There are certain daily practices that we all engage in to maintain our physical and mental health, with eating, sleeping, and bathing being the three main ones. Whether you’re mindful of it or not, most likely you already have established habits of bathing. It is probably a daily act that takes place at about the same time, at least five days a week. You may have a set routine in how you wash your body—top to bottom, or vice versa. Chances are that you have habituated this activity to the point where you don’t have to think about it. This allows you to wander off in your mind and look ahead at what might be waiting for you the rest of the day.
Most of us also take for granted the fact that we have hot running water and rarely consider that water itself is becoming a scarce commodity. While every activity is an opportunity to practice mindfulness, bathing is especially perfect because we can usually arrange to be alone, there is little to distract us but our own mind, and it feels good.
Begin to transform your bathing experience from mindless to mindful by establishing a ritual. Do it in silence. Bring all your attention into the bathroom. Establish a new pattern of washing your body and be attentive to each detail. Draw your mind to each body part as you wash it. Without luxuriating in the feel of the water, be mindful of its pure quality and direct your mind into an attitude of gratitude. (Luxuriating in a hot tub of scented water surrounded by candles and soft music is a different experience and one to be taken every so often, if you are so inclined. It can be a mindfully relaxing time and quite different from your daily bathing routine.)
Each time you bathe is an opportunity to practice mindfulness and establish gratitude—a good start to your day.
It can also be one of the times each day when you remind yourself of the third leg of the tripod of contentedness: spiritual health. Along with physical and mental health, your spiritual condition determines how grounded and content you will be in your body and in your life. Too often, this third leg gets neglected so that our serenity becomes wobbly and unstable. Rather than seek a spiritual solution, we often resort to shoring up the other two legs by eating or sleeping more, which further destabilizes our condition.
Just as healthy eating practices determine our physical health and sound sleep contributes to our mental health, let your bathing practice be one of the ways you confirm your commitment to spiritual health. As part of your ritual, before stepping into the tub or shower, make a vow to yourself to be completely present as you bathe. Then just wash your body as you begin practicing mindfulness. When finished, seal the experience with another vow to continue this mindfulness practice throughout the day.
And remember that every suggestion in this book is merely a suggestion. If you are committed to living a mindful, serene life, you will take what works for you, discard the rest, and create your own unique ways of keeping your tripod of serenity healthy.