There are many different ways to cleanse and purify, or just move energy around. One of my favorites is the smoke bath. This is where you burn an incense that has the property you want or need in any given moment and consciously receive it into different areas of your body, as though you are inhaling it with that part of your body.
The Heart Math Institute has some great videos on YouTube about how to do heart based breathing. I really appreciate the work that they are doing. You are welcome to give that a try or do something different that's more appropriate for you.
There was a period of time, a few years ago, where I was doing a lot of smoke baths, on an almost weekly basis. (I tend to have a lot of energy to move around, Tower card lady that I am!). I'd cut back in the last couple years but have recently revived the practice in my home at a prompting from Spirit.
As you stand and receive the smoke, allow your focus to move over the entirety of your body, both internally and externally. If there are any areas that continue to feel stuck or stagnant, remain there for a while longer. If there are any areas that you feel blank or numb, that can be an indication of a spot in need of some additional focus.
It's simultaneously a very simple and complex practice because the majority of the working takes place internally.
* basic and obvious note- use sense and safety when doing any working that involves flame. Be conscientious when doing this, as we should all be anyway when doing the work of living a conscious life.
I was on a ten-day silent retreat and had just completed an amazing meditation session, feeling as though I'd just clicked over into some expanded altered state when the bell rang. I was feeling so good, that when we were given the choice of continuing to meditate or going to our rooms, I didn't even bother to shift my body, diving right into the next round of meditation.
We had already entered the portion of the retreat where we had been encouraged not to move once the session began, to remain in the meditation, sitting with whatever arose from moment to moment over the course of the hour. The last instructions we were given as the final people left the room was, "Simply continue to observe." Then the door closed and, behind my eyelids, the room became dark and cool again.
I was still proud of how good I'd felt after the last meditation, so I was looking forward to seeing how much farther I could go into that altered sensation on this meditation. I figured it would take a while to get back into the groove of it, so I tried to settle myself down to get back into that serene and expanded state.
Unfortunately, as the minutes ticked by, I noticed a tightness and a pressure in my right ass cheek. My method for dealing with these uncomfortable sensations during meditation was to dive into them, to tease them apart, study them, trace them back to their source and then watch them dissolve. I'd gotten very comfortable at it and had started to notice things like what I'd perceived as pain in my knees was actually tightness in the muscles around my knee cap which led me back to tightness in the outer muscles of my thighs, which reached back around to my hip and then up into tightness in my lower back. This had been the result of most of these ventures- find the sensation, delve into it, then dissolve it.
But the knot seemed not to have gotten the memo about the protocol and it refused to dissolve and leave me in peace. Every time my awareness returned to that knot, I dove into it, looking for the missing clue to unravel its mystery. But the knot remained stubbornly present and the pain from it kept getting louder and harder to dismiss or ignore. I felt my calmness draining away as I became increasingly frustrated at the presence of this damned knot that would not go away and was ruining my amazing meditation. I began to dread the sensations in my right butt cheek. Then I began to curse the knot, threatening it, damning it, hating it. It grew in intensity until it became The Knot and I was no longer even meditating anymore. I'd descended into a full fledged battle with my ass.
Now, I know that I could have simply moved, adjusted my body so that the pain went away and then gone back to the meditation. But by then, we were well into the hour and it was about the principle of the matter. I'd been having a great meditation, I'd reached some kind of altered state and could have been back there, happily exploring . . . something . . . I didn't know what, and at this rate I was never going to know because of this goddamned knot that was devouring my ass and then the entire right side of my body. I refused to move, The Knot would NEVER beat me!
I spent some time swinging back and forth between full on internal berserker battle madness and attempting to get myself under control. A few others around me were having their own quiet breakdowns and breakthroughs, some crying quietly or shifting to more comfortable positions. I realized that, in the throes of this internal conflict, I had completely not thought about the pain of my ass. I was reacting to the pain caused by The Knot, but I'd forgotten to have compassion for the first part of me being tortured by this invading demon, my own butt. I vowed, "I won't abandon you!" and then began to cry as I was suddenly overcome by memories of people in my life who had abandoned me when I needed them. I would not do to my butt as they had done to me! I recommitted to remaining there and remaining still while my poor body was victimized by this evil invader.
I heard people shifting around me. That was usually an indication that the hour was winding down. When I was in a good meditation, it was something to ignore as I sought to keep myself in the depths of the meditation for as long as I could. When I was in a challenging meditation, as I was now, it was a welcome assurance that I would soon be free. I now shifted to trying to guess how much longer the meditation would last, interspersed with moments of checking on that knot, confirming that, yes, it was still there, yes, my butt was still hurting and, oh hell yes, I was definitely still furious about it.
I remained in position until the bell rang. Shifting my painfully stiff body to get the circulation moving again. Initially, I felt defeated. I'd ended the previous meditation easily, breezing past the ending bell, but this time I felt like I'd clawed my way through the meditation, ending battle scarred and a failure. I hadn't even gotten close to that altered state again, nevermind going past it and onto something greater.
As I walked outside and began making my way toward the dining hall for lunch, another feeling emerged. I was triumphant- I'd beat The Knot! Suck it, knot. I'd made it through the entire meditation without moving. I'D BEAT THE KNOT! I sat down to eat; my senses seemed heightened by my triumph. As I ate, I began constructing the story in my mind, prepared to tell a funny tale about the knot in my ass that tried to take me down during one meditation and how I'd defeated it! I was smiling widely in the dining hall, forgetting to focus on meditation during the meal, not even trying to keep my gaze personal and to myself. I sat there, proudly oozing with self satisfaction.
