I start my mornings the same way. And while they’ve evolved slightly since I first reported on my morning a few things haven’t changed. I still wake up with several minutes of cat-cow. I still oil pull…most days. I still enjoy a cup of tea or coffee first thing. Newer additions include a few snuggly moments with the cats, this big stretch that I cannot wake without, and a few happy little “start the day” chants to myself as I brush my teeth.
A favorite new addition is The Live Journal Podcast, a series of conversations with powerful women making positive changes in their community and daily life. It is hosted by esteemed life coach Paola Atlason. Both ethereal and grounding, her guidance through the podcast and anecdotal stories feel like gentle mothering from afar. The first episode I listened to was EP31: “Daily Rituals” with Jenn Tardif. I found it because I truly enjoy listening to Jenn speak and hoping a could find a podcast that she had guested on for one of my long runs. After listening to all of EP31 I was hooked and added The Live Journal Podcast into my daily life.
Throughout the series, Atlason interviews women from all walks of life: a chef, an herbalist, an artist, a writer. In each episode, there are major drops of wisdom, some seemingly obvious, that are often overlooked and that can — grain by grain — improve your day. In EP28 Tina Essmaker talks about morning pages and journaling, two things that I have welcomed into my life lately. In EP34 (my personal favorite so far) Zivar Amrami talks about mothering the self and the steps you can take to feel most like you.
As I’ve listened to all of these 30-35 minute episodes I started to realize just how much of this power and wisdom I was soaking in and truly internalizing. I started to be more conscious about it, ex: bringing my journal with me everywhere, and only felt the positive effects compound. I’ve found this, listening to the podcast and using it as a tool, to be a great lesson in the power of surrounding yourself with powerful women.
I thoroughly believe you need to learn to love your likeability, but I also feel that there’s a second step to that. You need to embrace your vulnerability. You need to love and appreciate your sensitivity, view it as a strength. I think for a long time I focused on the aggressive side of my personality, leaning into my Aries Moon & Aries Rising and yang. Listening to so many women speak so openly about their success and failure has been a beautiful teacher in nurturing the yin and mothering the self.
Surrounding yourself with powerful women, whether in person or through your phone, is a powerful way of absorbing the now and the future you want for yourself and if you need a place to start I recommend The Live Journal Podcast.
Earlier this week I started fully processing the grief that has been piling up in me over the past year. A combination of losing so many people, who mean so much to me, manifested itself into an anxiety attack, my first in several years. As I came down from the attack a friend gave me the gentle nudge I needed.
“Maybe you should start meditating.”
I think in the age of Lululemon-esque, green juice, neo-spiritualism “meditating” is a practice that gets thrown around a lot. At times it can seem like a default response for “I don’t know how to support your mental health right now”. But, you see, I have a degree in an East Asian philosophy, one that consisted of studying the Shōbōgenzō, following the teachings of Thích Nhất Hạnh, and meditating regularly. Meditation and yoga were both in my daily repertoire until two to three years ago. This gentle nudge was a nudge not into something new, not into a catch-all formulaic response, but back into my center. Back into my homeostasis.
The next day I drafted a potential new blog post. A few of the notes I jotted down for myself: yin yoga, daily meditation, journaling, breathwork, psychologist visits. Each came with a question mark. A C-curve and a dot that was the text version of the “Will this actually work?” question that I had been asking myself since I first knew I was off-kilter. As I scrawled into my journal that night I asked the universe for some sign or path, something to help me with the first step.
Tuesday morning brought that sign I was looking for. An Alchemy Workshop put on by 3rd Ritual, a Taoist meditation company that I’d met a few months prior, was being advertised on the founder’s Instagram. It was described as a “brain bath” and Jenn, the founder of 3rd Ritual, had one guest spot left. I messaged her immediately and got the last spot. It felt like a perfect answer to the question I had been quietly asking myself for weeks.
