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September 2016

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The good, the bad, and the ugly of going braless

I remember getting my first bra. I was 12 years old and my mom took me to the store. I was embarrassed and excited at the same time. I wanted to be a ‘grown-up’ and equated being an adult woman with wearing a brassiere. But in all honesty, bras are really just a pain in the…back.

Lately, the media has been buzzing over women in Toronto going braless and I decided to join the trend for a week. I wanted to know how it felt to let the ladies roam free and during this experience I learned a lot about myself and my body.

Going braless made me feel insecure initially. To be honest, I felt a bit of internal shame for my reaction amidst a feminist world of ‘free the nipple’ campaigns and bra burning predecessors. Why did I feel so thrown off my not wearing a simple undergarment? Full disclosure: I often opt in for hot shorts (popular name for very short shorts) instead of underwear because they are comfortable. I am not bothered at all by this change, yet not wearing a bra nearly set me into a full-blown panic attack.

I pushed through the anxiety and left my house feeling ready to tackle the world with my found fashion sense. I ride my bike to work every day and was worried that it would be an issue, but found no one cared. At all. The insecurity that comes with wearing a bra is an invention of the mind. Wearing a bra or not, people are so busy staring into the abyss of their phone that they are too busy to notice a pair of knockers swinging by.

I also found that weather impacted my comfort level. When it is really hot outside, it is surprisingly uncomfortable to go braless. It just doesn’t feel nice. A bra helps to lift the breasts and cool the body down. It is also uncomfortable to have no covering layer with cold air as well. However, on a nice mid-weather, warm fall or spring day, it is wonderful to feel the breeze and be unencumbered by a bra. Some women are comfortable with the effects of fluctuating weather patterns on the breasts, but I found this anxiety-provoking.

My back and ribcage felt much better while I was going braless. I also started to notice my body more often, meaning the way I moved or if I was sitting and standing straight up. Bras give us an excuse to slouch because our over-the-shoulder-boulder-holders give extra support that allow for bad posture. Going braless doesn’t allow for slumping at all.

Certain styles of clothing and materials are more compatible with the free flowing look as well. Avoid itchy and tight cotton shirts. I had a very bad day wearing one of these tops. Instead opt in for satin, which is smooth on the nipples, or other soft materials like velvet. I also found cinched dresses very comfortable. It was loose at the top and tight on the bottom, which gave me a nice shape and also gave the ladies room to breathe.

I would recommend going braless for a week. It forced me to look at my body in a whole new light and to love the more natural elements of the female physique. I also realized the bra gives breasts an unrealistic shape and is systematic of the patriarchal ideal of the woman’s body. Round soft curves are beautiful and I’m glad I celebrated that this past week. I will also admit though that I will wear a bra here and there in my future. Sometimes bras can be comfortable depending on your outfit and other times they are not. Do not forget though, they are an option and only need to be used when desired. Try taking one day off a week with no bra and check out #nobrathursdays and #nobrarevolution to get involved. Enjoy the freedom ladies — it feels great.

Try going braless and let Women’s Post know how you felt in the comments below.

New portable housing for domestic abuse survivors and their families

Imagine packing your belongings in the middle of the night and waking your children to escape the place you call home. Frightened and without any place to go, 3,491 women and 2.724 children arrive at the doorsteps of emergency domestic abuse shelters each night. About 300 of those women and children are turned away.

Once they actually get up the courage to leave their abusers, survivors of domestic abuse and their families face a number of challenges. They must find a safe place to go, obtain a new home and all while living with the fear that their spouse is trying to find them. The government of Canada and Ontario are trying to help the situation by investing $20 million over two years into the Survivors of Domestic Violence Portable Housing Benefit Pilot project. The pilot project will provide 1000 survivors of domestic violence per year with immediate affordable housing.

As is stands, when women and their children find temporary housing in an emergency shelter it can take several months to find another place to live. Going back home is often not an option. This leaves families stranded in very unstable living situations. Domestic abuse survivors are placed on the waitlist for rent-geared-to income and must wait for social housing to become available. Though domestic abuse victims are given priority on the waitlists, the state of social housing waitlists in Canada leaves many of these families stranded for months.

