Alternative Healing: How This Non-Believer Got Into Smudging
Because desperate times call for sage smudge sticks and then some
I was born into a religious family—my dad, a traditional Catholic, my mother, a pious Born Again Christian. Me? I was baptized into the Catholic faith, have dutifully attended Sunday mass and worship with both parents until I was old enough to decline attendance and grew up agnostic.
Sure, there’s a God but there are many other things I am skeptical about: miracles, religious objects, repetitive prayers, all sorts of superstitions, etc. And so the older I got, the more pragmatic and often suspicious of everyone and everything I grew.
So how does alternative healing become part of one cynical human being’s vocabulary? One word: desperation.
I had a streak of bad luck a few months back—my iPhone broke beyond repair, my debit cards got hacked (of which cost me a large sum of money), new bathroom pipes burst. Murphy’s Law was clearly in full effect. We had commissioned a priest through my dad to bless our new home but it just never pushed through. I feared for my sanity and my family’s security; I grew paranoid by the day. Something needed to be done—and fast.
So I did what every person my age would: I Googled ‘How to get rid of bad luck.’ I could’ve made it easy for myself and just thrown salt over my left shoulder or burned incense, or carried protective charms. But nothing appealed to me until I came across option 5: Burn Sage.
Burn Sage, Burn
Smudging is an ancient and sacred ceremony done by Native Americans to clear out negative energy in one’s space, from oneself and others. It’s best done in a slow, mindful manner and with full awareness of the practice.
I thought, okay, we have that in our kitchen and I’m sure I can buy the plant so I can just keep burning sage as needed. Wrong. One needs to respect the process in which you’ll need a smudge stick or a bundle of dried sage. I was able to find a trusted supplier on Instagram via @indigocrystals who came highly recommended by a credible source and friend who uses smudging in her practice (life coaching through Neuro-Linguistic Programming, hypnotherapy and Reiki healing—told you she’s legit).
I received the package with instructions from the seller:
“To start saging, pray first to God, Mama Mary and your guardian angels. Ask for guidance and protection as you cleanse the space. State your intention…”
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What you’ll need:
Smudge stick. Candle or matches. Fire- and heatproof bowl or container (I used an aluminum mixing bowl but others opt for an abalone shell). Optional, feather.
Now you’re ready to light that smudge stick. Wait for it to smolder, set your intentions and gently wave the stick in the air and away from your body as you cleanse yourself, others and your space. I placed ours in a bowl to avoid any lit herbs from falling on the floor and used our hands (instead of a feather) to fan and disperse the smoke.
When we cleansed our home, I made sure the doors and windows were open, and that every room was brightly lit.
Start smudging from the front door and make your way through each room down the basement and even out the garage. Some practitioners suggest spending a little more time smudging corners as they tend to accumulate stagnant energy and to make sure closet doors are kept open during the process. Once done, go back to where you started and extinguish the stick. You may also want to meditate after to continue to purify your energy.
The Sage Effect
All that talk and research about clearing out negativity brought about certain expectations: I’d be less angry, more positive and everything will be fine. But it wasn’t. The following week, I felt surprisingly worse than I did before. All my worries, issues and fears that I’ve successfully shelved away or forgotten about were suddenly back to haunt me. I couldn’t sleep, I was underweight and one night, I thought so hard about life that I gave myself an anxiety attack. And then, a moment of clarity: I’m part of my problem. I’ve been so desensitized to feel shock, distress or even happiness that it felt like I was surviving rather than living.
So, I gave smudging another try; I smudged myself, our family, our pets, our home—everything. I meditated as often as I could, went back to yoga (I do 10 to 25-minute sun salutations via this app) and smudged at least once every week.
And the more I committed to the process, the more realizations I made and the lighter I felt. I began to eat healthier and by healthier, I mean getting enough food in my body and just being aware of what I put in it; I curse less; I stopped trying to change the people I love and learned to be more kind; I even started getting into crystal healing and am learning a little bit more about chakras (more on that later).
What It Means
Life isn’t always easy, so don’t make it harder for yourself. And whatever you believe in—God, science, sacred rituals—you can’t expect it to make your problems go away. You still have to do the work but realize when to take a step back and think of you and what you need.
What having beliefs does is encourage you to see beyond the superficial or get involved instead of dissociated, or in my case, find clarity (and my sanity) amid the chaos.
Art Alexandra Lara