Grounding Rituals for the Part-time Expat Life
As the part-time expat, one of the emotions that you have to fend yourself against is the occasional sense of rootlessness. In my book about renting in Mexico, I write about how to approach certain tasks that may exacerbate these feelings.
For example, for part-time expat life to work as part of a financial plan, you have to rent out your home/apartment in your absence. In my book on how to rent in Mexico, I suggest that when the time comes for your personal belongings to be moved into storage, you should avoid doing it yourself. Storage facilities are forlorn places and can shake your sense of stability. You should protect your psyche and pay for a moving company to whisk your personal belonging into storage, and make them appear magically when you return.
Another way to ground yourself are special ceremonies to perform before or after the passages. My favorite has become smudging. American Indians and practice smudging ceremonies to cleanse a place or person of negative spirits - bad mojo.
After a series of strange occurrences related to my place in Denver after a renovation, a friend (a guy no less) suggested that having had so many strangers in my apartment during the renovation and during my stays in Mexico over the years, perhaps I should “smudge it.” Smudging is a ritual performed by fanning sacred smoke through a place and over people to cleanse them of negative energy.
Having grown up Catholic, I understand the sense of peace ceremonies can bring. I loved the smell of incense of High Mass and the Concluding Rite at the end of it. As a part-time expat who is still determining my place in the world both physically and metaphysically, the idea of a ritual that would open and close my times in Denver and Mexico gave the idea of smudging a special appeal. A number of tenants have come and gone. I have come and gone to a number of apartments in Mexico. Who knows what kinds of energy we tracked in!)
And, I reasoned, if similar ceremonies across so many cultures, there must be something to it. With great enthusiasm, I rented one of those electric bikes you can find all over downtown Denver (red. With a basket even. I waved at people like a prom queen) and pedaled on over the New Age store on 32nd Street in Denver, SolShine, where owner Dannie Huggs walked me through the ceremony.
To begin, you will need smudging sticks to burn. These are created out of sacred herbs such as dried sage, sweetgrass (also called vanilla, holy or buffalo grass) and/or lavender. The smoke is to cleanse your space, you, and anyone who attends the ceremony.
I bought a smudging stick at Anthropologie, and of course New Age stores like Dannie’s carry them. There I also purchased Dragon’s Blood incense, and a shell dish to fill with sand for extinguishing the smudging stick. Other accessories people use are feathers and or even drums to beat. Caught up in the spirit of the thing, I also bought a moonstone ring, mood stones being attuned to water, since I was leaving for the Mexican Pacific.
To perform the smudging ceremony, you light the smudge stick and blow it gently to produce good smoke. Next you “smudge” yourself and anyone in the room with the smoke, basically outlining them as you use the feathers to fan the smoke from the smoldering stick. Then, facing north and moving in a clockwise direction, you move through your apartment or home, reciting a prayer (there are different versions of it):
We call on the Spirit of Sage to drive away negativity from our circle.
Spirit of the East, Great Spirit of Air, Bring peace and inspire this circle.
Spirit of the South, Great Spirit of Fire, energize and protect this circle.
Spirit of the West, Great Spirit of Water, bring purity and cleanse this circle.
Spirit of the North, Great Spirit of Earth, ground and strengthen this circle.
Great Father Sky, guard this circle from above.
Great Mother Earth, nurture this circle from below.
According to Dannie, you can also “hot box,” that is, close the windows and fill the room with smoke (as a novice, I decided to come back for that later.)
In addition to the sense of comfort that ceremonies bring, smudging can be a great bonding ceremony with friends when you arrive “home,” whether in Mexico or the U.S. I perform the ceremony now with my Mexican friends whenever I arrive in Mexico.
This year when rented out my apartment, I decided that I would perform a smudging before my new tenant moved in. Expecting him, a young lawyer from Austin, to laugh and signal that smudging was silly New Age stuff, instead, he wrote, “Thank you!” His office manager performed a smudging each time she moved. He was full of questions about the process (and I am beginning to question my male stereotypes).
Nothing should get in the way of a perfect part-time expat existence. In all the mechanics of arranging flights, renting places and setting up your banking, it’s easy to ignore the emotional demands of doing it part-time. Rituals often accompany transition. They make you more aware of the changes in your life, and in a sense codify your emotions in way to make them easier to honor and arrange into some kind of order. As we say when attending mass, they “grant us peace.”
Related link: More detail on the ceremony by Chopra.com
Most recent: A list for longer terms stays in Mexico that reminds you how different they are from a two-week vacation.
About the author: Kerry Baker is the author of The Mexico Solution on presale now. The Mexico Solution: How to save your money, sanity and quality of life through part-time life in Mexico is the ultimate guide to part-time life in Mexico.
Other books are The Interactive Guide to Learning Spanish Free Online, a curation of the best tools on the web, organized into lesson plans with interactive links. If Only I Had a Place tells you how to rent in Mexico, a process much different in Mexico (in spite of realtors tell you.) This book with give you the cultural insights to avoid being ripped off, and show you the unexpected advantages of renting as an expat.