“You know about black sage already, don’t you?”
“Ah yeah, I’ve bought it before. I don’t use it that often, just once in a while when the moon is right.” I said, lying to the man at the spiritual shop down the road.
Black sage, or mugwort, is considered a sacred herb of Artemis, the Greek goddess of the moon. I use white sage frequently, more as an aromatic than a spirit cleanser, but black sage is a whole different beast. I later found out that its associated with psychic powers — often burned before crystal ball gazing and astral projection. The Native Americans, especially in California and Mexico, used it in healing, ceremonies.
As I got home one night after a long day at work, I felt like I needed to cleanse everything. The house, my body, my mind. I ran to the market to get a drain stopper and started to get myself prepared for relaxation. I drew a bath; something I never do. As an adult, I can count on one hand the number of times I took a bath intentionally. I put the Peace and Relaxation bath salts I received as gift in Maui at the bottom of the tub and turned the water as hot as it could be. I turned around and shut the lights off and let out a big sigh. I turned on meditation music (thanks Spotify), lit a vanilla-scented candle, and watched while every wick lit up — still so overwhelmed by everything in the day.
I held up the bundle of sage and stared at all of the leaves — each one living its own life and looking as unique as a snowflake. It slowly started to flicker and the hot flames turned into smoke while I breathed in. Slowly, finally, I sank into the tub. I made the water level way too high and it started overflowing into the drain. Drip, drip,. drip. Drain, drain drain. I couldn’t get my mind off of everything going around me. I’ve felt so out of sync with my body lately.
The draining, the dogs barking, Rilo’s nails clacking on the floor. Everything was a distraction I sat there and just took it all in. It felt so overwhelming. The overwhelming type of feeling where you’re in the center of the tornado and everything else spins and spins around you and you can’t stop it. I need to keep my mind off my phone. The water is going to get cold soon, so I need to hurry up and get this done fast. Rilo is going to start barking in a second and I’m going to have to yell. What the hell am I doing with my life? Why am I so okay with being mediocre? Stop thinking about all of these things and be peaceful. Just be.
I decided to get up, kick the dog out of the room, got back into the tub, and just allowed myself to be in the moment. I mimicked the breaking I do in yoga class to make sure I focused on breathing and not my thoughts. I don’t feel relaxed; I don’t feel like this is working. I turned over on my stomach and shut my eyes while I touched them to the tub’s edge. Slowly, I felt another level more relaxed. I started just listening to my body; watching it do what felt good and letting that piece of my soul shine instead of my brain taking control.
Sometimes I feel so out of tune with my body that I picture my brain taking all of the limelight and doesn’t allow my body to be present. It’s fun to watch my mind be so relaxed and watch my body’s mind, so to speak, come out of its shell. Eventually, I started lowering my body into the water little by little. First my back, slowly arching as it hit the warm water. The my shoulders, where I hold so much tension and pain. Then my neck, always feeling like I have a heavy burden. Finally, my entire head, from face to ears to the top of my skull.
It was such a different feeling — everything felt so far away. Sort of like the Upside Down in Stranger Things. Everything felt like it was real life, only heavier. The sounds were muted and long, the sharp noises were loud; everything was loud. The water kept rushing out of the drain and it sounded like I was standing next to a waterfall. It was the same tornado chaos but felt like I was watching a movie or something. But this time it wasn’t me in the middle, it was me watching someone else in the middle. I was slowly getting out of the tornado. I finally ran out of breath and lifted my head out of the water. Everything sounded so quiet on that side. No loud waterfalls or noises that pierced me ears — just normal, every day life.
The meditation music was working.
I started tuning out the external sounds and focused on what was going on in that tiny bathroom. So peaceful. I dropped my head in once again, only this time it wasn’t a gushing river, but an ocean wave. Every two seconds, the tide would go in and out. The underground was getting more peaceful. A gush of memories flooded my head: What does ocean waves remind me of? When I was the only person on the rooftop terrace in Morocco at midnight, feeling the warm air wrap around my skin and staring up at the stars. The hiking up and down mountains in southern England, then setting up camp in a random field and making that our cozy home for the night. The sounds of Ventura’s coastline in the background of a party; usually the only thing I can focus on when there’s loud noises. The edge of the bay in Galway; where the bay is pitch dark and ominous yet intriguing and spikes curiosity.
Once I lifted my head out of the water, it was the same peaceful feeling of a normal, quiet environment. Slowly, the two worlds were becoming balanced together. This time, I was getting eager to see how the underground changed. The ocean and the rushing river were gone and all that was left was the muted sounds. Not as fun, I said to myself. On the way up, the real world was the same. I put my head under this time, and it was still muffled sounds, so I decided to blow bubbles. Bubbles? I thought. Why has my emotions changed so drastically with every nose dive? And why am I creating the chaos when ten minutes ago, I was so overwhelmed by it? This was definitely getting me closer to relaxation. My body always feels so lighthearted and whimsical when I’m my most relaxed. After a few dives of playing and having fun, I flipped over and just laid for a moment. This is it. This is what relaxation feels like.
It’s your mind not overwhelming you with questions — you just be.You aren’t bothered by the dog licking the door a hundred times trying to get in; you’re not overwhelmed by the outside world sounds. You focus on the meditation music (which, by now, I think is fucking awesome and I should listen to it more often). You hear the rain outside of the window for the first time since you’ve been in the bathroom. You pay attention to your breathing and how amazing your body really is.. The sounds of the birds in the music isn’t tacky and is quite fitting. Slowly, the weight starts coming off your shoulders. I got dressed in my favorite nightgown, and grabbed the sage to light it in the living room. Everything smells different in here. My sense of smell becomes much more hightened than every day life.
I love living alone during experiences like these.
I lit the black sage and turned the lights off, candles flickering in the moonlight. I left it in the kitchen and decided to eat my dinner. For the first time in what seems like forever, I just sat. And wondered why the things around me were made and what the pictures on the wall portray and what kind of emotions the smells are around me convey. I just was.
I didn’t feel the need to get on my phone, I didn’t need to call someone. I didn’t need to take a picture. I just was.
As I bring everything back to traveling, I thought to myself, is it better to be completely yourself with no one around or is it better to experience all of these things with? That sense of calm and free-spiritedness seems to only come when I’m by myself. When I’m not worried about another person’s feelings or wishes or desires. Not that I mind, of course, but it’s so nice to get in touch with yourself on a spirited level that you can’t achieve when you’re with someone else.
But the memories.
The memories of sunsets shared in foreign lands and Wednesday nights lounging around the patio and the adventures of a lifetime. Who do you share that with when you’re traveling alone? Pictures and stories will never be replacements of the feeling you get while visiting a new city or experiencing something new. I am always hesitant to bring up stories from my travel, making sure I don’t sound too bourgeois, but sometimes I can’t help myself. I haven’t met anyone who just gets it; and maybe I never will. But experiencing something as monumental as discovering a place or uncovering a new emotion that emerges from visiting a new culture is so much fun with others.
I suppose it all comes back to balance (and for all the rest of the hippie dippies besides me, my astrology sign is Cancer so I’m horrible at balancing life…). Balancing chaos and serenity; balancing alone time and shared moments — it’s all intertwined inside the inner lining of life and love and being.