Then I remembered our instructions and I almost burst out into screams of laughter. We had been told, "Simply continue to observe." That was the entirety of our instructions. No one had told me to go into battle. I'd done that all by myself. I suddenly realized, with a clarity brighter than the sun shining outside, all of the many ways I showed up to experiences, looking for conflict, because I'd brought the battle already taking place inside of myself out into the world and I had cast someone or something in the role of opponent.
I sat in a meditation hall, perfectly still and silent, anyone looking at me would have seen an unmoving, serenely meditating being but inside there was a full fledged war taking place.
Or, to put it in its total brutal, foolish honesty: I sat silently in a room and went to war on my own ass. For almost an hour, I was locked in a battle to the death with my butt.
That experience had a life changing affect on me and I love sharing the story because there is nothing that clarifies how silly most of our conflicts really are like saying, "Yeah, and I once had an epic war with my own ass."
A couple years ago, a teacher shared with me a question another teacher had once presented to her: "How do you expect to help create peace in the world if you can't even find peace within yourself?"
So, I end with this- I don't know what your battles are. I'm sure there are many that are worthy of being fought, where you are needed to be the hero/ine of your own story and life. To stand up to injustice and speak out for something. And, likely, there are a lot of battles you are fighting right now, that are draining you of time, energy, and focus, that you are fighting against yourself, and that are as fruitless as me fighting a knot in my own ass.
I ask you- "How do you expect to help create peace in the world if you can't even find peace within yourself?"
My first exposure to the concept of hair as a magickal thing came from my West-African step-father. Whenever my mother would cut his hair, he would meticulously gather up all of the hair to be buried. He said that it had power in it and couldn't just be thrown in the garbage because it was part of a person and someone could use it to do magick against you. At the time, wannabe cynical teen that I thought I was, I thought he and his superstitious beliefs were silly.
Now that I'm living full time in the realms of the mystical, I find myself saying and doing things that are way more "out there" than anything he ever said.
I have worn my hair natural for almost 20 years. I remember having times when my relaxer would start to grow out and I'd see the beginnings of these beautiful waves at the roots of my hair. I was intrigued by them, fascinated, but, for a long time, too afraid to take the next step to find out what my hair might look like, unstraightened by chemicals. I had dreams where my hair was natural, where I'd cut it all off and it had grown back thick and lush and beautiful like a night forest.
The day I decided to cut off all of my hair, I could tell something was going to happen. I'd been thinking about it all day, my heart racing. I'd read the book Good Hair: For Colored Girls Who've Considered Weaves When the Chemicals Became Too Ruff, revisiting over and over the section where she discussed her big chop. The next thing I knew, I was in the bathroom, wetting my hair and cutting and when I came out of the bathroom my mother said, "What did you do?!" I'd started a new journey that I plan to be on for the rest of my life.
It turns out that there was some beautiful hair being hidden by those chemicals — from tiny coils to larger curls, cotton and raw silk intermingled on my head in fascinating and unpredictable patterns that I’m still learning to understand. (I mean, really, who puts the tightest (aka driest and most delicate) curls in the center and front edges of a scalp and looser (aka most easily moisturized) curls at the protected back of a head where no one will ever see them and they are rarely touched? My DNA design team, that’s who.) I’ve also been learning about things like high and low porosity (my hair is low), hair types (which I don’t place much faith in), hair density (those dreams of thick lushness remained dreams) and a host of methods to care for my hair as naturally and as lovingly as I possibly can with as little daily maintenance as possible.
I was told once by a hair management specialist (is that an appropriate term for a hair stylist? Hair therapist?) that I have "cotton candy" hair. He sounded as though he was in ecstasy about it, cooing and primping and stroking the locks. I was pretty disappointed, though. "Fine as Candy Floss" is just fine when the time comes to wash and style (the less hair you have, the fewer two strand twists you have to do!), but otherwise, I want hair that's thick and strong like rope. Hair that metaphorically melts in the rain is not the business. Particularly since, I rarely straighten my hair but it never fails that when I do, I will have at least one incident where a flyaway strand will land on my face and I jump and shriek, thinking I've walked through a spider web.
Since first going natural, I've been learning to embrace the fact that the stories of my ancestry are in my hair, the raw silk coils, the deep ash brown of it (a color that another hair therapist told me is very difficult to recreate in a salon), the cotton candiness of it and even the spider webbiness. All of those tell stories of blood, of DNA, of meetings and lovings that eventually led to me and on to my son. Those are things to honor, so when I'm feeling any kind of way about my hair other than appreciative, I take a moment to challenge myself- Which one of my parents would I choose to exchange in order to have different hair growing from my scalp? The answer is always neither.
I've also been learning, on this journey, that there are lessons in my hair that are guiding me onto new paths of existence in the larger world. I have had to completely shift my mindset and my approach to cleansing and styling my coils. To maintain its health, my hair requires that I treat it with gentleness, patience, tenderness, even reverence. The strands are too delicate to be individually manipulated, my hair is all about community, coils must be worked and styled as a series of teams. Gentleness and community are definitely the kinds of roots I want growing from my head and from my life.
And I have come full circle in the use of hair as magick. I am in the process of manifesting a home in a town that I am hoping will become our new home town, a place to put down roots, to continue our growth as a family, as business owners, as sacredly alive and authentic beings. Whenever we visit, I've been dropping strands of hair for birds and other creatures to gather, to twine and tangle in trees and bushes and to roll into the grass in playgrounds. My intention is to weave my own energy into the land as I petition ancestors of the land and ancestors of my blood and that of my family to give their aid, support and guidance, that things will all come together in the right place and time and that we are prepared to step into the opportunity when it presents itself.
Natural. Hair. Magick.