In the Western world, there is a great lack of sacredness surrounding the use of incense. Over the past few decades the popularity of incense has grown substantially in the U.S., mostly as a consumer product and not so much as a sacred and ceremonial tool. The traditional use of herbal incense is deeply rooted in ritual, prayer, mediation, spirituality, religion, and medicine in most ancient cultures.
Many people utilize incense for more than just its pleasant aroma, however, most Westerners lack the profound knowledge and wisdom that should be passed on with the use of this precious plant medicine. We must change the way our culture uses this sacred healing modality and honor those before us who developed the vast art of incense. When we revive the spirit of incense in our personal lives, higher levels of understanding, intention, and purpose are revealed.
The biggest step in the process of re-sacralizing incense is to understand the importance and profound benefit of creating your own personal incense ritual. In older cultures, there are countless incense and plant smoke rituals and ceremonies. The purpose of these ceremonies is to connect with or make offerings to the divine, to journey deeper into the self through meditation and contemplation, or to heal a person’s mind, body, or spirit, while honoring and enjoying the pleasantly fragrant healing herbs that make up the incense itself. No matter the belief, religion, or spiritual practice, someone’s personal incense ritual is completely their own.
It is difficult to find time for stillness and silence within our busy schedules these days. But the blessings within this silence are profound and have the potential to nourish our spirits, open our hearts and minds, and connect us to something greater than the material world in which we live. Most of us are aware of the countless benefits of meditation, but so many people struggle to fit meditation into their daily routine. Whether you are familiar with meditation already or not, incense combined with prayer can help initiate the practice of meditation or can bring about many of the same benefits that meditation can provide.
Prayer is a way for us to personally connect with the divine, Creator, God, Great Spirit, or whatever other names you may give; a power greater than ourselves. Prayer is universal and all religions and spiritual people make use of it. It is our own personal way of speaking to the higher power we believe in. It is an expression of our soul to Spirit, acknowledging our gratitude and blessings, struggles and challenges, or asking for guidance, assistance and direction in our lives.
Incense has been around long before any religious or spiritual texts were written and goes hand in hand with prayer. Most religions and spiritual practices use incense in ceremony and have for thousands of years. Tibetan monks burn incense during meditation, ceremonies, and rituals as offerings and to create a sense of sacredness in the atmosphere, which helps ease them into higher states of consciousness and meditation. In the Catholic church, Frankincense and Myrrh resins have been used since its beginning as offerings and praise to God. Hindus, Taoists, Shamans, Buddhists, and Native Americans all burn plants and herbs to accompany their prayers and to heighten the sense of sacredness around them. Incense is a sacred key used to unlock the doorway into the spiritual realm so our prayers may be expressed and heard more clearly.
Initiating Your Personal Incense Ritual
You may choose to adopt an existing ceremony used in your religious or spiritual practice, or create an experience that is unique and feels right for you. Your personal incense ritual, whether you choose it to be in the mornings, evenings, or at particular times throughout your day, is a time to set aside your daily thoughts, concerns and distractions. It is a time to go deeper within yourself and connect to a higher power, higher thoughts, and achieve a peaceful state with the aid of your incense. During your incense ritual you might choose to sit in silence from the time you light your incense until it burns out. You might speak prayers for your day, your life, or your loved ones, or you might try relaxing your body and mind to achieve feelings of peace and tranquility.
Incense is a vessel for our prayers. Herbs, whether pressed into cone or stick or in loose incense form, hold the prayers that we express as we speak them. Many cultures say that when we light our incense the rising smoke carries our prayers upward to be acknowledged by Spirit. If we follow in the footsteps of our ancestors and countless cultures today that utilize this wisdom, we can achieve more balance in our daily lives, and our mind, body, and spirit may come into greater harmony. Initiating our day with our own sacred incense ritual can help us come to understand ourselves on deeper levels and holds the power to unveil higher meaning and wisdom that may be the key to our serenity and prosperity. The incense ritual also sets a time frame for our practice; when the incense burns out, our meditation or prayer is complete. It is a practical way to provide a “container,” so to speak, for our ritual.
Instead of simply lighting your incense and walking away to tend to matters in your everyday life, make the time to disconnect from the distractions as often as possible. Sit in silence or prayer, light your incense, and discover the deeper wisdom waiting for you within the silence. Even if for just ten minutes a day you make this your spiritual practice, over time you can achieve the peace of mind, openness of heart, and relaxation of body that you deserve. Your personal incense ritual can act as a gateway to higher connection, purpose, and sacredness in your everyday life.