Tonight, I gathered the herbs I needed, steeped them in a big bowl of boiling water, with plenty of salt (of course) and climbed into my shower once it cooled. This was not going to be a leisurely “soak in rose petals” moment. The herbs were green and brown and earthy and some are even bitter. A friend of mine hates a couple of these herbs He says they smell like “dirt,” and that’s probably true. Graveyard dirt, he says. There’s no graveyard dirt in this particular recipe but I take his point. This kind of spiritual bath is not meant for leisure, or beauty, as much as solving a problem. I’ve done many of these before. However, this time I paid attention how I felt during the process rather than just after. There was this moment when all of a sudden it was like a burst of fresh air came into my
body, and it was blissful. It’s a little bit like the part of a workout that sneaks up on you after the cardio is hard and you keep pushing but you want to quit- that endorphin burst that fills the body with pleasure and new energy. That happened, while I stood there in the shower working clingy and thick bits of roots and leafy crumbles out of my hair, salt stinging my eyes a little where it snuck in, clumps of herbs slowly losing their grip on my slippery skin and hitting the shower floor. As it all washed down the drain, I felt like a hand tightly squeezing me just sort of let go. I haven’t always noticed that, and maybe it’s because I didn’t pay enough attention. In some of these events, it just hasn’t happened. Maybe those are the pretty baths with the jasmine and hibiscus flowers, where it’s pleasant but it’s not a hard working sort of bath. I know that the world of spirit is unable to be measured and we really can’t show how it all works, but when it works and I pay attention, I feel it, either in my body or mind. This time, I felt it in my body, and it spread the peace to my mind.
I don’t recall experiencing anything like that feeling in prayer. I will have to ask some of my Christian friends if they do. Perhaps it depends on the type of the prayer. There are perhaps pretty jasmine and hibiscus prayers, that feel nice, and provide peace of mind, and that’s all they’re meant to do. Then maybe there are “down on your knees in the dirt and loam” sort of prayers, that strip you clean and take the tight bands of pain off of you. I don’t suppose it really matters
how it gets done, whether in prayer or in a spiritual wash, as long as it happens. For my part, I like my flowing water and simple salt, and herbs from our green world who leave behind the scent of the wild places in my hair, even as I lie down upon my pillow.