In honor of the Flower Moon, our final installment for Mental Health Awareness Month focuses on the body, and includes a step-by-step guide for preparing and performing your own healing ritual bath, just in time for full moon magic!
As we've previously reminded ourselves, we are not our bodies. But we are most definitely in partnership with them! The mind and body are intrinsically linked, constantly exchanging information and responding to one another as we move through the world. Our emotions affect our bodies, and our bodies affect our emotions. Depression can physically hurt, anxiety can cause physical tension, and the memory of trauma can stay in our bodies for a long, long time. One way to face and release those negative energies from our bodies is with healing ritual baths.
Even without ritual, bathing is restorative. A hot bath increases circulation, lowers blood pressure, and boosts the immune system. The elevated heart rate causes deeper, more rhythmic breathing, boosting lung performance and allowing for steam to help clear the chest and sinuses. Submerging the body can help reduce anxiety, stress, pain, and inflammation too, especially when beneficial plants are added to the water.
But when we make a ritual of the event, we create opportunities for great healing and growth.
Grief coach (and creator of our Ritual Bath Soak recipe) Carmen Loeffler has first-hand experience with gut-wrenching, life-altering loss. Her husband died suddenly two years ago, leaving her utterly destabilized and despondent. But, her personal healing process led her to discover a relationship with water that would change her life, and today she is sharing her story and her methods with us.
"I always loved taking baths, but it was not until I needed them to hold me that I began to use them as medicine. I found that when I was submerged, I was able to connect to myself, to my pain and tears, to the plants, to the universe, and to Scott through the water, on such a deep level. My world was in chaos and I would crave the stillness of that time alone with the water. In my ritual bath sessions I have channeled my higher self, I have extracted and released grief and fear, and I have literally purged past versions of myself. In short, developing my own healing bath rituals has allowed me to become my own healer.
"My rituals have grown fuller and richer with time and practice. I started with some salts and a few candles, but soon I felt compelled to bring my crystals and oils in with me as well. Then, on my walks, I began collecting the plants that called to me, the ones I felt would like to join me. Sometimes I add clay, sometimes dried flowers, sometimes fresh, sometimes tree branches, sometimes old flowers from a bouquet, sometimes fresh ginger, or fresh herbs from the fridge, like mint or thyme. All these elements have individual properties, but the most important ingredient in your healing work is intention.
"On a similar note, you can take a ritual bath at any time, but you might find, as I have, that bathing with the full and new moons each month feels extra powerful. Just picture all the water on Earth reaching out toward the moon, shifting entire oceans, and remember you are 70% water, too."
Carmen’s Ritual Bath How-To:
Begin thinking about what intentions you’ll bring to the bath as early as you like, the day of. This time, let’s build a bath for healing, protection, and clearing negative energy.
- Collect Your Elements
First, take yourself outside with some clippers and a tote bag or basket, and take time to notice which plants you feel drawn to. You won’t need a whole lot, so just feel out which ones are calling to you. Whatever feels right. (If you aren’t sure about the plant, please google to make sure it’s safe!) And remember to ask the plant’s permission before you take pieces home to soak with.
Throughout the day, collect whatever you come across that wants to be part of your bath. Maybe a cinnamon stick from the pantry, some rose hips from the driveway, or a few old blossoms from that wilting bouquet in the dining room. And when the time comes to draw your bath, gather them all together with your candles, lighter, phone, towel, any stones or special items you want close, and make sure you won’t have to get up once you get in.
- Prepare Your Space
You are encouraged to make cleaning your bathtub a regular part of your ritual. Remember you do this for yourself. You are showing up for yourself to do this healing work. You are worth this effort and energy to create a space that is safe and intentional.
Make sure everything you’ll want is within arm’s reach of the tub. (A tray or surface near or across the tub is quite helpful!) Consider: bath salts, towel, bath mitts or washcloth, candles, lighter, incense, dried herbs to burn and a safe vessel for ashes, runes, talismans, crystals or stones, house plants, face masks, journal, something to drink, etc. If you want music, line up your playlist! It’s best to think this all through before you are ready to get into the bath.
- Run Your Bath
As your bath fills, cue your music, dim the lights, light your candles and incense, and listen to your bath salts hit the water. Stir them in a figure 8 for infinity. As you add the plants you’ve chosen, thank them. Let each of them know that you’re open and appreciative to receive their medicine. Place your stones or sacred items along the edge of the tub, sending them the same message: Ready, open, thankful.
Before you get in, use a bath mitt or exfoliating cloth to give your body a gentle dry brush. Start at your feet, and always move toward your heart, in big, sweeping circles. As you move up your body, take time to feel gratitude for all those parts do for you. As you brush over your legs, thank them for all the places they take you, thank your thighs for holding you up, your genitals for bringing you pleasure, your flesh for protecting your blood and bones, your lungs for working all on their own inside your chest to bring in oxygen. Give thanks to the body that allows you this human experience, its marvelous fingers and versatile mouth, its broken bits and oddities, and the ways it remains your home no matter how it changes.
When you’re finished with the dry brush, focus your intentions and feel yourself fill up with gratitude. As you enter the bath, thank the water for holding you. Thank it for taking and releasing what no longer serves you. Thank it for providing a space for expansive oneness.
- Release Everything
As you soak, you can decide what type of experience you would like. Feel free to journal, to meditate, zone out with your crystals all over your face and body, practice mindfulness, listen to music, or read. There is no wrong way to enjoy this time you’ve taken for yourself.
I suggest soaking until the water starts to get tepid, or for about an hour. If ever you begin to feel dizzy or too hot, pull yourself up out of the water for a minute, get out and take a quick cold shower, or pour some cold water over your head, face, or neck.
Once you feel finished, gather the plants you’ve been soaking with and place them back in their vessel to be returned to the Earth later with the same spirit of gratitude in which they were harvested. When you’re ready, you’ll pull up the drain and sit where you are until all the water is gone, taking with it everything you intended to release.
- After Bath Care
Make sure all your candles, herbs and incense are put out, and then give your entire body a moisturizer massage, nose to toes. Notice how your body feels after the bath, and spend some time creating and luxuriating in a feedback loop of self-love.
Enjoy the Flower Moon, Sea Witches! Happy Ritual Bathing. :)