A method called smudging, which is sometimes called smoke clearing, with white sage or palo santo has grown in popularity. This is in large part due to social media exposure from the spirituality and wellness industry. This commodification of such spiritual practices for capital gain is obvious. Spiritual kits full of crystals, “pretty” smudge sticks, and more have grown in popularity. Some people will purchase these items not because they feel a connection to the ritual or the tools, but out of an obligation or pressure from others who appear more “spiritual.” Instead of using culturally appropriated clearing methods like this, try sustainable methods that you feel connected to and that are sustainable. A few are shared below.
Before discussing these methods, it is important to understand why practices like white sage and palo santo smudging are not considered sustainable. According to multiple reports, the increasing demand for white sage has led to over harvesting of the plant that is considered sacred. This may drive it into extinction. To make matters worse, some producers are growing it illegally so that it is only for profit, not treated as the holy plant that it is meant to be. The same is true of the palo santo tree that is prohibited to be cut in some areas. Palo Santo sticks were once only gathered from parts of the tree that had naturally fallen, but now due to high demand, it is illegally cultivated and sold commercially. This shows a lack of respect for both plants.
Smudging with harvested palo santo or white sage has long been a sacred practice by the native North Americans as a way to clear negativity from a place or person’s thoughts. The use of smudging by others is considered cultural appropriation. For years in the U.S., it was illegal for Native Americans to engage in traditional ceremonies and religious rites. This type of use of spiritual herbs or smoke cleansing is common with many indigenous cultures worldwide. However, the focus here is the intent behind the use of such sacred plants while ensuring sustainability for earth. We do not often hold these plants at the same reverence level as the ancestors, so they should not be used simply because it is a trend. If using them appropriately, make sure they are purchased from an ethical source. Otherwise, try alternate energy clearing practices like those that will be shared.
Creating sound can shift vibrational frequencies of the atmosphere and recalibrate the energy of a space. There are a number of tools and instruments to do this that are much more sustainable. Consider recorded music or sounds of nature, Tibetan bowls or bells, singing, drums, sound bowls, or even a tuning fork.
Salt connects us to the sea and has the power to cleanse, heal, and preserve. Salt is made up of both positive and negatively charged particles making it neutral. It can absorb negative energy making it a wonderful, readily available cleansing tool. Use salt in a bath, sprinkle it in the corners of a room, or soak your feet in some saltwater to cleanse the negative energy in and around you.
Water symbolizes purification, intuition, the subconscious, and transformation. Water cleanses so simply taking a bath or shower, even washing your face and hands is a cleansing act. It is simple to use water into clearing rituals by setting an intention for what you desire to release from a space an then take a bath or herb-infused soak.
Prayer is the way we speak to the divine. Prayer requires no tools so is highly sustainable. All you need is your voice and you can pray for support in clearing away unwanted negative energy. A prayer can be a few words or just a reliance on a deity that supports your specific belief system.
Much like prayer, meditation requires no special tools and is great for energy cleansing. Set an intention and visualize what is desired as you tap into the loving spirit of the universe to clear unwanted energy within yourself and your space.
If you prefer smoke cleansing with plants, choose those that are sustainably sourced or purchase from someone using ethical practices. Another, more sustainable option is to grow your own plants at home as an alternative source. Try cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, eucalyptus leaves, mugwort, rosemary, lavender, vervain, or even juniper.
Breathwork requires no tools at all and can be done anywhere. It is a powerful breathing technique that brings awareness of your breath for improved mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It serves to circulate any stagnate energy in the body and clear out anything unwanted.
We must learn to question the intent behind engaging in any specific practice. It is of great importance to engage in practices in reverence, love, and care for the sustainability of the practice and the Earth.