Native Selfie

BY: MICHAEL LEWIS

No, there will be no photos taken.  The selfie I am talking about is self-smudging.  For thousands of years, cultures including the Native Americans have used multiple dried herbs and plants as medicine.  Rosemary, Cedar, Sweetgrass and Sage (all types) and more have been widely used in ritual to purify or bless people and places.  Not all smudging herbs or plants perform the same purpose, as different cultures use plants and herbs for different reasons.  Classically, a wrapped smudge stick or loose ingredients are placed in an abalone shell and the smoke is spread around with a feather or smudge fan. The most well known smudging ingredient is white sage (Salvia apiana).

Is there really a correct way to smudge?   I guess that depends on whom you talk to.  For me, the act of smudging brings awareness to my feelings at that moment. If I don’t like what I’m feeling, I can bring awareness to it by giving it my full attention and then treating myself accordingly by smudging- just like taking an ibuprofen for a headache.

How does it work?  I don’t know.  Does it really matter?  Nonetheless, here is one thought: Our limbic system (hippocampus and amygdala) is an anatomical circuit in the temporal lobe of our brain that can respond to sensory input and thus trigger specific memories.  Have you ever smelled a piece of leather then instantaneously you were psychically transported to being 13 years old, smacking your old leather baseball mit, standing on third base waiting for the next pitch?  Or smelled someone’s perfume and suddenly you were mentally transported back to your girlfriend’s house when you were 17?  That’s your limbic system working!

For me, burning sage transports me into a time when I was rose above suffering.  During that time there was an abundant amount of sage burning in the air, infitrating my clothes and my hair.  This became a positive association.  So, when I am feeling like shit or just a little down, I go smudge myself and suddenly I am “limbically” transported to the time when I rose above my feelings of suffering.  It gives me a chance to pay attention, care and honor myself, something that I haven’t been very good at doing. Being aware of your suffering (shitty feelings, irritability, anger, depression) is half the battle. The other half is bringing awareness without judging yourself.

Once this happens, you will notice that bringing awareness to it will dissolve it almost completely.

Give it a ritual and you will transmute those emotions into a spiritual success.  The ritual can be smudging, deep breathing, or howling at the moon, it really doesn’t matter as long as you invite awareness into your life.

How do you smudge yourself? First off, there are no rules.  This is my process.  Prepare your mind, by bringing awareness to the one thing that is bothering you. Light your sage.  Be silent.  Take in the smell, pass the burning stick around you – feel where you need it – the heart? the abdomen? the head?  Maybe you want to pass it over your entire body.  Pay attention to the smell.  Be thoughtless. Once you are done, give thanks silently to mother earth – the one who provided you with this medicine. Some will give ash from the stick or burned herbs/plants back to spirit or mother earth by placing some ash on the dirt.  Let the stick burn out on it’s own. Take a second and go back to life.

Smudge on brothers!

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