One of the first things Jenn said was that this ritual was a “sacred pause”. The phrase hit me like an earthquake. I haven’t been taking a single pause in the past year, out of an unconscious fear of the emotions that can come in the slow moments. After an introduction to the space and practice, we all took a few breaths together during a short meditation and then introduced ourselves, sharing our name and something we have that we didn’t have last year. I immediately had two thoughts, one easy and one honest. The easy answer is the ability to make things, specifically my new sourdough fixation, but I chose to share the honest answer: grief. This past year taught me what it is to truly experience genuine loss. Not the loss of a job or relationship, but the real and raw loss of someone you love. After introductions, it was time for the ritual.
The ritual itself was divided into three parts, each addressing a different facet of ourselves. The body, the mind, and the spirit.
We addressed the body through a gentle yin yoga flow, repeating postures evenly on the left and right. When I was regularly practicing yoga, under the very energetic and dynamic Ashtanga style, I was bending myself into pretzels and balancing on my forearms with ease. But it has been a long time since I practiced and the challenge presented with adho mukha svanasana was humbling. It also forced me to focus deeply on my physical body and anchored me to the “here and now” of the ritual.
Moving onto the mind we did a writing exercise, based on “looking in the rearview mirror”. Starting with a “Less” column we wrote out all the things we had experienced in the past year (or several years) that we wanted less of in the future. I wrote several things, but the two that jumped out to me are “Guilt, Self-Blame” and “Avoidance, Hiding Tough Emotions”. Moving 200 miles from my family at the start of 2019, just a couple months after we received two stage four diagnoses, has weighed on me for the past year. At the same time as processing this self-blame and guilt over the move, I’ve been hiding a lot of these emotions. From others and from myself. As my family lost people this year I tried to remain stoic, knowing that we likely had more loss just a few months away. In an effort to protect myself from grief I hid from truly feeling. I want less of that. Less of postponing how I feel to make others comfortable or out of a personal fear of feeling raw emotions. To close the “Less” column we closed our eyes, filled with as much breath as we could, and released the “Less” through several, group-wide deep exhales. The only word to describe it: cathartic.
The second piece of addressing the mind was creating a “More” column, based not on all our wants from the future, but again informed by our past experiences. This list was evenly as long as my my “Less” column, but more centering to write. “Journaling, Tidyness Throughout the home, Introspection, Allowing Myself to Feel”. My favorite one, the one that first came to my mind, is “museum days”. One of my absolute favorite things to do with him, and something we’ve been doing since our first few months of dating (when we were too broke to do anything else we would spend afternoons taking advantage of DC’s free museums). It’s one of the things that makes me feel most full in our relationship. Other things were centered around what keeps me calm and relaxed, a large focus of mine lately.
The final third of the ritual was dedicated to the spirit, caring for it with a free-flowing painting session. Starting with a center dot, representing each of us, we filled in the surrounding space with all the things we want to keep close to us. Friends and family, goals, hopes, anything. The gentle chime of 3rd Ritual’s Bel drew the ritual to an end.
After the workshop last night I wouldn’t say I felt healed, but that wasn’t the point. What I did feel is radically changed. Like a few of the grains of the mountain that’s been weighing me down had been lifted. Last night was the first step I had been asking for. It truly was a sacred pause from all the buzzing that’s been going on in my head lately and a beautiful way to welcome me back to myself and have a moment of calm.
One month ago I attended a wellness weekend here in NYC that was put on by Mejuri. Post-event I was so motivated I sat down and quickly penned a few promises to myself about what my new goals were and how I wanted to implement changes in my life. My overall goal was fairly simple: introduce a few new rituals into my life and use them to amplify a radical, powerful, feminine beauty in me.
I started with cold showers and quickly integrated other aspects into my day to help myself find a stronger, calmer centerline. I now have a list of nine rituals that I do each morning to wake up my body, mind, and settle myself for the day.
In the past two weeks, my body has been waking me up sometime between 5:30-5:45 each morning. No alarm, no groggy-tired eyes, I just snap awake. I wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and launch into my morning that looks a little something like this:
5:40 Wake up, take my basal temperate, and do 3 minutes of cat-cow postures in bed. I do these before I get out of bed to wake up my breath, body, and circulation.
5:45 30 minutes of yoga, typically Ashtanga Primary Series, but occasionally I just flow.
6:15 Take a cold shower. I start with the water a little cooler than lukewarm and finish with a 2 minute, ice-water cold rinse. During this time I furiously rub my arms, legs, and body to boost circulation and practice long deep breathing techniques to keep my mind as calm as possible.