It also leaves the victim of abuse in a vulnerable situation because they don’t have access to permanent housing. In Canada, 26 per cent of women who are murdered by their spouse have left the relationship and half of these women are killed within two months of leaving their abuser. Women are also six times more likely to be killed by an ex-partner than a current partner, placing the victims in a vulnerable situation after leaving their abuser. Women and children are still in danger after leaving an abusive partner, and obtaining safe housing is paramount for their safety.

The federal and provincial government are taking steps in providing better resources for domestic abuse survivors and the affordable housing situation. Though the new pilot program is a step in the right direction, more efforts to provide victims of domestic abuse with optimal support is of upmost importance.

Underwhelming response to Paralympic runner setting a world record

Algerian Runner Abdellatif Baka won the 1500 metre race at the Paralympics in Rio, winning at 3:38:29 and beating out the 1500 metre Olympic world record. By all means, the world should be buzzing over the accomplishment and instead the response has been…underwhelming.

It is well known that the Paralympics get less attention than the Olympics, but it is disappointing that even in a modern age of near-obsessive global media attention that people are not paying attention to this event. Baka competed in the 1500m T13 race, which is ranked as the highest visually-impaired race in the running category, though the competitors are still considered legally blind. The T12 and T11 races are made for competitors that are further visually-impaired and this standard applies to other sports in the Paralympics as well.

Baka’s success in the 1500m dash demonstrates that sight is not a necessity for speed. Each of the competitors are able to tell where the other runners are while competing at top speed. It takes a phenomenal sense of control and awareness, reminding me of the powerful superhero Daredevil. This comic book character develops other ways to make up for his loss of sight, which actually makes him a stronger human in a lot of ways. It appears that Baka setting a gold record above and beyond Olympic athletes shows there are many ways to be a top competitive athlete.

The Paralympics are the second largest sports event in the world after the Olympics, but is given much less attention by the media. When trying to watch scheduled events, the Paralympics website kept crashing and limited information of the gathering was available. In comparison, there is a plethora of materials available for the Olympics. Admittedly, the Paralympics was developed many years after the Olympics, but has still been in existence since 1960. The Games showcase athletes of similar speed, strength, and skill — yet, no one is live-streaming the Paralympics at work. Why not?

Originally the Paralympics was founded by an English doctor named Dr. Ludwig Guttmann. He created the 1948 International Wheelchair Games when the Olympics were being held in London that same year. His goal was to develop sports therapy for soldiers that were injured during World War II. The first Paralympics was held in Italy 12 years later and has continued since. It has five classifications of athletes including people with visual impairment, physical disabilities, amputee athletes, people who have cerebral palsy and spinal cord issues and Les Autres for people with other physical disabilities that aren’t listed.

The Paralympic games have grown into a diverse event featuring several sports. The athletes are top caliber and train to dominate in their competition. If you haven’t checked out the “Paratough” website — whose catch phrase asks “are you tough enough to keep up with Canada’s Paralympic team?” — you would see how hard these athletes work to compete in these Games. I know I wouldn’t be able to keep up! It is truly incredible to see these athletes in action and watch people overcome difficulty through the true mastery of their bodies.

The Paralympics are almost over, so tune in before it’s too late and cheer on our Canadian athletes.

Fall fashion #trending: oversized clothing is in!

I love the fall — pumpkin spice lattes, the changing of the leaves, and of course the return of cute boots. It is the one season you don’t have to worry about pouring rain, watery sludge, or below-freezing storms. Not to mention the sweltering heat wave this summer has brought us.

This changing of the seasons also signifies the end of shorts, tank tops, and bathing suits — all of the nice, but tight, fashion styles. Am I the only one ready for the return of jeans, light overcoats, and scarves? But, to my incredible delight, the biggest trend this fall is oversized clothing. That’s right, you can now flatter your body under comfortable, yet fashionable, layers.

Here are a few examples of top trending oversized outfits for this fall:

The Poncho: No, these ponchos are not water proof, but they are fashionable! These ponchos act like a blazer or overcoat, and can be worn with tank tops, t-shirts, and long-sleeve tops. They can add style, texture, and colour to your outfit. Depending on the style, they can also be appropriate for work as well as a casual outing with friends. The best part? Ponchos have the added benefit of being incredibly comfortable and flattering for all body types.

