Water, a powerful and restorative element in exquisite rituals throughout the ages, finds itself front and center in most spiritual rites of passage. Many cultures consider water essential for both physical and spiritual cleansing, and millions continue to embark upon quests to holy rivers and healing springs, drawn to water equally for its soothing properties as well as its promise of purification.
Perhaps this draw to water feels so instinctual because our brains, blood, and even our muscles are composed mainly of water. When we submerge ourselves, we return, in essence, to a deep, primordial connection with the world around us. Through the simple act of bathing, we can celebrate this ancient relationship between water and life. With minimal effort, a daily bath becomes a meditative and mystical experience, helping us to connect with our own inner wisdom.
“Mankind has used water to restore the physical, mental, and emotional body since ancient times,” says Barbara Close, founder of Naturopathica Holistic Health and author of Pure Skin: Organic Beauty Basics (Chronicle Books, 2005). “From the beginning, the use of water as a conduit or healing agent has existed for both its physical and emotional healing properties.”
Long before holy wells began to draw pilgrims or the custom of “taking the waters” became popular at lavish bathing halls in Europe, ancient cultures in Asia, Indonesia, and Mesoamerica had their own elaborate bathing rituals, which often involved the use of steam and ceremonial sound. Both the Aztec Temazcal and Mayan Zumbul-che wove in musical elements to signify the start of the cleansing ritual. In parts of today’s world, including Indonesia, Southeast Asia, and island nations of the Pacific, cultures still associate wells, springs, and rivers with the Goddess, the feminine principle, and birth. Women add flower petals to ritual water as an extra flourish, imbuing their bath with the powerful spiritual energy associated with native plants. In the Javanese bath ritual that prepares brides for their wedding night, attendants first scrub and exfoliate the skin with turmeric and then rub it with yogurt to soften it. A luxurious bath with flowers and petals follows, and only then is the bride deemed purity incarnate.
“Each and every one of us, and every fragment of life on our planet, has an inner and outer relationship with water,” says Nadine Epstein, author (with Rosita Arvigo) of Spiritual Bathing: Healing Rituals and Traditions From Around the World (Celestial Arts, 2003). “The first living cells were formed in the salt bath of the sea, and I love imagining the blood that flows within us as a kind of internal sea. We are beings of water on a planet that is distinguished by its possession of water, the rushing waters that the early Jews called ‘living waters’ or mayyim hayyim.”
Ritual and renewal
You can connect with the healing energy of water by preparing your own spiritual bath at home. First order of business: Decide what you want to manifest in your life. The prospects run the gamut from the desire to release personal sadness or frustration to the hope of reducing global suffering. Next, establish the mood. The usual suspects, candles and incense, have traditionally been part of many prayer settings, but let your imagination run wild. Create an even richer ambiance by including specific music, scents, symbols, and images that resonate with your concept of the divine.
“Personally, I love singing and chanting on the surface of the water, watching the ripples of my breath, and soaking up the sounds in the air,” says Epstein. “I’ve always been fascinated by sound waves and how they travel through solids, gases, and liquids. As a little girl, I remember my father, a physicist, mapping the trajectory of sound waves through crystals. The symmetries of these waves were and are a beautiful thing to behold. It all boils down to connecting with what the Maya call ch’ulel, the Chinese call chi, the Hindus call prana. Nearly every culture has a name for the subtle energies or vibrations that exist within us and beyond.”
Ultimately, only the reverence with which we enter the water matters. If we are receptive enough, our immersions can gradually wring a sea change upon our spirit, teaching us that we can learn as much from floating as we can from standing on firm ground.
Although meditation can be done in almost any context, practitioners usually employ a quiet, tranquil space, a meditation cushion or bench, and some kind of timing device to time the meditation session. Ideally, the more these accoutrements can be integrated the better. Thus, it is conducive to a satisfying meditation practice to have a timer or clock that is tranquil and beautiful. Using a kitchen timer or beeper watch is less than ideal. And it was with these considerations in mind that we designed our digital Zen Alarm Clock and practice timer. This unique “Zen Clock” features a long-resonating acoustic chime that brings the meditation session to a gradual close, preserving the environment of stillness while also acting as an effective time signal.
Portable Zen Timer with Chime by Now & Zen, Inc.
adapted from Natural Solutions Magazine, March 2007 by Debra Bokur
Natural Sound Alarm Clock with Chime
Now & Zen’s Portable Meditation
1638 Pearl Street
Boulder, CO 80302
Posted in Hot Springs, intention, Meditation Timers, Meditation Tools, mindfulness practice, Well-being