My first memory of my first visit to Bali was the scent in the air. As I stepped out of the plane onto the moveable stairway the smell of incense in the warm air embraced me from all directions. It was in that exact moment that I knew I had been here before, many times, perhaps even many lifetimes. I felt at home, this deep sense of safety. Over the last nine years when I disembark from the plane and feel the air on my skin and take a deep breath, the scent drops me into the present immediately. And everywhere you go in Ubud, where I live part-time, the smiles for miles and smell of incense lead you moment to moment to live in gratitude.
Besides incense I also use medicinally the practice of burning S A G E — also known as smudging — which is an ancient spiritual ritual to cleanse a person, a group of people or a space. If you come to my home, anywhere I live, I will ask your permission to smudge you before you enter my sacred space so the energy in my home stays clear.
The ritual burning of herbs is common to many cultures in the world. From the rich #frankincense of the Catholic Church, which is another childhood memory that I love, to the heady incenses of Asia, to the raw energy of brush burning in many native cultures—the purification of space through this modality is a global phenomenon with benefits for everyone.
Burning sage is one of the oldest and purest methods of cleansing a person, group of people or space. While Native American sage burning is the most commonly recognized form of it today, it has nevertheless been a shared practice in other cultures too. From the ancient Celtic druids who used sage as a sacred herb alongside Oak Moss for burning as well as medicinal purposes, to the Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon whose Palo Santo (sacred/sainted wood) sage burning ceremonies are still practiced to this day. My heritage of South America, my birthplace, may be one of the reasons why this method of cleansing feels so natural to me.
Smudging also has science supporting its benefits too.
The most-used types of sage have antimicrobial properties. This means they keep infectious bacteria, viruses, pollution, mold and fungi at bay.
White prairie sage (Artemisia ludoviciana) is both antimicrobial and antibacterial. White sage (Salvia apiana) is also antimicrobial. And both have been shown to repel insects. One 2007 study found that burning sage for an hour decreased the level of aerial bacteria by 94 percent. These effects were preserved for up to 24 hours afterward.
**Though scientifically unproven, burning sage is thought to release negative ions. This is said to help neutralize positive ions like pollution, dust, mold, pet dander.
Smudging is a ritual tool to rid yourself — or your space — of negativity. This includes past traumas, bad experiences, or negative energies from others you pick up going about your day. It cleanses yourself and your space for manifesting through positive energy. Think of this based in the Law of Attraction. This cleansed space helps us to create a vibrational vortex of positivity. Positive energy attracts positive energy. We are vibrational beings attracting like energy. Cleansing negative vibration makes us more magnetic for positive things to flow our way.
You can cleanse not only yourself and your space but your belongs. For instance after you’ve worn your Malas for a while they need to be cleansed. Use smudging as a way to
- Reduces Stress
A 2016 research project for the University of Mississippi established that white sage (Salvia apiana) is rich in compounds that activate certain receptors in the brain. These receptors are responsible for elevating mood levels, reducing stress, and even alleviating pain.
If you believe smudging distresses your day as a part of a coming home ritual, or evening ritual then it will have the impact you want it to have based upon your belief. The stronger you associate distressing with the scent of sage and marry this to the science the better it will work. The better it works, the better it works.
Today is a very good day for sage.
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Photo by Ulrike Lakshmi Reinhold