The Ritual of Burning Incense

The beauty of a ritual lies in its deliberateness; a pattern of behaviour, a moment consciously paused in the ebb and flow of life. However diverse the direction of our rituals may be, the fundamentals are universal. Although they may have roots in religious and cultural practices, rituals are intrinsically part of human nature. Through their repetition, these symbolic little acts seem to give us purpose, an essential component of staying grounded in the present and living up to our true potential. One of our favourite rituals at the studio is lighting up incense and resins for a moment of peace and balance within our busy days.

Burning resins as part of rituals have been used for centuries, from the Ancient Egyptians to the Native Americans. In the subcontinent, the oldest records are found in the Vedas, using them as fragrant binding ingredients for incense. The Greeks and Romans imported Frankincense (Loban) and Myrrh resins through the Silk Road to use as part of cremation ceremonies and other forms of worship. Resins are formed from tree sap and considered a life force as they bind wounds and protect against infections. When burned, these resins are meant to perfume the air and remove it of negative energy.

Despite being less potent than essential oils, burning resins or incense can function as a natural antidepressant when used on a consistent basis. Scientists are finding truth in conventional wisdom and ancient practices as substances like frankincense have psychoactive properties that lower anxiety and stress levels. Incense is also an incredibly useful tool for focus and meditation and can instantly pull the mind into a calmer state.

Burn Incense to Heal the Soul

To find clarity and balance between our mind and spirit, rituals are essential as they provide moments of reflection and meditation in our daily routines which are usually rife with stress. While rituals tied by tradition and religion are beautiful on their own, there is no denying that even a simple act of drinking a cup of coffee every morning is a soothing in itself. For some on the path of self-care, a healing ritual may be a weekly aromatherapy bath while for others it might be going off the grid once a month for a social media detox. All rituals will bring an elevated sense of awareness, mindfulness and balance to your life.

Burning incense comes in many different forms like Indian Agarbatti, Chinese Joss sticks or Middle Eastern Bakhoor. The Kangri, a small handwoven wicker basket fitted with a clay pot in the center, can also be used for burning resins on coal. While mostly used as a personal little heater, the Kangri is used by Kashmiri pundits to burn Harmal (African rue) at their local festival Teela Aetham to mark the end of winter.

Serenity Within

Carve out a few quiet moments to incorporate this ritual into your daily lives. Heat up a piece of coal and gently nestle it in the center of a fire resistant pot or a Kashmiri Kangri. Rest a fragment of the white Frankincense resin on the glowing red embers and watch it sizzle and melt away, instantly releasing a subtle rich aroma. Take a deep breath and dust a pinch of Harmal and watch in amazement as the tiny black seeds crackle up and dance themselves to a delicate stillness after a few minutes. The musky smoke of Harmal and the rich, sweet scent of Loban are the ultimate pair that purify, uplift and stimulate a serenity within. 

 

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