January 21, 2015

The Art of Ritual Bathing.


When I was kid, one of the things I looked forward to every week was my Friday night bubble bath.

Granted, I bathed every day of the week, but there was something special about that time that went beyond the mere act of bathing.

There was an entire ritual that lead up to it including the glass of milk my mother gave me beforehand, my special ABC towel that was laid out on the rack for afterward, and even the iconic Mr. Bubble carton that would come out of the top shelf of the hall closet. Whenever I had those baths, I felt like I all my worries and troubles were being left behind.

As I entered adulthood, I left behind not just bubble baths but taking baths in general for showers. The former were too consuming, too wasteful, etc. Showers fit my practical outlook on life.

However, sometime in my 30s after I had become a parent and started to juggle multiple jobs, I returned to baths. It was a small, virtually free luxury that gave me some much-needed down time. My only regret is that I wish I had re-discovered the joys of bathing much sooner.

Ritual bathing is nothing new. Indeed, the Japanese have made an entire art of ritual bathing. Indeed, communal bathing is quite common and “[f]or generations the sentō (銭湯) or “bath house” was a focal point in residential areas and a gathering place not just for bathing but for chatting, meeting friends and generally feeling connected to others in the neighborhood.”

While most of us are not going to go so far as bathing in public, there is a way for all of us to turn even our most basic, tiny bathtub into a sanctuary and place of peace, if only for a short time.

Luckily, it doesn’t take a lot of time, effort or money, but just some preparation.

Below are four tips to get us started:

1. Set aside a special time for bathing.

Make a date for bathing similar to setting up for a hair appointment, massage, etc. Merely making note of it denotes that it is something special and goes beyond merely cleaning ourselves. This is a special time.

2. Gather any bubble bath, bath salts or any other specialty items before hand.

Ideally, place them in a box or within reach of the tub so it isn’t necessary to have to leave the tub and rummage through closets or cabinets for said items. (Nothing destroys the ritual vibe faster than this.) Since a major point of a ritual bath is to relax, it is best to make things as easy for ourselves as possible.

3. Light a candle or do something special to signify the start of the bath.

I prefer a candle, but those who don’t may want to play some music or dim the lights. (Some may want to do all this and more.) Regardless, just doing something to signal that bath-time has begun can help the mind prepare for relaxation. At the end of the bath, it’s equally important to extinguish the flame, turn off the music, etc. to signify the end.

4. Relish the solitude.

If you have housemates, a parent or kids, inform them that is your special time and in lieu of an emergency, the bathroom is off-limits. Likewise, don’t use the bath-time as a time to catch up on reading, and leave the phone in another room. It may be helpful to engage in some meditative breathing or visualization, i.e., visualize all worries and troubles falling off the body like water droplets.

While this can be very challenging to “Type A” personality types,  this is the time to do as little as possible. Therefore, take the time to enjoy it.

In closing, those of us who long for a chance to recharge our batteries and/or take a time-out can benefit from a ritual bath, whether it is once a week, once a month or whenever the opportunity arises. Besides being cheap and easy, it doesn’t take much time and can be done by anyone with access to a bathtub.

While a ritual bath cannot take away our problems, they can at least momentarily take us away from them and leave us feeling relaxed and ready to better take on our challenges.


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Author: Kimberly Lo

Editor: Travis May

Photo: Wikimedia

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