6:30 Oil pulling for 10 minutes as I do my skincare routine. Then I floss & brush my teeth. I keep my skincare routine very basic in the morning, but always include Herbivore’s Lapis Facial oil, jade roller/gua sha, moisturizer & sunscreen.
6:45 Meditate for 10-15 minutes (however long I feel I need that day). I have been using the Kundalini yoga 4 part breath: 4 counts in/4 counts hold/4 counts out/4 counts hold out. For me, it’s helpful to have a breathing technique to focus on to keep my mind still. I also tend to pick one of my crystals, set an intention, and hold it closely throughout the mediation.
7:00 Eat a small breakfast – typically a banana – and take my vitamins & supplements.
7:30 Get dressed, do my make up, and pick out a fragrance for the day.
8:00 Feed the cats a little snack.
8:30 Wake up the cats & start our day together.
Of course, those times are approximate as I don’t actually count the minutes of each ritual. I do it until I feel full and prepared to move into the next one. Starting the day well-rested and centered is incredibly new for me. Even in 2015 when I was starting each day with a 70-minute Ashtanga practice I still wasn’t feeling the calm that I feel each morning stepping through this routine.
My energy is up, my anxiety is down, I’ve been motivated to eat better, and I’ve been more emotionally still. I’ve always run a little hot-tempered and have a very passionate, fiery streak. In arguments I can be quick to say the most hurtful thing, regretting it immediately. This past month I have been incredibly even-tempered. Even when I get frustrated, get the blues, get thrown a curve ball, I’m able to quickly bring it back, calm myself down, and reflect on the situation. Maybe it’s just part of getting older, but as an Aries Moon & Aries Rising a lot of my ferocity is innate to who I am (regardless of age). I credit my new ability to press pause on these emotions to my morning routine.
The purpose of introducing these rituals was to amplify my inner and outer beauty. After one month I can confirm that I feel the effects on the inside and outside. I’ve been better able to handle the squalls of everyday life. I’ve felt more confident and strong as I walk down the street, as if my aura is growing day by day, inch by inch. I’ve had numerous people comment over Instagram and IRL that I look “different” or “really good today”. I can feel it on the inside and it radiates on the outside.
Maybe you don’t need a 2 hour morning routine, maybe you just need one thing, but what I encourage you to do is examine your morning and question if it sets you up for a successful day. Maybe five minutes of mediation will be the game changer for you. Maybe add an extra few minutes into something you already do each morning, like walking your dog, to pause, get still, and appreciate where you are.
Taking an extra few moments for you in the morning can help prevent you from feeling like you are being pulled in a million directions throughout the day.
Sage is all the rage. In the world of holistic and internal wellness, burning sage is quite literally in Vogue. I purchased my first bundle over two years ago and trust me, it was 90% sticks. Knowing absolutely nothing about the practice of smudging, I lit my twig bundle, ran around my house, and *surprise* felt no effects. To be honest, my apartment was feeling more ashy than spiritually cleansed.
Fast forward several months and I decided to give it go one more time. I was at a fairly low place and looking for an experience of rebirth. Something to reinvigorate my home and spark my internal fire. To me your home is everything, it’s where you spend so much of your waking and sleeping hours. It should bring you joy, comfort, and relaxation. You should love every nook and cranny. As I started taking steps to reinvigorate my life I knew that I would need to reinvigorate my home as well, or else I would end up marinating in the same negative energy I had been putting out for weeks.
I did a little more research and ended up with a genuine bundle of dried white sage this time! Even before burning the smell was beautifully overwhelming. I wanted to make this time more ritualistic so I googled several “how-tos” lit my sage and started.
That was the first time I felt the effects of smudging. I walked around my apartment in a near-meditative state, mumbling through my mantra, and watching the curls of sage wrap around the air. I cleansed myself and the cats felt an incredible lift. After smudging every corner and crease I opened the windows and let the wind carry out all the smoke and bring in new clean air and energy.
The Ripple Effects
Immediately after smudging I felt radically calm. Like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I struggle with dust allergies and living with two cats can make it a struggle to keep the air clear of all the little bits that aggravate my symptoms. Even with an abundance of plants and an air purifier I never feel that the air is as clean as it is after I sage the apartment.