Le Chateau, $89.95
Le Chateau, $89.95

 

The Sweater: Who doesn’t love an oversized sweater? These items usually fall well below the hip and can be worn with pants or leggings depending on the length. If these sweaters are light and a bit short, try to layer it with a blouse or a tank top of a different colour. If it is long, try to wear it with your hair up and a chunky necklace. These sweaters are great for long-hour work days, outings with friends, or a casual walk on a cool fall evening.

MANGO, $309.95
MANGO, $309.95

 

The Suit: Gone are the days of tight pants and blazers that push your breasts forward. This fall business style is all about comfort. Loose pants and a top to match, maybe paired with a belt or some colourful jewelry, will make a true statement in the boardroom. The outfit extremely comfortable — allowing you to move, stretch and sit — and no one will tell you “no” when you are dressed to impress.

Zara
Zara

 

The Blouse: Heading to the market or going on a walk with your beau? The long blouse or plaid shirt is making yet another come back. Simple, comfortable, and stylish, you can’t really go wrong with this choice. Pair it with a single-coloured jacket, some skinny jeans or leggings, and a pair of boots within the same colour scheme and you have the perfect fall date outfit.

Aritzia, $110
Aritzia, $110

The Trousers: I’m in love with these trousers! Sleek and stylish, they take comfortable business style to a whole new level. They generally flare out at the thigh, creating a straight edge look that really works with either heels or flats. A lot of boutiques now carry these trousers — in multiple colours and styles. Just remember not to pair patterns with patterns when choosing a top.

Zara, $69.90
Zara, $69.90

The Wrap: Wear whatever you want, and then cover yourself in these beautiful bohemian wraps. Part poncho, part blanket, these wraps are perfect for evenings. Twist it to create a scarf, wrap it around your shoulder like a pashmina. The possibilities are truly endless. Something like this would be great for cold offices. Leave it at work and remain stylish while warm!

Three Bird Nest, $56 + shipping
Three Bird Nest, $56 + shipping

 

What are you wearing this fall? Let us know in the comments below!

My apartment was infested with cockroaches. The housing crisis is real.

When I tell people my home was infested by cockroaches, I get a variety of reactions. Some people shrug their shoulders and tell me that is a common problem in Toronto and other people shiver in disgust. Anyone who understands the difference between one or two cockroaches and a full-blown infestation immediately gives me a hug and asks what I need. Just in case you don’t know, let me explain.

The word “infest” means “to invade in large number, causing damage or hardship.” To me, it means seeing over one hundred cockroaches climb into every one of my things while I try to get what remains out of the house. It means losing a substantial portion of the things I worked hard for and loved. It means war between man and beast — and let me tell you the cockroach always survives.

The apartment in question is in Parkdale on Spencer Avenue. Parkdale is a complicated neighbourhood, with a population ranging from wealthy families in turn-of-the-century homes to low-income people surviving in dilapidated apartment buildings.  It is known as a low-income neighbourhood with a plethora of problems. One of the main issues is affordable housing.

The affordable housing waitlist in Toronto stands at 90,000 households, despite the failed attempt at building 10,000 affordable homes per year, originally introduced in the Housing Opportunities Toronto Action Plan 2010-2020. As for affordable housing that does exist, the Toronto Community Housing Corporation has a $2.6 billion backlog in repairs. A lot of other housing is rent-controlled, which this leaves tenants in a vulnerable position if they have a bullish landlord who wants them out to raise the rent.

The housing situation in Toronto is in crisis and what is the result? Children, adults and seniors living in pest-infested housing, myself included.

City Councillor Gord Perks of Ward 14 Parkdale-High Park sees the struggles within his ward.“Every tenant is being ignored. Their voices have not been heard at Queen’s Park,” Perks says. “Oftentimes, people with rental control are being muscled out of their units. The landlords aren’t happy about people who are rent controlled of course. They are trying to get above guidelines by allowing cockroaches to persist, and not doing repairs properly so people leave. Then they can put a fresh coat of paint on and jack up the rent.”

