Humans have a spiritual connection with water
that goes back centuries and spans countless cultures. Our relationship with water is one of survival – we need it to live. But we also need it for its nurturing effects. From baptisms to the great bath houses of ancient Egypt to the public baths of modern day Bath, England, water does more than cleanse.
Water is a vital force that informs cultures, religions, and personal beliefs.
Today, the nuanced ritual of bathing has suffered. At some point in our journey into a modernized, computerized world – where faster is better – bathing with intention has become unfashionable. And as trends continue to trump tradition, that connection between the physical and the spiritual has weakened. But not severed.
At its core, bathing is a ritual, whether you take daily baths or the occasional soak. And there’s an unbreakable, complementary bond between the physical and the emotional that’s at the heart of this ritual. With every physical, compulsory act we take to prepare for a bath, there’s an equal and opposite primordial relationship that taps into our inherited memory of water.
Tunnel vision says it’s just a bath. But if you take one often enough, you’ll begin to realize that it's just as much about all the little moments leading up to the bath itself. These small rituals, done every time before a bath, create muscle memory that’s also tied to your emotional memory. Together they form a spiritual experience – even if slight or imperceptible – that helps you remember how amazing that bath is going to feel – for your body and your heart.
Harvard researchers have actually linked spirituality to healthier lives and longer lifespans. In a study, Tracy Balboni, lead author and senior physician at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and professor of radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School recommended that, “Attention to spirituality in serious illness and in health should be a vital part of future whole person-centered care, and the results should stimulate more national discussion and progress on how spirituality can be incorporated into this type of value-sensitive care.”
After all these physical and emotional preparations, the gratification is real. Professors at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine have found that in the bath, the brain is flooded with endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin (“happy hormones”) the further you sink into warm water. Your nervous system also calms down, lowering stress and anxiety. Your mind, body and heart are essentially being reset, shedding the burdens of today and preparing itself for tomorrow.
So, how to bathe with intention?
A quick Google search on this now-TikTok-viral topic is both reassuring and confusing. The multitude of articles, listicles, videos and how-tos indicate there’s a strong re-emergence of interest in the art of bathing. But who to listen to when voices of “authority” range from wiccans and spiritual healers to academic researchers?
Just as there’s no one magic bullet for self-care, there’s no single recipe for creating your perfect spiritual bath. Beyond the common, logistical requirements (hot water, tub, and hopefully some privacy), the rest is up to what your primordial, inherited memory of water compels you to do.
There are some easy suggestions, however, that can help you take baby steps towards introducing yourself to a spiritual bath.
- : Intentions.
This is not a bubble bath. The goal is not to get clean. The purpose of this is to create an environment with enough time that will allow your mind to focus on questions (the more specific the better) whose answers elude you.
- : Time. Give yourself at least 30 minutes. The point of blocking off this time is that you know this can’t be rushed. Rushing only serves to negate any beneficial intentions you have for this bath.
- : Guide.
If this is already too overwhelming for you, Spotify actually has a great, free meditation playlist. Find a guided meditation or some soothing background music to ease you into your intentions.
- : Scene.
If you enjoy candles, the warm flickering light will add to the ambience. Adding scented bath salts might also create a blissful environment to help you relax. (Psst… might we suggest some of these bath soaks?)
- : Clean.
Since the purpose of a spiritual bath isn’t about getting clean, you might be more comfortable if you took a shower before the bath. Also, ensure your bathtub is clean itself before drawing a bath.