I travel the world for a living and being away from home means not only am I exposed to countries and cultures that vary greatly from my New York City home, it means I've been sick or needed to balance my spiritual energy in many of these places. Turning to local wellness and healing rituals when ever possible, here are some of my favorites that you can try at home.
Thailand: Releasing Of Souls
Prescribed for: Making merit and spiritual liberation
Rooted in the spiritual context of Buddhism, this Thai tradition of doing a good deed got its start centuries ago in the rice fields. During the dry season as the wet areas would dry out, fish, turtles, and other aquatic animals would become trapped. To spare the creature's life and protect the food supply, the animals would be carried to the nearest river and released.
If you visit a wet market in Thailand today, you'll see people purchase fish or other live animals and release them back into the river. You're welcome to do the same, but remember that because you spared their life, tradition dictates you're not allowed to eat this animal for the remainder of your days.
India, Israel & Thailand: Feeding The Poor Daily
Prescribed for: Spiritual well-being
Feeding the poor daily is often a religious practice associated with self-purification and self-improvement. Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism all embrace this practice in various ways. I've fed monks in the morning while visiting Thailand and worked in the langar, a communal kitchen responsible for offering vegetarian food to anyone who asks, at a Sikh temple in India.
In Jerusalem for the past 450 years, children have come to Khasiki Sultan in the heart of the old city to collect food for their entire family. With so many rules and regulation in the U.S., it's a bit harder to cook at home and offer your extra food to the poor, but with charities in every city fighting to erase hunger, you can find many great ways to pitch in.
Egypt, Morocco & Turkey: Hammam
Prescribed for: Purification, relaxation, skin exfoliation, socialization
Islamic hammams, those we've come to know as Turkish baths, have their roots in religious purification rituals. A traditional hammam is constructed of three interconnected rooms, a large domed room with glass windows and a central slab of marble with running water, a warm room, and a cool room. Separated into men's and women's quarters, you start with a full body exfoliation, have your hair and body washed in the second room, and end the treatment in the cool room with tea and relaxation. Many spas in the U.S. have opened areas that resemble traditional hammams, but for the real thing, you'll need to book a flight across the pond.
China, Egypt & Vietnam: Fire Cupping Therapy
Prescribed for: Allergies, common cold, inflammation, muscle tension, respiratory issues
Cupping, an Eastern medicine form of healing, has shown up in Western spa treatments lately. A back body therapy, the practitioner lights a piece of cotton and places it inside a small glass container to remove all the oxygen. The container is then applied to your bare skin, where suction is created as the air cools. I was first introduced to cupping after contracting a cough while traveling during the winter season in Vietnam. After one intense treatment, my cough started to subside and my lungs began to clear up.
Canada & The United States: Sage Smudging
Prescribed for: Energy clearing, protection, purification
If you've moved into a new place, have had an argument in your home, or are beginning a new ritual or practice, you might want to consider smudging the physical space or yourself with sage. This Native American ceremonial ritual of burning sage is used to cleanse the air and protect your spiritual well-being.
Open a window or door and light the sage so it creates a thick smoke. Then offer the sage to the four directions asking for a blessing or protection. Next fan the smoke over yourself or the space you wish to clear drawing out all the negative energy. Be sure you end your smudging ritual at the door or window inviting all negative energy you just cleared to leave.
Argentina, Europe & The United States: Activated Charcoal
Prescribed for: Diarrhea, food poisoning, gas, indigestion
Activated charcoal is included in WHO's list of essential medicines; a list of medicines for basic health care. This power has been used as an antidote to poising for centuries. If you've ever been rushed to the emergency room after consuming a poisonous liquid, you may have been given an activated charcoal drink instead of having your stomach pumped.
I was first introduced to this home remedy in a chewable tablet form in Argentina after I contracted food poising. It worked so well that it is now a staple in my suitcase and medicine cabinet. If I ever feel an upset stomach or indigestion come on due to something I've consumed, I take a few charcoal tablets and ward off any further sickness.
Prescribed for: Alzheimer's, arthritis, cancer fighting properties, inflammatory issues
Jamu's history has been traced back to the Indonesian island of Java. Influenced by Ayurveda, this mixture of herbal medicine is made from roots, bark, flowers, seeds, leaves, and honey along with ginger and turmeric for their antioxidant benefits. Served hot and passed down through generations, you can find women selling Jamu throughout the streets of Indonesia. If you don't have plans to visit Indonesia anytime soon, there are various home recipes that you can try in your own kitchen.