In honor of Women’s Month, Herbivore Botanicals celebrates the indomitable spirit of female entrepreneurs who are shattering stigmas and breaking glass ceilings. In each inspiring conversation, we explore the meaning of womanhood and the power of divine feminine energy.
During a smoke cleansing ritual, one burns herbs, incense or wood over their altar space, throughout their new home, or over a crystal grid to release negative energies. During this ritual, one will find that they themselves are cleansed as a result, freed from self-doubt, insecurities and anxieties, and left feeling more empowered. The empowerment aspect of smoke cleansing moved Neelou Malekpour to start SMUDGED, a company dedicated to producing ethical, responsibly sourced smoke cleansing bundles.
“The act of using smoke from sacred herbs and flowers to cleanse and purify a person or space is an ancient ritual practiced by a myriad of cultures. It dates back thousands of years,” explains Neelou, who was taught the practice by her late maternal grandmother, whom she lovingly called “Maman.” Neelou explains that it was Maman who first taught her that ownership of her energy is the most important kind of self-care—a now fundamental aspect of Neelou’s daily routine. “I wouldn't be able to run SMUDGED with any sort of authenticity if I were to get too far out of alignment. My self-care rituals keep me physically and mentally balanced. I treat them as I would a meeting or any other important activity and I calendar the time.”
For Neelou, these self-care rituals can be as simple as a spritz of Rose Hibiscus Facial Spray or as immersive as a full-body dip in the ocean. “Energy is real and the high vibes emanate from this spray. There's a bottle in our office and whenever I feel a little stressed or sluggish I spray it on my face and feel recharged,” she explains. Her motivation remains what her grandmother taught her as a child: Her peaceful energy is hers to cultivate, and must always begin from within. “To be whole, centered and emanating high vibes is the easiest way to raise the collective vibration. Only from this state of being are we able to access the subtle power to create real, lasting positive changes in our world.”
HB: What is your self-care practice like and how do you maintain it through your incredible growth as an entrepreneur?
NM: My self-care tips are centered around the mornings because when we wake our brain is like an empty, dry sponge. The first things we introduce into our consciousness are vital because that energy is responsible for how our day will unfold.
In the mornings, before I take my phone off of airplane mode, I have a practice that involves yoga and meditation. I also do a grounding and protection visualization and burn some sacred herbs to invite in Allies and flow.
Exercise is also essential. I need exercise to feel like play so I do activities like boxing and SoulCycle that release stress and are fun for me. Another very healing and cleansing ritual is immersing my body (and my crystals too!) in salt water. Since the weather in Miami Beach is usually warm, I make an effort to go to the beach at least once a week and get into the ocean, especially during the full moon.
HB: What does womanhood mean to you and how does your feminine energy manifest itself?
NM: Womanhood for me, means staying connected to my intuition. It's a state of creativity, empathy and collaboration. Hustling and grinding seem to be glorified in our culture right now and the world can feel competitive and intense a lot of the time. So for me, connecting to my feminine energy is accessing a mode of receptivity.
A lot of people view femininity as weakness when it's exactly the opposite. In a world dominated by masculine energy, it takes a lot of courage and strength to remain confident and grounded in our womanhood.
HB: Who is an inspirational woman in your life, who has helped shaped the woman that you are today?
NM: I have been blessed with so many inspirational women in my life—my mother, my aunt, my best friends, mentors... but the one who has really shaped who I am today is my maternal grandmother whom I called Maman. She is the soul behind my company. Her favorite color was Kelly green. She always wore red lipstick, always. She had an affinity for French pastries (especially cream puffs) and she never, ever said a bad word about anyone. Anyone who knows her will tell you, she never threw shade at anyone! She was one sweet—but fierce—force of empathy and good [energy].
HB: How does smoke cleansing empower you as a woman?
NM: This goes back to my grandmother. She taught me to [cleanse] with Wild Rue to protect my space from unwanted energy (even sometimes my own negative thoughts) and how to maintain strong energetic boundaries. When I was a kid we did all kinds of rituals together and as I grew older, anytime I was in a funk or needed the energy in the room to feel different I would burn Wild Rue, and it would change the mood in the room instantaneously. Through travel and immersing myself in various cultures, the rituals I practiced and the list of herbs I burned grew as I learned more about plant Allies. (But Wild Rue is still the main ingredient in all our ritual kits!)
[Smoke cleansing] connects me to my breath and my heart. It's how I shift from a state of doing, to a state of being in flow. This ritual grounds me allowing space for my true Self.
HB: What advice do you want to give to the next generation of women?
NM: The other day I saw this Nike ad narrated by Serena Williams. (I'm sure everyone knows which one I'm speaking of at this point.) It has such a profound message because so often women's emotions are used to delegitimize us. The ad highlights the use of the word "crazy,” a word regularly used to dismiss and discredit women, and transforms it into a tool for empowerment. This is where the magic is ladies! Feeling. Emotion. Connection. Authenticity.
Maybe we need to stop medicating ourselves so much. I feel people would be accustomed to seeing more emotion if the majority of the population wasn't on some sort of mood altering drug. For me it feels like so many people right now are figuratively wrapped in Saran wrap—afraid to truly connect, afraid to really feel. Showing only one side of ourselves via social media. We are an emotionally shut down society.
So this message is for myself as much as it is for the next generation of women: Be brave. Be you! Feel emotion. Express yourselves. BE REAL. Stop living a watered down version of yourself to make other people comfortable. No one is going to be okay with everything you do anyway so stop trying to fit into society's expectations of you. Men. Women. All of us, actually. No one that has done anything truly inspirational did so by living in a little box. So cry, laugh, scream. Push your limits. Love hard. Apathy is nothing to glorify and we are not androids. BE HUMAN. Feel ALIVE!