Smudging Sadness - Rancho La Puerta
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Smudging Sadness

About a week ago, it became clear to me that I needed a serious reset. My body and mind were not coping well with grieving from the recent loss of two close family members. To help me heal, my colleagues recommended I spend some personal time at The Ranch and try the Ancestral Energy Balance treatment. This wonderful, just-what-the-doctor-ordered, treatment aims to balance the energy field by clearing the lymphatic system. This is done by combining a series of long, gentle massage strokes and herbs native to the Tecate region. I essentially had my body smudged, which is exactly what I needed.

The lymphatic system is designed to eliminate waste in the body. It relies on muscle movement to maintain fluidity because unlike the circulatory system, it does not have a pump (the heart) to prevent stagnation. This is part of why Deborah Szekely always says, “movement is health”. I had heard before and learned firsthand in this 90-minute session that lymphatic massage is hugely helpful for eliminating blockages and getting things moving again. It is also helpful for relaxation and balancing chakras, the energy centers in the body.

When I entered the treatment room with my practitioner, Lulu, I took note of my surroundings; dimly lit, courtesy of the candles scattered throughout the small space, incense burning, and a calming, melodic flute playing through the speakers. I disrobed and made myself comfortable on the heated massage table, a welcome touch on a misty day, and Lulu covered me with a weighted blanket. I settled into the cozy table quickly.

The first step of smudging is clearing the space so that the healing properties of the herbs have somewhere to settle into. The same was true for this massage. I wondered at first why I was not asked which scent of body oil I would prefer for the treatment, which generally occurs before Ranch massages. I learned that the Ancestral Energy Balance is unique in that way; it is performed with olive oil, because it is rich with vitamins and antioxidants and has fantastic anti-aging properties, and orange blossom lotion because orange can stimulate the lymphatic glands.

Nearly half of the 90-minute massage was spent focused on my legs; Lulu committed to spending about 20 minutes on each leg! Following the flow of lymph, she started with my left foot and began working on pressure points, which further relaxed my muscles and allowed the lymph to move more freely. Lulu uncovered my back and began at the base. This is the only portion of my body in which she stroked both directions. The motion on my shoulders was a rainbow, beginning at the base of my neck on each side of my spine, and arching down to my armpit. Where my neck meets my shoulders, she used short strokes up and out to the bottom of my skull. One of my favorite parts of the treatment was when she massaged my scalp. It was covered with a sheet to prevent getting oil in my hair.

When my entire back had been cleared of potential blockages, Lulu brushed an herbal bouquet from my head to my toes. The herbs used, rosemary, pirul (pepper tree), myrtle, eucalyptus, and sage, are intentionally selected for this treatment because of their healing chemical properties. Rosemary is a positive plant with positive energy and is used to boost the immune system and improve circulation. Pirul is traditionally used to treat respiratory infections, bronchitis, and sore throats. People take myrtle to alleviate respiratory conditions, like bronchitis and asthma, because it helps soothe the respiratory tract to allow for clear passage of oxygen. It can also stimulate urination which eliminates toxins from the body. Eucalyptus is another herb that acts as a soothing decongestant when inhaled. Traditional medical practitioners use sage to treat age-related cognitive disorders, as well as inflammations in the skin and throat. It is the most common herb used for household smudging. I was unable to see, but I think she used one of the burning candles to safely light pieces of the bundle, because I could suddenly smell them. The scent of the combination of the herbs was earthy and uplifting. I breathed as slowly and as deeply as I could to soak it all in.

Lulu pulled me out of my relaxed stupor to invite me to flip over onto my back. She put cool chamomile teabags over my eyes before working on my feet, legs, arms, hands, shoulders, and finishing on my face. The face massage was my other favorite part of the treatment. With the slightest pressure she could muster, avoiding moving my skin, she half brushed, half tapped or vibrated my sinuses, moving from the center of my hairline out and down toward my ears, from my nose to my ears, and from my nose to my jaw, following my smile lines. She vibrated from in front of my ears to the base of my neck. I felt my ears pop and my nose run as she did this, immediate signs of success.

I relaxed and continued to breathe deeply (and easier thanks to the treatment clearing my congestion) as Lulu placed warm towels on my feet. Like when I was on my back, now that my entire front had been cleared of blockages, it was time to smudge it. I could smell the herbs again and see the flickering of the candles from behind my eyelids and the delicate teabags. When she finished, I felt so unattached from the suffering of my losses that I thought my spirit had lifted above my body. I felt lighter; it was a strange combination of being relaxed and energized simultaneously. I slept great that night and for several after.


A huge thank you to Lulu at the Women’s Health Center for performing this magical treatment and to Jusly at the front desk of the Women’s Health Center for her information about herbal properties and the benefits of lymphatic massage.