Large apartment building companies own many of the buildings in the area and it is well-known that landlords hold much power in Toronto. This leaves tenants in a vulnerable and disempowered position to demand better living conditions in these buildings. Children live in poverty-stricken housing barely five kilometers from Queen’s Park and City Hall.

Why is it that the affordable housing crisis hasn’t been solved in Toronto?

“None of the levels of government have fixed that problem. The prime minister, premier, and mayor think they can solve the problem without collecting more taxes from the population,” Cheri Dinovo, MPP for Parkdale-High Park says. “For example, we have a significant stock of Toronto community housing units in Parkdale. The CEO of community housing has said that he does not have enough money to maintain standards.”

The problem comes down to a lack of funding. It also is the result of the three levels of government passing the affordable housing agenda in Toronto back and forth like a hot potato nobody wants. Many solutions have been presented including Section 37, the Open Door program, Inclusionary zoning (IZ), Landlord Licensing, and rent control. None of these have yet solved the housing crisis.

Part of the reason for the lack of success of any affordable housing program is due to squabbling between different levels of government. The provincial government reintroduced their affordable housing bill Wednesday, including inclusionary zoning that would mandate a percentage of affordable housing in all new condo developments. The City of Toronto adamantly rejects inclusionary zoning in place of Section 37, mandating developers provide mandatory funding for community projects. But, a provincial law states it cannot be used in conjunction with IZ.

In truth, all of these options should be adopted to help obtain affordable housing as quickly as possible. “There is a whole host of tools we should be dealing with to help the housing crisis-because that is what it is- and we are not,” Perks says. “There is a middle line that has to be met. Inclusionary zoning is absolutely essential. It is the only tool that is working in municipalities, but they need to be able to invoke section 37 to build infrastructure. Otherwise, there is a danger that the section 37 will creep into funding for new affordable housing.” The provincial government and Toronto city council need to come to an agreement and find middle ground for both laws. Otherwise, people will continue to live in unacceptable conditions.

When I walk down the street in Parkdale, I don’t see people that deserve to live in cockroach-infested homes. I see a diverse and thriving population of families, and a community from far and wide who have come together to live in a neighbourhood overflowing with culture. I see children who deserve to have a clean home where they don’t get respiratory illness in the winter or feel like they can’t have friends over because their apartment building is in such a state of disrepair.

When landlords try to take advantage of people who can’t afford high-end housing, I wish they could see these are real people, not so different from their own mother or brother. I wish the City Council and the provincial government could stop fighting and see that these are the lives of families that are being played with. We need change now. I can only hope that the housing waitlist will disappear and poverty-stricken living conditions will become a thing of the past.

A bout of sexism: Clinton is not too “weak” to be president

The United States presidential election seems to be a race between two cartoon characters rather than a campaign to find a leader for one of the most powerful countries in the world. The rat race continues with claims that Democrat leader Hillary Clinton might be too “weak” and unhealthy to lead the country due to a bout of pneumonia.

Health concerns have been a point of contention in this election because Clinton, 68, and Donald Trump, 70, are the oldest competing campaigners in US history. At the 9/11 ceremonies on Sunday, Clinton appeared to faint in public and her doctor later announced that she had come down with pneumonia. The media and Trump supporters have latched onto this diagnosis as proof that Clinton is “weak” and may not have the strength to lead the country.

Both candidates have previously released health reports to the public, with Clinton offering a two-page detailed report stating she had previously suffered from blood clots and fainting. On the other hand, Trump gave out a four-paragraph report in which his doctor explained he had “astonishing health” and would be the “healthiest president yet”. Comparatively, it is easy to see which candidate is giving the most information on the status of their health.

Though Clinton has been honest about her health in the past, her bout of pneumonia plays against her, especially considering she is the first female candidate in history to run for president in the United States. Opponents may use her pneumonia as an example of how her status as a woman makes her weaker. If Trump had become sick during the campaign, he would have claimed it was because he was working so hard and has been putting ‘the people’ first.  Americans would have applauded his efforts. Sure, with the campaign in its final two months, this is not a good time to be fainting. But Clinton is a human being and all people, men and women, are susceptible to getting sick. Let’s not play a double standard.

