There are few things in life that are more rejuvenating to me than a hot bath at the end of the day. The process of drawing the bath, choosing the aromatherapy scents for the evening, and just taking a moment to wind down can be incredibly therapeutic. I've learned that on days in which I'm particularly anxious or worried, a bath using Lavender, Jasmine or Rose oils can help me to fully relax, let go of the day's concerns and prepare for sleep. When I am overtired, and need a boost of energy, a bath containing Ginger, Peppermint or Lemon can leave me feeling refreshed, renewed and invigorated. During times that I have a cold or feel the aches of illness coming on, Eucalyptus, Hyssop and Basil have worked wonders. My time in the bath gives me those moments to reconnect body, mind and spirit. A warm bath can give one a sense of being reborn, and to step out of the tub with a renewed sense of purpose.
When my children were small, I remember bathtime having the same type of balancing effect on their personalities. Because I was blessed with two children barely two years apart, our home was a fairly chaotic one in the early years of their lives. They were precious playmates, building secret clubhouse forts with blankets and pillows. They were also adversaries, knocking over Lego creation masterpieces that the other sibling had built. They were the best of friends. They were the most bitter of foes. And yet, at the end of the day, no matter how angry my daughter might have been at having Barbie's pink VW Bug co-opted for a GI Joe battle, when the children got into the tub, began playing with boats and making 'potions' with bubbles and bowls, they were once again, peacefully united. I could always count on the fact that crying, hectic afternoons would morph into joyful, laughing evenings, thanks to bath time. The healing power of the warm bath became my safe haven, not only for my own use, but as a tired mother, who needed her children to find themselves refreshed.
Baths are far from a modern convenience. The healing power of warm water is universally accepted and lauded. Nearly every culture appreciated and cultivated the idea of bath time as being more than just a way to wash off the dirt. The Romans were masters of the bath. When we were in Italy, some of the most stunning examples of architecture we saw were those of the extraordinary Roman bath houses. These weren't place to pop in and out of for a quick cleaning. Rather, they were a social environment, as much as a healing one. The Romans created vast aqua duct and pipe systems to bring in fresh water, and heat it...decades before the modern, at home bathroom was ever conceived. Bath houses were places of commerce, places of connection, and places of time spent renewing oneself. There were bath houses for men, for women, for different social classes, and for different groups of people. But, all were treated to this vital, and positive, aspect of Roman life.
Is it any wonder that we, as human beings, find emerging from warm water to be an almost metaphysical experience? We emerge from the warm waters of our birth, and both history, mythology and religious traditions literally ooze warm water. The Greek goddess, Aphrodite, is said to have been born of the sea. In Judaism, a female convert must submerge in a Mikveh (a blessed, clean pool of water). For Orthodox Jews, women return to the Mikveh monthly as a symbol of cleanliness and renewal. Christians are 'born' by the water of baptism, as Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan. Muslims believe in the ritual cleansing with water, and that water is available at mosques before one may enter. Many Native American cultures used sweat lodges are a form of bath house, designed to purify the body from the inside out. The sweat lodge was a way to call forth visions, to remove all impure waters from the body, and was 'closed' by a dunk in a nearby river or lake.
For the majority of us, our evening ablutions have less to do with religion, and far more to do with unwinding. Our baths can help us feel refreshed after a day filled with activity. But, there is no reason to make our baths yet one more item to add to our "to do" list. By setting your intention for your bath to be a time of restoration, you can create your own personal sanctuary. In the fascinating film "What the bleep do we know?!", the writers suggest that our very words can change our realities, and our perspective. In one fascinating scene, a woman writes the words "Thank you" in the bottom of her bathtub. As she soaks, the woman is filled with a perspective of gratitude and well being. Whether or not our written or spoken words can physically change our state of mind, this exercise is an interesting object lesson. Our baths can, mentally and physically, improve our outlook, our health and, at the very least, our evening. Even if the manifestation of "thank you" is figurative, rather than literal, isn't it much nicer to focus our thoughts on gratitude for our lives, rather than the idiot who cut us off in rush hour traffic?
So, create your own reality by creating a special bath...fill it with warm water, a scent you can inhale with joy, and peaceful music. Author your own time of grace as you soak, and allow the craziness of your day to melt away. Even if you do not find yourself changed into a completely new being, perhaps just reconnecting with your calm inner being, can be change enough.