The controversy behind sage and how to smudge properly and ethically

Today, I took my friend to a spiritual shop for the first time and we saw sage sitting on the counter, so I started to explain how to use it. The lady behind the till started laughing and she told me that the moment the shop re-opened after lockdown, people were running in for sage. I love sage because it’s something that is prominent in my Palestinian culture, but I’ve been reading a lot of content written by Native Americans on cultural appropriation and the inflation of sage.

Sage is a very healing herb. In Arabic, we call it meramiya (مرامية) has a root in Virgin Mary’s Arabic name – Mariyam.

According to Palestinian folklore. In my culture, we drink it with the belief that it will cure anything. Funnily enough, a whole campaign had to be orchestrated at the start of coronavirus because many believed that all you need to cure the deadly disease was a few glasses of sage or camomile tea (or both, as my grandma used to make whenever I got sick). We don’t drink white sage, the sage we drink is called common sage in English.

In my culture, we also smudge. But instead of smudging sage, we use scented wood chips (bukhoor and oud). In the Gulf, my dad grew up on using incense sticks and would often find them in Mosques. I didn’t know this until I saw him buy some recently and he told me this! These traditions have been with us for thousands of years, but I’ve heard a lot of Islamic controversy on it with people thinking bukhoor (smudging) is bida’h (an innovation that deviates Islam) or shirk (to associate anything with God and the only sin to take you out of the fold of Islam).

I personally don’t understand why this is shirk because in order to associate anything with God or to declare polytheism, you need to intentionally do so. Also, bukhoor is something the Prophet Mohammed (SAW) used to use bukhoor for healing purposes and because it smells amazing. In fact, here’s a hadith by the Prophet himself:

Hadhrat Umm Qais Bint Mihsan narrates that “I heard the Prophet (sallallahu aleihi wa sallam) saying, “Treat with the Indian incense, for it has healing for seven diseases; it is to be sniffed by one having throat trouble, and to be put into one side of the mouth of one suffering from pleurisy.” (Saheeh al-Bukhari, Hadith # 5368, Kitab al-Tibb)

I did not know all of this when I looked into sage. I didn’t even make the connection between Native American spiritual healing and Palestinian physical healing of the herb! To me, I just read about it “clearing your space” and was initially taken aback. And then I found out that sage actually clears out up to 94% of bacteria in the air, improves your mood and helps to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety through aromatherapy, kills off lingering scents from cooking without chemical air fresheners, releases negative ions in the air which neutralise the positive ions and so forth.

So on a somewhat scientific basis, I tried it out and loved it. From an Islamic perspective, it didn’t seem any difference to using bukhoor. Until I started to read about it the cultural appropriation and environmental element of it. My conclusion on this is that we should be mindful where this spiritual practice originates, but also understand that sage is famous for its healing processes in different parts of the world.

Sustainable sage and alternatives

Contrary to popular belief, sage as a whole is not endangered. White sage is the type of sage that is most commonly used for smudging and it is not yet on the Endangered Species List but conservationists are still concerned about the future survival because of overproduction. So yes, we do need to be careful. If we are going to use sage, we need to be mindful of how we use it, not erase its identity and make sure we do not ruin the environment, the local economy and lives!

This means, don’t buy sage from Urban Outfitters and try to buy from sustainable sources that actually help the economies that plant the sage. It’s also best to come up with alternatives to burning sage.

Some could be:

Oud

Rosemary

Yerba santa

Palo Santo

Sandalwood

Lavender

Pine

If you don’t want to burn anything, you could make sprays out of water essential oils of healing herbs, or use a himalayan salt lamp. Sound healing is one of my favourite ways to uplift the energy in my room as well!

How to smudge

Now, this is where we can differ because really, it’s an intuitive process. But we need to ensure safety so make sure your windows are open and you’re being careful around anything flammable. The sage is not supposed to be on fire, but you’re supposed to light it so that there is smoke coming out of it. Make sure you have something to fan the sage to keep the smoke going so you don’t have to keep lighting the sage. Traditionally, a feather is used (if you use one, make sure it’s responsibly sourced!!!!) but I just use any piece of paper around me.