One potential explanation for why the apartment feels cleaner after sage-ing is because of ions. Burning sage emits negative ions (in the same way the running water or a salt lamp do) that can grab onto positive ions (dander, dust, allergens) and neutralize them. As you move around your home or apartment you’ll see the smoke turn from white to grey to black and back again. It’s believed that the smoke knows where to go, using positive ions like a road map to find the negative energy in the room and neutralize it. When the smoke turns black it means that it has come in contact with negative energy. There is one particular space, in my previous apartment, where the smoke would always turn black. The same corner where numerous time I would see cabinets fly open on their own.
For me, the effects of burning sage come in the form of anxiety relief. I have always struggled with anxiety and found that I prefer to treat it through modifying my environment and using coping techniques (please note that this, of course, this is not going to work for everyone’s anxiety and there is no shame in utilizing medication). One of the most intriguing things for me, in regards to burning sage, is that in some cultures white sage is used as a traditional remedy for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders.
Burning sage is definitely something that a lot of people put in the “hippy dippy” (as my dad would say) category. However, it is so much more than it initially seems to our Western minds. There is a deep spiritual and psychological benefit to introducing the practice into your daily rituals. Smudging is something I fall back on when I am overwhelmed with anxiety or when I am feeling clouded. It’s a ritual that brings me back to center and keeps me feeling whole and connected to my space.
The world moves incredibly fast and we are constantly looking for the next quick fix. Instead of working with our environments we work against them. Burning sage is a way to make the here and now a place you’ll want to be. It prevents us from reaching for the “grass is greener” mentality, and allows us to release negative energy and focus on all the good that’s in the present.
While smudging seems easy enough there are several steps that when skipped can take a very spiritual and calming experience and turn it into one that leaves you with more questions than answers. My first experience with smudging was definitely not as magical as I thought it would be, but after a few false starts, I’ve grown deeply in love with the practice. I wanted to share everything I’ve learned with you all as more and more of you have sent me questions about smudging, how to get started, and what to look for in a perfect sage bundle (cue heart eyes).
White sage has both antimicrobial and antibacterial properties. In one study, it was found that burning sage for an hour decreases aerial bacteria by 94%. It possible that these traits are what allowed many cultures to link burning sage with spiritual wellness.
Cleansing Old or Negative Energy
One potential explanation for why the apartment feels cleaner after sage-ing has to do with ions. Burning sage emits negative ions (in the same way that running water or a salt lamp do) that can grab onto positive ions (dander, dust, allergens) and neutralize them. As you move around your space you’ll see the smoke turn from white to grey to black and back again. It’s believed that the smoke knows where to go, using positive ions like a road map to find the negative energy in the room and neutralize it. When the smoke turns black it means that the sage has come in contact with negative energy.
Improve Your Mood & Stress Level
In some cultures, white sage is used as a traditional remedy for anxiety, depression, and mood disorders. It’s believed that stress can be soothed and a mood lifted by burning sage. A study out of the University of Mississippi established a relationship between white sage and receptors in the brain that are responsible for influencing mood levels, reducing stress, and even alleviating pain (similar to how burning cannabis can affect your mood).
Get Started Smudging
1. Choosing Your Sage
It’s unfortunate, but there are a lot of dishonest sellers out there who aren’t marketing their sage properly or are intentionally looking to deceive you. I’ve tried a few different vendors and my personal favorite is Chakra Palace. They sell on both Etsy and Amazon and have incredibly high-quality sage and santo wood (love!). They also ship quickly and are affordable ($20 for 5 sage bundle and 5 smudge sticks). If you are looking to try smudging for the first time I cannot recommend them enough!
* one sage bundle typically lasts me 4-5 smudges
2. Set an Intention or Choose a Mantra
While it doesn’t have to be, burning sage is largely a spiritual practice. As you are going through a smudging focus on a word or phrase that embraces the energy you are looking to introduce into your space as you energetically cleanse.
3. Open Up & Light Up
Before lighting your smudge stick be sure to open a window slightly to let some of the smoke & air escape.
