Yesterday our boiler broke.
And it is unlikely much will change on that front till after next Tuesday.
So bathing has become matter of either a rudely brisk, shreikingly invigorating shower, or a warmer, but rather more Victorian affair – whereby water is heated to boil in 7 or so slow kettles-worth over the course of almost an hour – to create a puddle of water that almost covers my legs in the bath tub.
This process was initially frustrating – a watched pot never boils – but I began tending to other luxuries to pass the time and found something else opened up. A spaciousness. A mindfulness – a kind of ritualised, sensual and genuinely relaxing series of small pleasurable doings. A process of quietening:
Reading – about Biocentrism – another pot
A bit of quiet cleaning – another pot
Preparing candle light. About ten candles – another pot
Magnesium flakes, organic coconut oil and fresh lavender – another pot etc etc
And finally, after almost an hour, and much walking up and down stairs with steaming kettles, i am ready to take my bath.
I think about the idea of ki/chi being about the creation of space.
I also think about how in our culture ‘relaxing‘ is sold to us. Something you do. An activity. Almost a task. Something you cram in between bursts of crippling busy-ness. Certainly something you can buy. A commodity. Put it on your credit card and make someone else do it for you / to you.
Where as tonight it occurred to me that it is a process rather than an end point: a process of undoing.
Happy, soft and nurtured body. Quiet mind.
I think it is one of the best baths I’ve ever had in my life.
And it was as much because of the ritual that held and supported it – made it possible – than the thing itself.
Of course, not everyone might have time for an hour long bathing ritual, but it is sometimes out of necessary constraints we re-discover these things.
And i am reminded that just grabbing for the thing, free from the context of how it is made – the quick fix – the fast food – the orgasm – the high – the cling-filmed chicken breast on the supermarket shelf – doesn’t earth the experience inside us. Grabbing something free from the mindfulness of how it is created, may give us a mainlined short term hit, but doesn’t nurture us deeply, or truffle out its full rich deliciousness. Doesn’t connect us as deeply to the lived experience of it, because the lived experience of it is also the process of it.
And I think about all these contemporary disorders of attention and personality, the epidemic levels of depression and self loathing in our culture and how this must surely have something to do with it. Bingeing. Compulsion. Addiction. Anything with the word ‘bootcamp’ in the title.
I think about meditation and how impatient i have been sometimes to arrive at a place of ‘inner peace’ before I have even taken a moment to follow what ever this thing is that is happening now – or sit quietly for a moment and notice my breathing.
To breathe in.
To breathe out.
‘I’ve paid my money, where’s my goddamn inner peace?!!‘
This idea that we can BUY our wellbeing with out needing to change anything about the HOW, when how we are BEING and DOING in the world, is quietly killing us.
My little bath experience – whilst at first a torture, became eventually a part of what i am learning about relaxation generally. Being impossible to do any quicker, there was a forced surrender (but i don’t have time for this!!) a forced surrender in me. An acceptance of defeat. A letting go. Then the whole thing became about the practice of doing of the thing rather than the end result of the thing itself – and through this it gave me more than what i hoped for. It became a present moment practice.
So, although i may need to be forced into it, relaxation it seems, takes application. It will probably feel uncomfortable at first – even arduous if you are used to a quick fix. But it is a practice. And to have a practice, I have recently come to learn, takes practice. In this adrenalised, high octane, results-obsessed world we live in, it really really does.
The boiler incident actually happened last year, not yesterday. Sorry to cheat that. But this is a theatre blog, after all, so there needs to be some kind of nod to a device of some sort, otherwise i’m wasting your time!!! Anyway, the bathing experience percolated something that changed my practice in a small but significant way. And it is because of these changes that i recently decided to run a little course. Called Meditation For People Who Think They Can’t it is for those who feel like a meditation practice is something they need, but can’t seem to quite make happen.
For me, sitting still for any length of time seemed impossible – like torture – I was so physical and restless. I hated getting anywhere early, (even by one minute!!) because i would be anxious I would be wasting my time. The result being I’d waste others time by being late. Again and again and again.
Nice one, Rach.
So the idea is i introduce you to 6 different practices that have helped me in the hope that it will spark something in you. They are all movement / voice based meditations so you don’t have to sit still unless you want to. I’m keeping it super cheap so anyone can do it and the plan is that it gives you a practice. Something you can practice, at home or where ever, that helps bring you present.
And whilst we’re at it – a recipe for the ultimate relaxing bath please try:
– magnesium flakes: muscle tonic and soft tissue relaxant.
– fresh lavender: antiseptic, anti inflammatory, soothing, calming
– coconut oil: antimicrobial, moisturising, gorgeous for the skin
Hang out in there till your fingers go crinkly.
Notice how your breath moves in an out all by itself.
What a miracle.