We've been living in our apartment for over four years now so we are pretty settled in our ways, but all of a sudden things started to feel more cramped, instead of the usual way our apartment feels bigger in the summer months when we can use our roof-deck. We love our apartment, loud street, rattling subway and all so we didn't want to move, we just wanted the place to feel new again. Without the time to repaint the walls and redecorate I took the advice of a friend who suggested it was maybe stagnant energy that was holding us back and I bought a smudge stick.
Smudging is a Native American tradition in which you cleanse the negative spirit from a place, purifying it. It's more than just an act of burning the right kind of herbs, and should be done mindfully with intention.
Instead of drying my own herbs I bought a white sage smudge stick at my favorite local home goods store Primary Essentials, because I figured it was better to leave the ceremonial drying left to the experts. You can also find them at your local Whole Foods.
I'm not a huge believer in these types of things, but I have always wanted to try smudging just because it sounds so appealing to go around your home or office thinking positive thoughts and, in a way, I've always thought the smudge sticks were pretty. I also love the feeling of starting fresh and since I didn't feel like rearranging all my furniture this seemed easy enough to give it a whirl.
Keep in mind, if you couldn't tell already, I am not an expert in the sacred ceremony and I am doing this for the first time so these are things that I just picked up from my friends and around the internet - if I am wrong about anything, please let me know! We can learn about cleansing our homes together.
You will need a smudge stick, a clay bowl or some sort of fire safe receptacle to catch the ashes and a feather. Many people use a shell to catch the ashes to represent the four elements earth (the sage), air (the smoke), fire (the...fire) and water (the shell from the ocean).
I read somewhere that you are supposed to remove all metals from your body including jewelry and belt buckles and other accessories as a way of ceremonially letting go of material possessions. I liked the idea of concentrating on the spirit of the home rather than the material things in the home, but of course I forgot to take off my rings.
Turn off your cell phone, quiet any distractions and open the windows for ventilation.
Light the smudge stick with a candle and let it burn for a moment and until it starts to glow, blow out the lit end so it just smokes, and doesn't continue to burn.
Keeping cleansing in mind - think positive thoughts and thoughts of gratitude while fanning the smoke with a feather with the intention of clearing negative energy. Circle the feather around the sage bundle pushing the smoke around, holding your dish of choice under the sage the entire time. Go from corner to corner and remember to go behind closed doors and in tight spaces and closets. You should open all drawers and cabinets as well.
After you are done with all the rooms and nooks in your home, you can smudge yourself. Thinking positive thoughts about you, personally, and lifting negative energy from your own body whether it be a physical ailment or mental.
The thing I loved about smudging was that it gave me chance to go throughout each part of the apartment and think about my intentions for the room. For instance in my home office I thought about prosperity, confidence and success and in our bedroom I thought of peacefulness, love and laughter. It was a fun activity just because it's nice to take a moment and concentrate on positivity, rather than complaining about Brooklyn's sky-high rent and lack of closet space. Even if you don't truly believe in the process, it serves as a stress relief, like meditation. I will update you if I feel like our apartment feels any bigger or cleanse-ier. To think we've been living with all the past tenants energies for the last four years!
(all photos, Jamie Grill Photography)