The way I learned is to sage is to first sage myself before saging the room, objects or other people. This way, you’re energetically clean. It all starts from within, right? I do this through hovering the sage over my head so my crown chakra is cleansed and work down my chakra line, which is from the top of your head down to your pubic bone. I do this at the front and back and then do my arms and legs and I make sure I sage my hands and feet, because those are where you’re absorbing a lot of energy from outside.

If you choose to smudge another person, you repeat the process with the strong intention to heal the other. If you intend to smudge a room, you start by smudging outside the room and the door, then the door from the inside of the room. You do all corners of the room and places you sit/lay on because they absorb energy. It’s very important to sage your bed and inside drawers and cupboards.

You could also just leave the sage to burn in a well ventilated room and let it do its thing! Give thanks and trust it will clean the air, literally.

When you’re done, you can extinguish it with water, or what I do is I just leave it in a jar and close it so it doesn’t react to oxygen anymore and it will naturally extinguish.

I tend to sage once a month, but I’d recommend that you use your intuition. When you feel like you need an energetic pick-me-up, when you absorbed some negative energy from outside, or maybe you just want to sage for the sake of it. As long as you’re being safe, there’s no harm. What I also do is I mix up my energy cleaning. I use my salt lamp before I sleep so I can relax better. I also play my singing bowl when I feel like it, put on some Qur’an, or listen to healing sounds. If it makes you feel good, it’s valid!

I remember when we were younger and my dad used to smudge us with bukhoor, he used to smudge over his head and recite Qur’an and allow the bukhoor to travel. Then he used to smudge us the same way, reciting protective verses and chapters of the Qur’an.

PS: I am not an Islamic scholar so don’t take anything I say as an authoritative opinion

Love you all!

Instagram: @flowerknafeh
Twitter: @superknafeh

Learn more about my distance reiki healing sessions via Zoom

Here’s why you’re burning yourself out and what to do

This age has been categorised by identifying ourselves with our careers. Our whole childhood education has trained us to do and contribute as opposed to just be.

Take, the innocent question of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and the way we were trained to by well-intentioned adults to use childhood as a building ground to serve capitalist ideals. We went to class for a “future”, did homework so we could pass and go to university and then went to university, or training for a job. We were told to have realistic expectations and to not pursue dreams that could land us in financial trouble in the future.

We may have had creative outlets, but our identity was first and foremost, how we could contribute to capitalism and how we identified through its lens. Unless our passions were profitable, we were told to choose between what we love and what would let us lead the lives we love.

For me, writing was always my passion. I loved expressing myself through writing, but judged myself based on my grades, which naturally were fluctuant. I then went on to study politics and war at university and I identified myself as a student. Then I identified as a journalist and my highs and lows became dependant on how my career was going.

Little did I know, those perceived ebbs and flows were one single meander that is life and I was just navigating whilst plastering my identity to one tiny aspect of it.

Learn more about my distance reiki healing sessions via Zoom

After realising this, I stumbled upon an article that said adults should identify with their health goals as opposed to their careers. It seemed legitimate, so I started to do it. I became Diana, the health conscious person and my fitness definitely improved… until I had days it didn’t.

Then came the same feeling losing your sense of self, but based on a different hurdle. I soon realised that the problem wasn’t what I was attaching my identity to, but the fact that I was identifying with temporary aspects of life, full stop.

Really, there’s no step-by-step to stop burning yourself out. We all do it in different ways and for different reasons, which change throughout our lives. Sometimes, it’s a necessity, other times it’s a survival instinct and then there are times we become addicted to the feeling of success. What we can do, though, is identify with something else.

Identify with your higher self, your soul. It could be too much to comprehend for some, especially for my readers who are new to spirituality, so think of it as identifying with your breathing.

“I am my breath. I am how I breathe.”

Take yourself there. How fast are you breathing? How deep are you breathing? Does your breathing come from your chest, or are you taking deep, belly breaths? Without judgement, focus on your breath, slow it down, put your hand on your heart centre and just say “I am”.

The rest of those identities will change. Success is relative, material is temporary. Even the body we have doesn’t stay with us forever, but our soul self, the self that was created in a completely dimension, will forever be ours and us.

