Smoke, smudging & incense burning are ancient practices that have been used in ceremonies across the world. Smoke has often been seen as an offering to deities, or the sacred, for meditation, and for cleansing sacred spaces, as well. From the incense of Asia and Europe, to the sage and cedar of Indigenous America, the smoke generated by plants has been part of spiritual practices for thousands of years.
Much of the smudging (all though not all) happening in the world right now is borrowed from the Indigenous populations of the Americas using native traditions. Since smudging is an ancient and ceremonial practice, it’s best to do so with awareness and in a mindful manner.
Be Where You Are (You can’t be where you’re not)
Like any great ritualistic practice, such as yoga and meditation, smoke cleansing brings you back to yourself. As I was often reminded by a favorite yoga teacher, “Be where you are. You can’t be where you aren’t”. Many people like to recite mantras or affirmations while smudging. My personal favorite comes from A Course in Miracles, “Where would you have me go? What would you have me do? What would you have me say, and to whom?”. Another favorite is, “I cleanse this space of any negativity or impure energy that does not serve my higher good”.
Clean Your Energy & Lift Your Spirits
Regular smoke cleansing is like taking an energetic shower. There is nothing better to clear physical and mental space when one is feeling energetically icky. Studies have even found that the smoke from sage changes the ionic composition of the air, which, in addition to reducing stress responses, also kills airborne bacteria.
Some of my favorite times to smudge are:
- When I have started a new relationship, or a relationship has ended.
- When I have moved into a new home or office space.
- When I have started a new job or business venture.
- Before and after guests have left my house, especially if there has been some negative energy.
- Before and after a yoga class, meditation session, massage, or any other healing practice.
- Whenever I am struggling to let go of something.
- After an argument or illness.
- Anytime I return from a crowded space or situation.
To smoke cleanse your space: Open windows and/or doors to allow the release of any unwanted energy. Light the tip of the sage bundle or Palo Santo stick. When it catches fire, blow out the flame and allow it to smoke and smolder. Once you have a bit of smoke going begin to move throughout your space. Start at your front door, and moving throughout the space in a clockwise direction, use your hand (or a feather) to direct the smoke to all corners and walkways. Be sure to open closet and cabinet doors. Pay extra attention to room corners at they tend to accumulate stagnate energy. Once your space is cleaned, allow your bundle to burn out or gently press it out in a fire safe bowl (or shell).
To smoke cleanse yourself (or someone else): As above, once your bundle is lit and smoldering, start at the top of your head and gently move the bundle from top to bottom in a slow, mindful matter. Try visualizing the release of any negativity, or heavy, unwanted energy floating out of your body and home. Be sure to use a fireproof bowl (or shell) and gently extinguish your bundle or Palo Santo stick when finished.