Cleanse Your Heart

Foot Washing, Confession and Smudging

Last week I received an invitation to attend my first foot washing service. Don’t you just light up when a spiritual/personal growth opportunity knocks on your door? I stepped away from religion to find God 18 years ago making this even more of an adventure.  The experience is still rippling and vibrating through me. It proved to be pertinent in more ways than I could have imagined.

Prior to the actual foot washing Pastor Cliff explained to us how Jesus washed the feet of his disciples to cleanse their hearts of selfishness. The term, "selfish," raised my eyebrows. I’d been on a forgiveness stretch and had used this very term in an apology just the day before.

We go through a good part of our lives acting selfishly and it wreaks havoc. Even if you think you are being of service, if your words or actions leave you feeling unappreciated, used or taken for granted, your motives likely have been tainted with selfishness. During selfish moments we use people and allow others to use us for personal or professional gain.

In order to be rendered unappreciated we must be looking for appreciation. In order to feel used we must have been looking to feel useful. In order to suffer over finding out that we’ve been taken for granted we must have been looking to be valued. Doing something to get something is not giving—it’s manipulative—it’s all about you in the beginning and in the end, or at least mostly when your motives are selfish. We don’t know it when we are going through it but it is the very nature of this ‘use and be used’ thought process that leaves us banging our heads against the wall.

My journey into the realm of forgiveness had been liberating me from the woes of this ‘use and be used’ mentality. It is humbling and liberating to forgive those whom we have accused of not doing a good enough job of making us feel valuable and forgiving ourselves for burdening them with such a responsibility and vice versa. When full in the paradigm I couldn’t see myself as selfish but those moments are crystal clear now. How humbling.

In the foot washing service Amy washed my feet and then I washed hers. During His last few hours on earth Jesus washed his disciples feet and had them wash each other’s feet and here we were. This activity was rich with symbolism. Besides cleansing their hearts of selfishness another message that stood out for me was how Jesus did not expect from his disciples anything that He was not doing Himself. What a great and humble picture of a true leader.

“The things that irritate us most in others are the things we don’t like about ourselves.” ~Unknown. Trying to change, judge or condemn someone when you are doing your own version of what they are doing never works and is selfish. We have to be the change in order to facilitate change. Otherwise we come across as more of a tyrant than a true leader.

Following the foot washing we partook of communion where we each ate a rectangular, dark, yeast-free wafer and drank some pure, organic grape juice—symbolic of the body and blood of Christ. The lack of fermentation makes them each a symbol of purity. We replaced the selfishness that was cleansed with the essence of Jesus who was pure-of-heart.

How would you define purity-of-heart?

To me, being pure-of-heart means to be free of fear, to operate out of love, to be integritous, to be true to the Truth, for my heart to be in alignment with God’s Heart.

The pastor and my friend were eager to share the symbolism behind the foot washing and communion. What a great reminder and/or education for all of us. I am no longer a practicing Catholic but for 39 years I went to church and never made the connection between confession and communion in this way. I knew that confession was a cleansing of the soul and that communion was a partaking of the body and blood of Christ. The epiphany for me was in seeing confession as making room and communion as a renewal, an opportunity for a fresh start—a chance to operate from a place that is pure-of-heart as Jesus had rather than selfish this time—a place that is loving rather than fear-based. We are giving ourselves another opportunity to attempt to see how Jesus saw by partaking of these sacraments. Sometimes you do something your whole life and don’t know why. The beautiful way that confession and communion can work together to help us grow had been unbeknownst to me when I was practicing it. How interesting.

I’ve done a lot of spiritual seeking and personal growth work, studied energy, metaphysics, A Course in Miracles, crystals, herbs and essential oils, meditated, practiced yoga and Tai Chi and so much more since I left the Catholic Church. One of the rituals I learned along the way was smudging. A smudging ceremony is a Native American custom (as well as a custom of other indigenous cultures) for cleansing and renewal that involves the burning of herbs. Those most often used are sage to drive out the negative or unwanted energies and sweet grass to attract the positive, peaceful, harmonious energy in, once all the negative is banished.

Clearing, be it with foot washing, confessing or smudging, creates a vacuum. Nature abhors a vacuum. Leave a vacuum and a new version of the same old stuff will creep back in. Apologize to someone or cleanse a room or your own heart, alone, and it will just be a matter of time before the next set of the same old essence of ‘unwanted’ circumstances creeps back in. Any cobwebs that you miss will attract new versions of the old energies as well, not as a punishment, but in support of your complete conversion of heart and mind from selfishness to purity-of-heart at a pace that is comfortable for you. Negativity is the fruit of selfishness. ‘Revere and be revered’ is the paradigm accompanying purity-of-heart and the fruit is all value all the time.

My thoughts on foot washing, confession and smudging also inspired me to revisit the story of Mary Magdalene. Christ said, “Go now and leave your life of sin.” ~John 8:11 He gave Mary her integrity back and told her not to squander it again—to not act from selfishness next time—to choose Love instead of fear. And he silenced the crowd that wanted to stone her by showing them how they were like her—nothing to debate there.

“Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there." ~John 8:7-11

I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching and cleansing my heart with lots of forgiveness over the last couple years. When I catch myself wanting to throw a stone I am disciplining myself to go inward to see how I am or have been similar. I’ve also been taking my integrity back where I squandered it and where it was stolen from me. My frustration quickly turns to gratitude with this shift of thinking because when you arrive at the Truth, like those with a stone in their hands and Mary Magdalene, herself, there is nothing to debate.

My efforts leave me happy to see where my loving could use a little purifying. I had just, literally, the day before the foot washing, apologized to my ex for a time when I had acted selfishly. I couldn’t see it when I was in the selfish paradigm but from the paradigm of reverence my part was crystal clear. I had also apologized and forgave some things that had gone down between a friend and myself during our ‘use and be used’ days in a conversation with him a few days before that. So this invitation to the foot washing and communion couldn’t have been more timely. It really brought my forgiveness journey home for me. I’m so glad I went.

“No matter how far you have gone on the wrong road, turn back.” ~Turkish Proverb

Next time you find yourself banging your head against a wall—in a power struggle with your health, a relationship or your finances—rather than cast a stone at it, I hope you will heed it as a messenger inviting you to go inward. And next time you find yourself squandering your integrity for personal or professional gain, I hope you will go inward, as well.

When inward:

  • search your heart for signs of selfishness
  • cleanse your heart with forgiveness
  • heal your heart with understanding
  • invoke a purity-of-heart essence that resonates with you
  • and then lead on in your life by example.

Friends in this Love,


For more information on discerning selfishness check out chapter 3 in my book: Is It Loving or Is It Selfish?

For more information on forgiveness  join our teleclass on Thursday, May 4th Have I Forgiven? 8 Checkpoints on the Journey from 7-8:30pm EST.

For discussion on transition, fear of change and how to be the change join me at ZuZu’s Healing Arts in Melrose, MA for “Take the Trauma Out of Change” on May 23rd from 7-9pm.

Heart of God photo used with permission.

This information is meant as an adjunct to and not as a substitute for medical diagnosis, treatment or cure.




  1. Scott Fuller, DC says:

    One could study the gems in this post for years and earn a Ph.D. in Lifeology.

    Thank you!

    1. Trish Whynot

      Thank you, Scott! Glad it spoke to you!


  2. Pastor Cliff says:

    What a testament to the beautiful work of God's Spirit in helping you to get so much insight from such a simple service.

    1. Trish Whynot

      Thanks for posting, Pastor Cliff!


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