready to start collecting input through the senses!

The inward journey.
The inward journey.

Hooked on a feeling


I’m so looking forward to sharing this topic! Spa design is something very dear to my heart and I can’t wait to help you create your own beautiful spa sanctuary in your home! Creating a spa sanctuary is about capturing a feeling, then transforming that feeling from the ether to the physical.

When I design my sanctuary spaces,  I get my inspiration from visiting locations that evoke feelings of peace, tranquility, safety, wellness, freedom, beauty, gratitude, joy, love…whatever emotions I want to infuse into my physical space. For me, this means natural settings, but you can choose any location close to your heart.

My favorite way to capture the feel of these locations is by grabbing my camera and journal then going on an all-senses “treasure hunt.”

I am so fortunate to have experienced the restorative beauty of the East Coast recently, so I’ll be using that gorgeous seascape as my example.  But don’t worry, you won’t need to go on a fabulous vacation to capture the spa essence.  I have had equal success in unearthing spa-bliss “booty” from the flowers and trees in my backyard and even from the views from my car.

The spa feeling comes from slowing enough to be present, aware of and grateful for the beauty around you–wherever you are. So choose a location that evokes the feelings you’d like to invite into your home, gather your camera and journal (and possibly bug spray), and in the next blog, we’ll get to work!

Grab a journal and camera and start collecting!