The way that many Republicans and media outlets are claiming her illness makes her a weak competitor is ridiculous. Pneumonia is a fairly common occurrence, affecting over one million Americans per year. In fact, her attendance at the event even though she was ill shows she is quite strong and dedicated to her campaign.

Maybe the people backlashing Clinton should be looking inward and should assess why they are placing so much pressure on one individual to be perfect. Is it now necessary to elect a leader in perfect health? Have the rules changed and to err is no longer human?

The US election is a prime example of how propaganda can be so damaging to the democratic process. Clearly, it pushes candidates to the brink of exhaustion and wastes time focusing on trivial issues. Perhaps Clinton felt she couldn’t rest even though her doctor ordered it because of a potential backlash, which is completely unacceptable. Instead of goading Clinton and calling her weak for getting sick, let’s focus on making sure Trump doesn’t get elected — because then we will surely have bigger problems than a bout of pneumonia.

Stayed tuned as election day grows closer as we will find out the fate of the United States on November 8, 2016.

Headline Coffee — the future of journalism?

You get up in the morning, grab the newspaper (or your Ipad/tablet for your digital news), and then saunter into the kitchen to make your brewed beverage of choice.

But, wait! There is no coffee beside that fancy Keurig machine. What now?

The Toronto Star has you covered. Tuesday, the news organization launched Headline Coffee, a delivery service that will bring ethically-sourced ground or whole-bean coffee from around the world directly to your doorstep. No need to make that timmies run!

For $20, subscribers will get a bag of coffee — good for about 35 cups — from a new single-origin country each month. Those beans are then roasted locally to perfection.

At first glance, the idea of a news organization selling something other than news seems a bit strange. But, amid job cuts and declining advertising revenue, this seems like a brilliant way to make a little extra cash. Headline Coffee is disrupting the system and shattering the illusion — the news industry is in trouble. Despite what people may think, news publications can’t hire employees, or keep the ones they do have for that matter. Printing and staffing a large paper is expensive, and without extra revenue, there is no way the Star, no matter it’s reputation, can maintain its product.

Like many smaller publications have figured out, it’s time to embrace this reality and get creative. Magazines like Spacing are supporting themselves with private donations, launch parties, and memorabilia sales. Sponsored content is becoming the norm and there is nothing editors can do about it.

Cue Headline Coffee: a unique and effective way to entice readers to help pay some of the costs for a larger news conglomerate. It also just happens to target their specific audience — news and coffee lovers. I can attest to being part of that audience and I have to say that I am intrigued by this offer.

As the Star said in their press release announcing their new Headline Coffee, “whether they relax and read their newspaper at home, clutch it during their commute, enjoy a quick news update on their mobile phone or swipe through Toronto Star Touch on their tablet, reading the Toronto Star and enjoying a cup of coffee are parts of their day for about 75 per cent of the Star’s readers.”

It will be interesting to see if the quality and quantity of news increases as coffee sales rise. Will Headline Coffee help the Star stay afloat? Who knows, but in the meantime, let’s brew a good cup of Joe, settle into a comfortable chair with our paper, and see what happens.

Ontario Throne Speech promises childcare and electricity rebates

The vacation is over and it’s back to the daily grind for provincial government officials. Parliament officially kicked off Thursday, with a throne speech given by the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor.

The throne speech was meant to help reset the Liberal government agenda and help ministers focus on new legislation. Premier Kathleen Wynne surprised Ontarians last week when she decided to prorogue the government so that the ceremony could take place. The speech outlined a lot of the Liberal government’s successes and achievements, and presented some of the new legislation that will be introduced later this year. However, it also means that all government legislation that was on the order paper prior to the prorogation will have to be reintroduced. Our Members of Provincial Parliament are in for a busy session, that’s for sure.

The liberal government has promised to re-introduce all pieces of legislation as they were, with amendments attached only to election finance reform. This week, the government will move to prohibit MPPs from all parties to attend fundraising events.

