June 10, 2015

Sleep Paralysis & the Beginning of Home Grown Smudge Sticks.


I could see a dark shadowy figure; he came to my bed side and crawled onto my chest.

The pressure was almost suffocating. It started with my legs and then crawled to my head, his energy blanketed every atom of my body. I was silenced, frozen in emptiness.

I have never felt such darkness. It felt like I was being pushed through the earth, past our solar system, and into the deepest darkest abyss. To the edge of the universe.

I felt myself fighting back, using my will to push back the pressure. I screamed for God, for my mother, but my voice was silenced. My tongue did not exist. I was in a vacuum.

I was aware that I was not alone in my room, and that another energy was with me, and the more I struggled to move my body the more pressure I felt on top of it, and the more paralyzed I felt.

After a few minutes in this paralyzed state, my body was suddenly released and I shot up out of my bed and ran to the other side of the room. Similar to when we are singing and suddenly the music turns off, I was startled by the sudden volume of my own scream.

I was screaming for my mother.

Who would have thought in the face of utter darkness, and what can only be described as nothing short of feeling the essence of pure evil, I would scream for my mommy! Not God, but my mom.

I realized quickly, my mom was nowhere near me. In fact she was 7,439 miles away from me.

I was in Bangkok, Thailand and I was all alone in a room with rotting walls, and a buzzing fan.

The sun was coming up over the sea of metal roof tops. Seeing its round orange glowing body comforted me. At that moment I needed the sun’s light more than I have ever needed anything in my whole life.

I was naked and drenched in sweat; I immediately lit a cigarette and sat in disbelief about what had just happened. ( I don’t smoke unless I am dirty, alone, on another continent, or have had way too much prosecco.)

This was my first experience with what I now know is called sleep paralysis. I have experienced this many times since that first night in Bangkok and I have yet to get a handle on it.

Just to clarify, this is not a nightmare, or dream, there is no hazy vagueness about this experience, it is a point-blank slap in the face reality.

What I do know now, is that there isn’t really a dark shadow that is trying to push my material body through the dark abyss of the universe; it’s actually my brain not moving through REM sleep properly.

There is science behind it, I am not crazy, and I am not alone.

Sleep paralysis is a form of parasomnia and it happens when you wake up out of REM sleep and your body is still paralyzed. I won’t go into depth about the biological mechanisms but there are many journals and papers out for those interested.

Knowing there is a logical explanation for this experience does not make the terror of the experience go away, nor am I totally convinced this is only a few misfires of my synapses.

I feel in the depths of my being there might be more to it than simply REM sleep disruptions.

Unless you’ve experienced sleep paralysis, it is complicated, and hard to explain.

I started cleansing my home regularly after my most recent episode. Not only for the spiritual aspect, but who doesn’t love the smell of cedar, wild sage or lavender in their homes?



I felt like I needed to cleanse the energy from my home. Terror and fear leaves a pretty aggressive imprint on your space—I wanted to clear myself of such a negative vibe that had lingered long after my last experience.

I learned about smudging and it seemed to suit me. I’ve always burned sandalwood or myrrh in my home, so I bought a few bundles of sage and smudged the sh*t out of everything in my house, getting all of that murky, thick, terrifying energy out of everything.

Before man-made incense, our ancestors would burn resins or herbs on hot coals and rocks. Smudging is the practice of clearing or blessing a space. It is about recharging energy around a person or object, and letting whatever negative energy exists disappear with the smoke of your herbs.

It helps create a sacred space, and it also smells a million times better than any room freshener you could buy.

I fell in love with it, and after a while I started to make my own smudge sticks. It seems ridiculous looking back that I would spend $3 on a bundle of sage when I can make my own personalized sticks that are infused with my own prayers.

Burn some herbs, or boil pots of water and stuff them full of cinnamon sticks, dried citrus, nutmeg and vanilla. Let the spicy, heavy-bodied oils dance through your kitchen and fill your space with layers of blessings and sinful amounts of pleasure. You will fall in love too.


Sleep paralysis brought me to smudge sticks, and regardless of the evil, dark shadow man’s existence or my brain’s inability to function, I love making them, I love burning them and I love the way the smoke twirls and dances into the air.

Take a sip of steaming hot black coffee, throw your boots on, and hike into the forest.


Walk through the dewy brush, and take a few deep intentional breaths of air. The wet soil is intoxicating. Touch it. Taste it. Dig up a few yarrow plants and feather your fingers across its powerful leaves.

It is a sacred meditation. A ritual of gratitude to the forest as you take from her and fill your basket full of her wild roses, cedar branches, and wild sage.

Smell the leaves, feel the water droplets roll from the branches onto your hands, and thank whatever power you believe in for so much god damn beauty.



Here are a few steps to guide you if you chose to make your own smudge sticks.

1.Walk through your garden, and/or the forest and pick out what herbs you want to use. Typically cedar and white sage are used. You can use any herb you want, or even add flowers. (Lavender, thyme, mint, cedar, sage, wild roses, rosemary, cat nip are all safe to burn)
2.Line up the base of each stem evenly and hold tightly into a bundle.
3.You can use twine, or thread to bind your plants. I typically use an organic hemp thread, or just twine. Don’t use too much, you don’t want to smell of burnt thread or twine to overpower your herbs.
4.Wrap the base tightly and tie a knot. There is no wrong or right way of doing this but you want the bundle wrapped as tightly as possible.
5.Let dry. If you collect plants that are wet let them dry off a bit before you bundle them to prevent mold. Place them in a somewhere with good air circulation, or hang them to dry.
6.Burn, pray, cleanse, and repeat.




Tips for Healthier Incense Use.


Author: Jess Jamison

Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Author’s Own

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