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The New Spring Cleaning

Two shamans share their tips and techniques for clearing your space

Home & Sanctuary
words: Steffie Nelson for Bodhi Tree

So you’ve cleaned your closets and “Kondo’d” your clutter (to use the lingo of fans of the wildly popular Japanese space organizer Marie Kondo), but what if your home still sparks more unease than joy? You may need more than a spring cleaning; you might be due for a space clearing.

“Your home is a living energy,” says Shaman Durek, a Barcelona-based activist and energy healer who draws from Yoruban, Nordic, Turkish and Balinese traditions, among others. “It is supposed to be your way of connecting with yourself, and when others come into your home, it’s their way to connect to you. When a home feels unsettled, it’s usually because the energies there are unsettled.” What does that mean? Oftentimes, we can be in conflict with spirits without even realizing it, according to Durek, as there might be echoes of past events in a particular location, or energies that have entered along with second-hand items (sorry, thrift-store shoppers). Durek says signs of unwelcome spirits hanging around your space include money issues, sudden arguments or tears, a feeling of heaviness or inability to concentrate, and restlessness or the sense that you just need to leave. “Spirits like to take a territorial position,” he notes.

Simple Remedies to Clear Your Space

To start a space clearing, stand in the center of a room with your hands on your heart and observe how you feel. “If your room isn’t vibrating in your heart, it needs cleaning,” Durek says. Then, write down what energy you want your home to create for you, and be sure to state that you are the authority of the space and that anything not serving your highest purpose cannot be there. “It’s important to do this,” he adds.

Many of Durek’s simplest remedies rely on ingredients an organic housekeeper might have in a kit: fresh lemon sprayed in the corners makes it uncomfortable for spirits to take hold; olive oil around the door and window frames adds protection; floors washed with milk and lavender eradicate negativity. Drumming in a space both disperses and grounds energy, he says, while dark spirits “cannot tolerate a bell.” Water is another favorite substance, as it is known to absorb energies. He suggests putting a bowl of water with rocks or flowers in the room where you spend most of your time, and dumping it out at the end of each day.

Should I Use Sage?

And what about the greatest space-clearing misconception that Durek has encountered? Using sage as a purifier. “Sage actually attracts spirits as it uplifts the vibration,” explains Durek. For clearing, he prefers burning the Amazonian root palo santo, which he compares to psychic bug spray. And if you can take the smell, place a cut onion embedded with nutmeg in each corner of a room. “If negative spirits see you putting an onion together they’re probably packing their bags.”

Feng Shui to the Rescue

The Shambhalla Institute’s Melinda Joy Miller is a feng shui master, shamanic healer, herbalist and keeper of Grandmother Twylah Nitsch’s Medicine Wheel of Peace, who has been facilitating healings and clearings since the 1970s. Miller claims she can sense “toxicity” in a space just by looking at a photograph of it, and her house-blessing and space-clearing work combines many different traditions, using cures both physical—such as diffusing antibacterial essential oils like rosemary and lavender in a room where mold is present—and metaphysical—like visualizing indigo blue wind, which represents the Archangel Michael (a favored protector of Christians and mystics alike)—to clear a space.

Although there can be a smell when mold exists, usually toxicity manifests in states of physical and mental unease, such as headaches, nausea, ringing in the ears, tense muscles and even dyslexia. Miller notes that babies are very sensitive to toxic energies, so a fitful child could also be an indication that something is amiss—as can a computer or clock gone wonky. Dogs, too, pick up on unwanted presences. “If there’s an entity in the house, a dog will follow it with his eyes or bark,” she says.

Using Visualizations

Traditional feng shui cures, like mirrors, are great for diffusing and transmuting toxic energy; while iron objects (like a piece of rebar from Home Depot) placed under the bed will pull energy away from your head and help improve the quality of sleep, says Miller. In recent years, however, Miller has come to rely more on mental techniques, clearing spaces wherever she goes by sending sunlight or violet rays into airports and other public places, or envisioning the water being recycled in a polluted river. And such visualizations aren’t limited to those with years of training; in fact, she encourages everybody to try these techniques at any time. “People have gifts they don’t even know they have,” she says. “Everyone is a shaman to some degree, and I feel strongly that people aren’t using their shaman skills enough. Just send love into the room and see what happens.”

Steffie Nelson is an L.A.-based style and culture writer who contributes to The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine, L.A. Review of Books, W Magazine and many other publications. Currently, she’s penning a book about the historic L.A. stained glass company Judson Studios and working on Cosmic City, the story of esoteric Los Angeles.