Here are a few highlights from the throne speech:

  • Over the next five years, the Ontario government wants to create another 100,000 childcare spaces for kids up to the age of four.
  • As of Jan. 1, 2017, residential homeowners will see an eight per cent rebate on their electricity bills, equalling the provincial HST. This equals about $130 in savings for a typical Ontario household. Small businesses may be eligible for the benefit.
  • The Cap and Trade and Climate Change legislation will be introduced to the House in January.
  • Ontario will continue to invest in road infrastructure and transit via the $160 billion commitment over the next 12 years.
  • The next provincial budget will be balanced.

The rest of the 30-minute speech reinforced the Liberal’s commitment to growing the economy, reducing the province’s carbon footprint, and investing in healthcare.

With an election set for Spring 2018, this is the perfect opportunity to the Liberals to remind the public of what the government has been up to these last three years. Public support for a politician can waver after a few years — when people realize that their promises are taking longer to fulfill than originally expected. A throne speech and a new session of Parliament may be exactly what this government needs to refocus and get on track.

Either way, everyone is watching now. Premier Wynne made the bold choice to make this new vision known to the scrutinizing eye of both the public and the media. It’s a brave and democratic choice — let’s just hope they are able to hold on to that vision without faltering.

Preparing for climate change: how to make a resilient city

Nature is resilient, evolving and changing over time to survive surroundings. It is time for people to take a lesson from nature’s finest and learn how to be resilient.

Climate change is imminent and preparation is the key to saving cities that are otherwise under threat from rising sea levels, extreme weather conditions, and water shortages. AECOM, a company that designs, builds, finances and operates infrastructures assets for governments, businesses, and organizations in over 150 countries, is helping countries create a strategy to prepare for the future and survive the inevitable effects of climate change.

In a recent report report called “What’s Next in Making Cities Resilient?”, AECOM outlines a set of criteria that could change the way infrastructure is built in large urban centres, focusing on sustainable planning choices. By starting at the end, planners can predict the outcomes of potential natural disasters that could occur in the future and make decisions through strategy instead of just designing only for immediate city needs. The company also emphasizes the importance of maintaining and updating transit infrastructure to make sure that people and business can move around the city quickly. This also reduces the environmental impact of other types of transportation. Finally, city planning must begin using sustainable and resilient planning tools right now instead of in the future. Climate change has been determined to be true, and every city must be responsible and made aware of that fact.

Climate change will impact vulnerable areas around the world, and the coast is at the top of the list. Coastal areas are popular for human habitation, with 40 per cent of the population living in these regions. This creates key challenges for urban planners because of rising sea levels and the risk of flood. AECOM is working with these cities to provide insights on how to prepare for flooding and adapt infrastructure goals to this natural threat.In Australia, 85 per cent of the population lives along the island’s coastline. AECOM released reports that presented the future impacts and hazards of climate change to the federal government. In response, Australia has adopted a new set of standards called “Considering Climate Risks when Managing, Owning and Funding Coastal Assets”, which forces developers to properly assess how to build infrastructure that can withstand the impacts of flooding and extreme coastal weather.

To respond to a variety of planning challenges across the world, AECOM has come up with a Sustainable Systems Integration (SSIM) tool that measures the costs and benefits of any plan by making urban planning more environmentally focused. SSIM measures environmental, social and economic sustainability by analyzing energy and water usage, transportation options, green building, ecology and carbon footprints. For example, the city of Tianjin in China used the SSIM land-planning tool to decide on the most environmentally effective way to build the most sustainable city possible for Samsung, just south of Tianjin. The smart city includes electric car charging outlets and is built entirely on an LED light grid to save energy.

An approved criteria of SSIM includes using natural systems as a way to protect cities. Natural systems include flood plains, bioremediation tools, and using plants that absorb pollution. By creating green space near open water for example, this green infrastructure filters pollutants and helps prevent flooding by creating a natural floodplain between the city and the open water.  A city that is using natural systems is Jeddah, acity in Saudi Arabia, which has implemented green infrastructure in the form of green space at the waterfront to prevent from extreme flooding. This is an issue that plagues the city as climate change progresses.

AECOM is leading the way with resilient infrastructure around the world. Every city should begin to look at their urban planning agenda with the future of climate change in mind. Extreme weather conditions, whether it be fire or water, which will become more common and if we don’t prepare, our cities will be ruined. In the age of internet and mass communication, we have one final shot at saving ourselves from a planet that has been devastated by human consumption. What will you do to save our home, the great planet earth.

