We are born of love, love is our mother RUMI
It was after my best friend and elderly mother spent two weeks in hospital suffering from the dreaded Covid infection earlier this year did I think about burning sage. It was a terrible time for me, unable to visit her and be by her side to comfort her and help her heal with home cooked food, encouragement and love, whilst she spent day after day in isolation away from her loved ones. Thankfully she recovered where many didn’t and we were so grateful. Before she was discharged, I franticly cleaned the house, preparing for her to return , bursting into tears just overcome with relief that she was coming home. I also wanted to clear the space in her bedroom. I found some sage at the back of a drawer which I had never used and lit it.
My mother and I last summer enjoying the sunshine during the pandemic 2020
Such a pleasant aroma drifted through the air, windows open, a cool breeze dispersing the grey smoke throughout the house uplifting my spirits. Sage is commonly used by chefs for its rich smoky fragrant flavours but more so now than before it seems like everyone has become interested in this ancient practice of smudging and why now ? Because there are science backed medicinal, and spiritual benefits associated with it, primarily sage is antimicrobial.
It belongs to the Salvia plant family derived from the Latin word salvere, which means "to heal." A highly revered and ancient ritual passed down by the Native American civilisations practiced with deep spiritual intentions. Apart from the metaphysical uses of smudging, research is showing that sage can also be used to benefit physical, mental, and emotional well-being which is the main reason I was led to trying it out. I thought it could really help mum on so many levels as well as feeling in a more welcoming and comforting home environment.
We’ve always used incense at home during kirtan and recitals of mantra’s, to clear and freshen the air. Smudging has long been used to connect to the spiritual realm in a similar way or enhance intuition so it wasn’t that different to burning incense. I wanted to let go of negative thoughts, we’d just got through a very emotional and worrying time and the ritual of smudging felt like a powerful intention and dedication to clearing the space and creating a fresh start or new beginning from what was a set back especially for my mother.
Choosing to engage in rituals can be the beginning of our change in mindset as well as cleanse our aura. Obviously anything performed with deep intention such as yoga and chanting with higher consciousness will have a positive impact on how we feel; to create a positive environment for meditation or any another opportunity to create space in our heart centre. For healers and lay people in traditional cultures, burning sage is also used to resolve situations or reflect upon spiritual dilemmas, using our intuition.
It is interesting to know that scientifically certain types of sage, including salvia sages and white prairie sage, contain thujone. Research shows that thujone is mildly psychoactive. It’s actually found in many plants used in cultural spiritual rituals to enhance intuition. I found burning sage as a morning ritual really uplifts my mood set me up for the day and I’m sure would have the same affect on my mother, to clear negative energies that might be clinging from a hospital environment full of sickness. I figured if burning sage can lift one’s mood, it could also be a great ally against stress, and in times of uncertainty to bring clarity and calm to my mind as well as my mums.
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. This is true I have noticed my mums mood and spirits lifted. I also loved the main benefit of a lovely fragrant incense with a beautiful aroma, purifying the air.
Ancient tribes traditionally burned items like cedar and sweetgrass to welcome blessings and positive energy. Over the years, sage has been used more commonly and is said to restore harmony, and could make us feel more balance.
So I decided to try burning sage around my mum also especially for its antimicrobial properties so the focus is on the body instead of the space aided by a mantra, Waheguru mantra resonates for me as I’m bought up in the Sikh faith it means “Wow! Oh wondrous universe” it’s a way to connect with the divine and channel heart centred energy, our life force, and powerful positive incantations. Another practice I found very comforting during the time my mother was in hospital was chanting with my mala beads to being some peace and emotional balance grounding me in the present moment. To let go with deep inhales and exhales of the worrisome monkey mind. Replacing negative thoughts with positive ones and to have faith. What I’ve learnt over the years is that it’s important to have these types of faith tools to enhance our mental wellbeing.
Here are some simple steps to sage yourself
Stand in the shape of a T with legs slightly spread, keeping the sage stick at an arm's length distance away from you work your way up from your feet.
Repeat your mantra (either internally or aloud) as you go, envisioning the smoke is clearing you of any and all lingering negativity.
Think about and identify particular areas of your body, aches, pains, stress or where you might be holding negative emotions focus your smudging in these areas, be careful not to inhale large amounts of smoke , especially if you have any respiratory problems.
Ensure the sage remains a safe distance from your body. Do pull back and tie up long hair, and remember to extinguish the sage once you've finished smudging.
It great to have made burning sage a part of mums healing journey, it is a practice that I will definitely continue to do , essentially realising that Sage is pure and natural whereas some incense can contain natural and unnatural toxic chemicals which are should not be inhaled.