When I was growing up, both my parents burned incense. The smell of Nag Champa now evokes feelings of ambivalence for me. On one end, there is nostalgia for my childhood naïveté. But on the other end, there is a bit of discomfort. Nag Champa burns heavy, quickly filling a room with thick, dark smoke. And we know that incense can harm your health.
I didn’t use incense for many years. Instead, I burned paraffin candles. But as I learned about the petroleum industry, I moved away from that. And then I fell in love with soy candles. Untamed Supply is my personal favorite.
A soy candle addiction can become an expensive habit. After a few lazy quarantine days where I let a candle burn for hours, cozily enjoying the fragrance and ambiance, I sadly acknowledged it simply was not a sustainable behavior. That is not to say that I won’t continue to enjoy soy wax candles and support Untamed Supply, because I absolutely will. But it is a global recession, so I really want to feel good about my finances.
Theoretical purse strings tightened, while browsing the beauty section at my favorite natural food store I noticed a brand of incense called Shoyeido. Curious, I picked up a box of the sandalwood and took a whiff. I pondered the subtle earthy aroma for a moment, then tossed the box into my shopping basket.
Later that night I decided to try one while I did my evening yoga. Although I did have a window open the entire time, the smoke from the incense was minimal, dispersing mere whispers of fragrant woods throughout the room. During my vinyasa, the incense evoked an instinctual urgency to turn down my other senses and immerse myself fully in the present moment. Because this is precisely the kind of indulgent, mindful experience I need in my life, I set out to learn more.
The history of incense in Japan can be traced back to 1,400 years ago, when a fragrant agarwood drifted ashore on the island of Awaji. The islanders gifted the driftwood to the Empress, and from then on, burning of fragrant woods became a flourishing art. The Shoyeido firm in Kyoto, Japan, has been continuously making incense for twelve generations going back to the early 18th century. The artisans do not believe that all incense are created equal. Shoyeido incense do not have a bamboo core to ensure a pure and clean burn. The ground spices and woods are bound together using plant-based agents, all of which are environmentally sound and responsibly harvested. No toxic chemicals or heavy black smoke, and vegan and cruelty-free, Shoyeido is an incense for people who dislike incense.
The Japanese art of listening to incense, or “Mon-Koh,” is a mindfulness practice utilized in meditations, ceremonies or any time one wishes to enhance an environment or have a moment of peace. Practitioners believe that the clearer the mind, the louder the incense can “sing.” The more I “listen” to my sandalwood burning, I can hear its elusive offerings. Sweet vanilla, spiced frankincense and earthy patchouli come together and cultivate a beautiful, relaxing environment. In my opinion, its perfect for a lunar yoga flow under the stars or in a dimly lit, quiet space.
I love using this incense and it is helping me save $$ on soy candles. A box of Shoyeido incense contains about 30 sticks and costs around 4 dollars. A disclaimer: incense are incense, and we should be wary of anything we breathe in. Ventilation and moderation is key. But lately, my mantra has been to “give myself permission.” We shouldn’t feel bad for burning the occasional incense. Let’s live in the moment, breathe deeply, listen intently and most of all, be free.
How do you feel about Shoyeido incense? Interested in trying Mon-Koh?
Get more like this—Sign up for our daily inspirational newsletter for exclusive content!
Photo: Denis Oliverira via Unsplash