Cleansing your new home with a sage smudging ritual

A common Cherokee proverb is “Listen with your heart, learn from your experiences, and always be open to new ones”.

Moving into a new house often feels like the beginning of a new chapter. This can be incredibly exciting, but also incredibly scary. Building a house full of love and comfort is no easy task and rituals often help to make me feel more at home. Each time I move, I have a smudging ritual to cleanse my home and begin anew.

Smudging is an indigenous tradition also known as the Sacred Smoke Bowl Blessing. It has been a tradition for thousands of years in many clans across North America, and I was fortunate to be taught about the ritual from a Cree friend in Western Canada when I was a child.

Smudging has become a popular tradition among spiritualists as well. At the risk of it sounding like cultural appropriation, and with permission of my aboriginal friend, I have also used it for many years. The tradition differs depending on the region you live in. For example, in Western Canada, people traditionally use desert sage, sweet grass, pinion and tobacco. In the East, it is more common to use cedar, juniper, pine needles, cypress, sage, tobacco and sweet grass. Using an Abalone Shell, a traditional bowl in First Nations culture, to hold the sage while it burns is recommended because it signifies water in the ritual.

For my new home, I decided to bring desert sage from a small native arts & crafts shop near Calgary, my birthplace. Sage often comes in bundles, but can be burnt as loose leaf as well. I prefer the bundle because there is less chance of the embers spreading in your home. Find a feather for the ritual and then you are set to begin the smudging. By lighting the sage in a bowl, it releases smoke that is said to soak up all of the negative energy and bad thoughts, cleansing your space.

Once the sage is burning (embers only, no open flames needed), take the feather and cleanse yourself by moving the feather from your feet up to your head. Try to think of all the negative thoughts being dispelled in the smoke to rid yourself of negativity. If the sage lights on fire, blow out the flames and leave the embers burning. The smell of sage is earthy and has an incense-like scent. It is not for everyone, but I personally love it because it reminds me of where I’m from.

There are a variety of smudging prayers that you can say or you can complete the ritual in silence while meditating over the negative thoughts leaving your body and home. I prefer to complete this part of the ritual in silence. Be sure to cleanse anyone else taking part in the ritual. Next, I begin cleansing the home of any negative energy. Begin in the eastern corner, which represents air and the fresh breath of the rising sun each day. Move slowly to the south that symbolizes earth, and the creative inner child within. The west represents sun set and the deep introspection of darkness and water. Finally, end the cleansing ritual in the north, which is the direction of fire and knowledge, compassion, and the future of your home. Continue in a full circle ending back in the eastern corner of your home and be sure to fan the smoke in each direction. I also play drum music, which is believed to imitate the sound of the heart and say a prayer while completing the ritual.

The prayer is as follows:

May your hands be cleansed, that they create beautiful things.

May your feet be cleansed, that they might take you where you most need to be.

May your heart be cleansed, that you might hear its messages clearly.

May your throat be cleansed, that you might speak rightly when words are needed.

May your eyes be cleansed, that you might see the signs and wonders of the world.

May this person and space be washed clean by the smoke of these fragrant plants.

And may that same smoke carry our prayers, spiraling, to the heavens.

After the ritual is complete, I make a feast and have friends and family over to celebrate the ritual and my new home. Because the house is cleansed, it is a good time to create positive and loving energy in the home, with the added benefit that the smell of sage cleanses everyone who attends. Another common custom is to burn sweet grass after the smudging ritual to encourage kindness and peace. I have not tried this before, but may try it this time.

The smudging ritual is a custom that causes one to pause and consider what energy we want to bring and sustain in our homes. Oftentimes, people are so busy trying to move their furniture in and continue their lives that we forget to meditate on how to create love and happiness in our new dwelling. Every new beginning is an opportunity to cleanse and recreate the ever-desirable feeling of peace in the midst of urban life. The peace of mind and renewal that comes from the ritual is worthwhile and leaves me refreshed every time.

Disclaimer: You may want to disengage the smoke alarm temporarily, or it may go off. Don’t forget to turn it back on!