Smudge Pots

When I was little we used to go to my Auntie Mabel’s house in Sunrise, Minnesota. She and my Uncle Elmer lived on a farm and we towed our sleep-in trailer there a couple weekends of every month. It was glorious. I can still smell the baking rye bread in my mind.

When we got there my Auntie would have little bags for each of us kids filled with pennies nickels and dimes along with a brightly colored rubber ball. I loved that place! There were flowers everywhere and around the side was a small waterfall. And kittens- oh my goodness! So many kittens roaming the yard. My Auntie would bring out pans of milk and call “Kitty, Kitty” and they would come running.

At night we would like to sit outside but the mosquitos were in the billions. Maybe you know that Minnesotans call the Mosquito their “state bird.” My Uncle Elmer would set up smudge pots which would smoke around us and keep the mosquitos at bay.

I have an aromatic diffuser in my office. When a few drops of calming oil is placed in a bit of water a wonderful steamy aroma sprays out. The result is that the aromatics give me a sense of feeling. Their names are “Om”, “Bliss”, “Solace”. This reminded me of the smudge pots, but instead of keeping mosquitos away, the diffuser enhances good mood and therefore chases away bad ones.

The “smudge pot” in my office helps me when I am trying to be more mindful because I imagine the steam carrying away the emotions that sometimes end up swirling around my brain when I am trying to be closer to Jesus.

I am trying to build my mastery of mindfulness. In DBT “Building Mastery” is described as planning to do one thing everyday to build a sense of accomplishment. To me that is getting out of ruminating and stepping away from my lack of self-worth. Doing something difficult but not impossible such as a mindfulness exercise. Even if I escape my emotions for a few minutes I consider this a success.

DBT asks us to gradually increase the difficulty over time and look for a challenge. The most challenging thing for me is to replace my thoughts of unworthiness with thoughts that describe me as Jesus sees me. I am a soul at His disposal open to Him to fill me with my destiny, my purpose.

He helps me see what values are important to me and in mindfulness I am able to identify that value and set some goals to work on related to this value. The value I am working through is taking care of myself. I have not been eating well, either no eating at all or eating junk foods and what I would call nutritionally void foods. I might use alcohol to change my mood instead of exercising my mindfulness muscles. Invariably the alcohol leads to further depression. I can’t escape my thoughts of “What am I here for?”

When people are depressed they sometimes let go of doing the things they know will keep them healthy- even as simple as eating. The DBT practice of “PLEASE” is taking care of yourself, doing the things that keep your body going even as your mind is ruminating.
“PL”: Treat Physical Illness- See a doctor when needed. Take your medicine and take care of your body.
“E”: Balance eating – Stay away from food that make you overly emotional. Don’t over or under eat, eat mindfully.
“A”: Avoid Mood Altering Substances- Use alcohol in moderation and stay off illicit drugs.
“S”: Balance Sleep- Keep a consistent sleep schedule and aim to 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
“E”: Exercise- Do some form of activity everyday and build up to 20 minutes per day.

These things may seem so basic, but it’s important to take care of your mind by taking care of your body. People with Depression or other mental illnesses sometimes don’t feel like showering or walking or eating. It’s important to be on schedule with these things.

Aromatics is one way of being kind to myself. Some small enjoyment. Oftentimes I am stuck in my head and I don’t have then energy to take care of myself. I don’t want to shower, I don’t want to eat, but then I power up my smudge pot and something changes.

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