Just coming to this realisation is enough. When you find yourself drifting with stress, overworking and identifying with success, just know it isn’t you.

Yes, life gets stressful, things get in the way of us doing what we want, but those are things that happen to you — they are not you. They do not need to become a part of you.

Don’t judge yourself for how well you’re connecting with your breath or identifying with your soul. Just do it. Allow negative thoughts to pass. They are not you and they do not stay forever. That extra sale may boost your confidence and dissolve those disturbing thoughts, realising your home is within lets you take a step back, allow you to feel how you want to feel, reminds you your thoughts aren’t you. Your thoughts are thoughts that affect you, but that doesn’t mean they become latched to your identity.

Get comfortable with stripping yourself of all of those labels and not identifying with the temporaries around you. Meditate on yourself, let go of the world and view yourself as the raw ethereal being you are. This is the purpose of spirituality and spiritual practice. You honour where you are, but you identify with yourself on a spiritual level to clear the material clutter in your mind.

Yes, you may need to do it more than once and yes it may take a while to retrain your brain to change the way you identify yourself, but by just having the simple awareness, you’re doing more than enough.

Baby steps, small wins and lots of gratitude and love.

I love you all.

Diana xoxo

Instagram: @flowerknafeh
Twitter: @superknafeh

Learn more about my distance reiki healing sessions via Zoom

Becoming a reiki healer and ways to heal with Sotoda Saifi

My loves, I missed you all. I took a small break from blogging to calibrate and I feel so much better. I had an intense few weeks and I needed to go within to write to you all from a space of love and purity. One of the lovely things that happened was I became a reiki healer and can officially do physical and distance healing!

A couple of weeks ago, the amazing Sotoda Saifi and I did a podcast episode on healing. She’s a wonderful hypnotherapist who works with feminine energy and the breath. We had an amazing conversation discussing our personal healing journeys and how we used the power of tapping into an energy higher than our bodies to find peace and enter a state of flow.

What really struck me in that conversation is we both took very different paths, but led us to similar outcomes. Despite both of us immersing in prayer, healing our bodies and minds with our yoga practice (shoutout kundalini yoga – foeva my love) and really holding ourselves to account, her journey took her to breathwork and hypnotherapy, whereas mine has taken me to writing and more recently reiki.

What does this mean? Yes, you will cross paths with others and there will always be parallels between your healing journey and others, but ultimately your journey is yours. You can be guided to the same healing methods, but for different reasons.

One thing that really stood out when I used to go to kundalini yoga regularly before lockdown is we all started the practice to heal in some way. In my class, we were all there for different reasons. I befriended recovering alcoholics, people recovering from physical injury/disease, people on an emotional healing journey, people trying to find spiritual peace or simply try something new; you name it. We all took out our yoga mats, did our practice and drank a yummy vegan yogi tea straight after — sometimes discussing our life journeys if we were comfortable, other times just focusing on how good the practice was.

My journey taught me that very rarely you can fully relate to a person’s story or journey, but feelings are universal. Feelings are the key to empathy and they’re the hallmark of the shared human experience. You may not know what someone is saying, but when you try to understand how they feel, you’ve unlocked their essence at that moment.

The fact that healing is a journey that helps us elevate mentally, emotionally means we’re all on the same path to peace. The fact that there are so many avenues to it, holistic and modern, shows that our life journeys matter in the way we heal ourselves and the avenues we take to reach fulfillment.

This is why it’s important to honour your journey thus far. When I started my spiritual healing, one of the things that frustrated me was that there was no recipe to follow. You learn through trial and error whilst accepting support and unraveling your life. I see the wisdom behind this now. If we’re all so different, why must we find peace the same way?

Be gentle with yourself when you’re on this journey. Try different things. If you’re in a situation where you need to take antidepressants/mood stabilisers, don’t jump to the holistic way and ditch what already works for you — don’t feel pressured to be fully holistic from the get go either. Learn gently and slowly. Enter the spiritual world gently and honour where you are right now.

If you feel overwhelmed or don’t know where to start, start with this question: What do I love?

And just go from there.

Click here to listen to the podcast episode for more detail.

I love you all

Diana xoxo

Instagram: @flowerknafeh
Twitter: @superknafeh