Focusing on your mantra or intention light a candle that you will use to light your bundle. Gently dip the sage into the flames and blow it out if the sage catches fire. Hold the bundle parallel with the ground as it emits a thick smoke and begin cleansing.
4. Cleansing Yourself
Starting at your feet pass the bundle back and forth between your hands, moving the smoke in a clockwise circle around your body. Slowly work up to your head, pausing at any areas that have been causing you pain, whether physical or emotional. I always take a little extra time at my third chakra (solar plexus) as this is where my anxiety and digestion issues manifest.
5. Cleansing Your Space
After cleansing yourself, gently sweep the bundle around each room, being sure to target the corners and ceiling spaces. Be thorough and do not rush. Direct smoke over all areas of your space, using your intuition to guide you.
Once you have completed smudging and touched every nook and cranny in your home be sure to open the windows fully to allow any remaining smoke to escape, taking with it negative energy. I typically leave the windows open for 15-30 minutes to let the air circulate fully.
6. Clean Up & Safety
After you have completed the cleansing be sure to thoroughly extinguish your bundle by pressing it into a clay dish, ashtray, or glass bowl. Another option is to let the sage go out on its own, being careful to place it somewhere that ash will not fall on anything flammable and where children and pets cannot reach it. Remember to never leave burning sage unattended.
Common Questions and Concerns
When should I sage?
When you feel the time is right! Whether you are curious or spiritually moved, burning sage is largely based on an intuitive feeling. Personally, I sage every time I clean the apartment, when I move into a new space, when I’ve had people over, or if I’m feeling too “full” of negative emotions.
Why do you use sage instead of another herb?
When people refer to bundles of “sage” they are typically referencing “white sage”. While sage tends to be the most popular for spiritual and physical healing there are many different herbs that people often burn for their cleansing properties (dating back to ancient Ireland). For example, lavender, cedar, and sweetgrass all have healing properties and are widely used in different cultures.
White sage itself has roots in some Native American cultures.
Will I burn my house down / set off my smoke detectors?
A good way to avoid these types of issues is a simple one: never leave your sage unattended. However, it is possible to trigger your smoke alarms when smudging. Personally, I have never had this issue and have smudged in a shared building multiple times. If you are concerned about smoke and would like to try smudging I would recommend this product, which contains sage, rose, and eucalyptus but does not require smoke.
Without the reward of a post-week, poolside margarita, stress can really compound. Especially as September is just as important as a new year, and there’s a lot going on. Add these ten little tricks to your daily schedule to stay stress-free, year round.
Mornings set the tone for the day. Brew tea, set an intention or move through a quick morning workout. Getting into a daily wake-up routine primes you for the day, making it easier to combat stressful situations.
Start Work Right
Before you start your workday create a to-do list of everything you want to accomplish. Visualizing achievable goals helps focus and relax your mind, the perfect way to keep stress away.
Drinking caffeine can increase your body’s production of cortisol, a stress hormone. Top off your regular coffee with decaf, slowly increasing the ratio of decaf to regular.
Dance break anyone? Put on some music and dance around, take a walk, or simply take the stairs! Moving your body pumps up your endorphins, which has serious stress-busting powers.
Learn To Say “No”
Work stress comes from accepting too many projects. Learn your limits and how to honestly communicate them with your peers and superiors.
Daydreaming is the mind’s equivalent to a vacation in Bora Bora. Set a timer for five minutes and let yourself drift.
Give Yourself A Mini Hand Massage
Take a break from typing and rub your thumb in a circular motion on the opposite hand’s palm. Use a drop of lavender, a calming essential oil, to make the massage even more relaxing. You can also do this with your earlobe, a little massage seems to instantly relieve stress. It’s nice.
Notice When Stress Is Coming
We all experience stress differently, learn what triggers you and take a moment to relax before each situation. It’s best to catch stressful situations early, says anxiety expert and clinical psychologist Tamar Chansky. “Once stress escalates, it becomes tougher to let it go.” So tell yourself you know it’s coming and be prepared to deal with it.
Leave Work At Work
Before leaving for the day revisit your to-do list, cross off all your accomplishments, and make a new list for tomorrow. Feeling prepared can help keep off any stress and allow you leave work at work.