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The Rituals of Cleansing

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The Rituals of Cleansing

Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr man Dakota Feirer writes on the ancient practice of Cleansing and how this ritual manifests in a modern and busy city life.

Dakota Feirer

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My name is Dakota, I am an emerging writer, and a very proud Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr man.


I am currently situated in Meanjin, on Jagera and Turrbal peoples Country.


I acknowledge their unceded sovereignty, and extend that acknowledgement to all sovereign peoples of the land they now call Australia.


I honour the communities that continue to overcome the hardship dealt by recent and devastating weather disasters. These places include my birthplace, and these communities are deep in my thoughts whilst I write this. 

So, in the wake of such distress, I draw attention to our strength, resilience and agency in this time. Dedicating this to the simple and ancient practice of Cleansing, and detailing how this takes shape in my life.


My hope is that within these words, you may find coordinates to your own places of cleansing and healing, for those who choose to seek it. 


For me, writing has always been about my own healing. By pouring words onto a page – whether they be secrets, stories, emotions, thoughts – I always walk away feeling lighter.


Such words lose weight once released into the world beyond my being. Where before, their weight had borne solely on my conscience, they’re transformed in that moment, as am I. 


It’s as if I’m a child blowing bubbles, that familiar feeling of contentment washes over me, as we both glide away. Euphoric at times. 

It’s as if I’m breathing. Exhale – releasing what no longer serves me. Inhale – taking in what nourishes me. 

Though unlike breathing, what I’m talking about is a voluntary practice.


An enactment performed through my own agency, and an awareness that I must release, heal, cleanse… if I am to move forward.


On a less philosophical tangent, I have been using micellar water lately and my pores have never felt better.


I feel my face breathing for the first time. I’ll never downplay the importance of cleaning, clearing and cleansing the skin, nor the products associated with this today. I wish only to encourage a broadened understanding of cleansing that reaches far and beyond the realm of cosmetic reality.


Perhaps even towards a cosmic reality. An online definition reaches further, defining cleansing as: To purify morally or spiritually.

Now I don’t generally jive with ideas of purity. But from a cultural lens, morality and spirituality are inexplicably involved in cleansing for me.


Our Old People have always understood health and wellbeing as a holistic experience.


In which sickness and disease are inexorably linked to all mental, physical and spiritual facets of our being. 

My cleansing often involves a return to places of presence and gratitude, as I regularly find myself distanced from these principles in my busy city life.


In this sense, this process always feels like a cleanse, a return to myself and the world around me. 


I like to prioritise making it to a hill or headland for sunrise, allowing the sun’s warmth to fall on my solar plexus where I can.

Returning to saltwater, or freshwater; making a point of having living water bathing my skin and flowing through my hair.


As well as exercising, smiling to strangers, cleaning up abandoned rubbish, and spending time on Country - these small behaviours go a long way in bringing me into a healthy, gratuitous relationship with the world around me.

For me, it’s part of a crucial process of replenishing my moral and spiritual sense of self.


Now if I’m remembering correctly, the solution from which we blew bubbles as kids would always eventually run out.


There were never enough bubbles. And we can never completely catch our breath.


As we grow, move, create and experience, we are never fully cleansed.


There is no end destination to our breath, or cleansing. Just a constant and balanced oscillation, Exhale.


A natural truth to our existence, Inhale.


A balanced relationship between our deep self and the world around us. We must return consistently to our practice, tending to it as if we’re breathing.

Exhale – releasing what no longer serves us. Inhale – taking in only what nourishes us.


For me, cleansing is about coming into wonder and relationship with the world around me. And in turn, myself.


This looks, sounds, tastes and feels different for everyone.


But just like breathing, it’s something we all must do as living and growing beings. 

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