My shower is one of my favorite places.
I get to clean myself, explore myself, be kind to myself and relax myself.
I get fresh, fragrant soaps and organic, earthy oils and the sensations of brushing my skin and massaging my head and exfoliating my feet and smoothing my hair follicles.
I get 20 minutes of uninterrupted warmth and intimacy and closeness.
I get to become clean.
The shower didn’t always used to be this way. At various times in my life, it has been inconvenient, annoying, distracting, uncomfortable, loud and disruptive.
But when I stepped into my shower this morning, the first thought I got to have was: there is absolutely nothing wrong with me or anyone else.
I haven’t always been privileged with this thought.
In fact, for most of my life, I was convinced that there were millions of things wrong with me and millions of things wrong with other people.
And because there were so many things just straight-up wrong about the way I was living my life, my trips to the shower were riddled with analysis of my wrong-doings and wrong-beings, assumptions of how other people must feel about me, detailed thought-progressions of how I felt about other people, and the list goes on.
My trips to the shower were not about cleaning myself or taking care of myself or feeling good inside my skin. My trips to the shower were an agonizing trip to thought-land.
Now, I’m not entirely sure how to start this conversation, so I’ll start it by saying exactly that: I don’t know how to start.
I guess I will start by simply turning on the water: I see a lot of people suffering. By suffering, I mean suffering deeply.
I suffer. I do not claim not to suffer.
But I would like to create a platform for us to discover our suffering and shower it off of us.
And I think a lot of our suffering comes from a very imbedded and often invisible seed, and that seed is the thought that there is something wrong with us.
I see this thought creating alienation within ourselves, in our ideas of other people, our political views, religious views and socio-cultural views.
There are so many opportunities to just take issue with things and so many platforms to discuss.
I’ve taken issue with a lot of things in my life, and I’ve stood by those opinions and collected like-minded people to create like-minded conversation to provoke external change, and I found almost none of it to be effective. Rather, I found it to simply reinforce the initial viewpoint, which is a viewpoint based in suffering. It’s like a merry-go-round of people getting progressively more and more pissed off about something because we’ve been on this stupid merry-go-round for too long and we don’t realize it’s making us sick.
I have opportunities (especially in the yoga and consciousness community) to take issue with so many things: recently, with the fact that Yoga Journal is moving to Boulder; with the market and industry of the yoga behemoth in this country; with how other people are practicing their yoga; about who’s doing a worse job: Democrats or Republicans? And on and on and on and on and on.
I can formulate an opinion about all of this and take a stance and make a claim and gather my tribe and say things loudly enough to shut some people up.
But for what? And why?
Those opinions don’t make me feel good. It doesn’t make me feel good to get pissed off about things or feel conflicted about things or feel opposed to things.
It makes me feel good to clean myself.
Don’t get me wrong—I have an opinion on all of those things. Of course I do. But I don’t think my opinion is especially important, because my opinion usually stems from my belief that there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong. And that belief is usually created by the thought—somewhere deep inside of me—that there is something wrong with me.
Now, I’m not saying that my opinion on race-representation in Yoga Journal logically or linearly stems from a thought of my unworthiness, but the fact that I would put enough effort into developing, maintaining and advertising my opinion comes from a place inside of me that is not happy. Because in order to proclaim my stance on that issue means that I want validation; it means that I want to create a dividing line between my teammates and my opponents and I want to either take my opponents down limb by nasty limb, or adopt them into my already crowded team.
And that, to me, feels like getting into the shower and completely ignoring the gift of flowing water and rising steam and scents of earth. That sounds like getting into the shower and spending 20 minutes brooding and thinking about check-lists and emails and phone reminders. And spending 20 minutes brooding and thinking about check-lists and emails and phone reminders is an extension of the belief that there is something wrong with life and the way I’m living it.
I don’t need to clean myself of my opinions, I need to clean myself of the thought that there has ever, is currently, or will ever be anything wrong with me, because when I clear myself of that thought, I am able to have a viewpoint about something that is not hardened and stiffened into a tightly wound and energetically aggressive perspective.
Taking a shower requires honesty—to really become clean, to shave off suffering and slough off all the things that distract me from the gift of clearing myself for no other reason than to create space to enjoy the moment that I’m in.
This is simply my belief—I do not claim it as fact or as a belief that other people should adopt—but my belief is that the world does not need more people fighting the good fight. The world needs more happy people.
Sure, the world needs work. But I think my first work is to take my clothes off and get in the shower and get clean.
“Edna. What are you going to do tomorrow? You’re going to take a midterm. No, first, you’re going to take a shower, and everything will fall off of you, everything that stuck to you, everything that splashed in your face and the air is warm and wet and it smells like fruit, and it’ll just fall off you…You do it, every day, you stand in the shower and forgive yourself and you don’t even know what you are forgiving yourself for and you can let yourself be clean, you can do that.”
~ Elizabeth Meriwether, from The Mistakes Madeline Made
We can let ourselves be clean.
Want 15 free additional reads weekly, just our best?
Ed: Bryonie Wise