Tag Archives: ritual immersion

Emerging, Energizing, & Engaging

This is me post my mikveh at Big Lagoon on the morning of February 13th.

I’m no longer lost in bed. I’ve emerged and am full on. The last two months of grieving and mourning have been very important. I truly believe we have to grieve and mourn our losses fully in order to emerge into life again. I just can’t up, up and go, go, go, all the time in response to hard things. I no longer have the energy for that, nor do I believe it is what is called for, from me.

I completely respect and honor all those who are called to the streets, the letter writing, the protests, and the full engagement with protests and responses to the overwhelming waves of legislation, legislators, and folks in power who are transforming, or attempting to, the landscape of our country and world. I’ve been one of those people, but I no longer am.

I’m an Unruly Mystic, like Hildegard of Bingen and many, many others. I do my work deep inside and in prayer. I actually sing to the earth and the water. I don’t just want them to be safe, I enter into conversation with them and I mourn or delight with them as I would with you. I also do my work by cooking for folks who are sick, or visiting folks in jail or at the hospital. I escort friends to surgeries or support them in their times of need. I participate fully in my community and show up there.

I respond to anger and bigotry with love and kindness, as best I can.

I am very sensitive to other people, to all people, and to the earth. I’ve written extensively about my empathic nature. It is very hard for me to be around large groups of folks, unless I am in a prayer space or context. Anyone who knows me, knows if they sit next to me, I will start touching them, massaging a hand or a foot, or I will offer nourishment of some sort. I can’t help myself. This is part of my engagement with Tikkun Olam/Mending the World.

I can and do receive from folks as well, it’s not a one way street. The flow between people gives me tremendous energy. While I no longer feel able to be in huge crowds, even one or two people will make me feel energized.

So, for those of you, deeply in the news flow and riding the wave of information that is streaming in every media form, I offer an alternative. Be in that place as long and as often as you wish to be or feel you must. But don’t be there 24/7. It’s not the only place you can have agency and power. It’s also important not to constantly be stimulated or fearful. It’s just not good for our brains, bodies or hearts. Fear and constant stimulation are not healing, helpful or useful for long periods of time.

We should be fearful when we are threatened, or those we love, or the causes we are aligned with are threatened, but we can’t live in fear. Information is more complex. There is no clear stream of it. All of the media we are receiving is clouded and murky, colored by someone’s need to get the spike in our heart-rates up first and faster than the next guy. Unless you are actually reading a newspaper, journal, or a long, well-researched article or book about a subject, you are not getting the full picture. Even then, there is bias.

So, how do we proceed? I have no idea, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t need to know how to move forward or to have the whole thing figured out before I engage. I just have to put one foot in front of the other on my walk, or make sure I freeze 1/3 of every batch of soup I make so that there is always some in my freezer if someone sick needs any. We don’t have to watch every second of what is happening to be informed about what is happening.

I am moving forward into full engagement as myself, into the next few years. I know there will be more grieving to do, but there will also be more honoring and celebrating to do. Some of us are writing postcards on the Ides of March and sending them to the White House. This is something I can and am doing.

Here’s my post card, front and back.



So, I invite you to take a risk, jump in a body of cold water with a friend as a witness, immerse yourself in warm waters or cold ones, but immerse yourself and purify yourself of the violent and hateful speeches and rhetoric and ugliness. It will still be there when you emerge, but you won’t be as tainted by it.

Water is Life, use the living waters, wherever you are, and give thanks to the Creator and the river, stream, ocean, or lake. Living water is different from bath water, it needs to be flowing, so that you are in relationship and movement. Stagnant water will not do the trick, nor will an indoor swimming pool. If you are unable to immerse in a living body of water, immerse in your bathtub or hot-tub anyway. Do so consciously and don’t just sigh when you get in the water, think about what you are doing. Think about what you want to let go of and state it out loud. Get your face and hair and whole body under the water, be immersed. Do this three times. Then say a prayer of thanksgiving for the water.

The traditional prayer after we do a Mikveh is one of offering thanks to the Holy One, creater of the waters, for the gift of immersion and purification. Whatever body of water you are using, it’s all coming from the same place.

Mayim Chayim, Waters of Life. Water is life-giving in all of its known and clearly sustaining forms as well as in its hidden, wondrous, under the surface offerings. We can find hope and healing in water. Sing to the water, let the water know you are grateful and you care, this helps the water and it helps you. Then when you emerge, you truly will be born anew.

Big Lagoon in Northern California, where the waters and I blend into One.

Mikveh, Movement and Me

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Big Lagoon, where Mikveh and I Meet

I have broken ice on a small stream to immerse myself, I have soaked in a steaming warm hot-tub to immerse myself, I have and do slip off my clothes and immerse fully into the Big Lagoon, or the Pacific Ocean, regularly. I do Mikveh, Mikveh does me, we meet in the

מּים חיים   Mayim Chayim/Living Waters


A mikveh is a Jewish ritual immersion in living waters that transforms you from one state to another. From ritually unclear or ready to clear and ready, from the everyday weekday to the Holy Sabbath Day, from non-Jewish to Jewish, from single to married, from married to single, from broken to whole, from old year full of mess to new year full of hopes and promise. Women and men are supposed to immerse whenever they come in contact with their own blood or seminal fluids before they are intimate. Often people think it is only women who are required to immerse, but men are required to as well. We also do mikveh after caring for and preparing the dead for burial, as a transition from death back to life. The Mikveh is Magic and transformative. Many folks do not understand real Magic, which flows from the Divine and the creations of the Divine: waters, winds, earth, plant beings, animal, stone and human beings all hold sparks of this magic.


Because Mikveh is a gift from the Holy One and involves immersion in Mayim Chayim, which are waters that are alive and flowing (streams, creeks, seas, rivers, lakes, lagoons, rain-fed cisterns that fill a pool and move through those pools back out into the ground, stream-fed ponds, and of course, large bodies of water like oceans), it is connected to the origins of creation and to our origins. We swam in living waters in the wombs of our mothers, all of us did. When we return to living waters, we get to be reborn, re-watered, renewed and reimagined. Mikveh is critical to my life and has been for over thirty years, when I first learned about it and started engaging in it consciously.


I’ve always been drawn to living water and used to jump into any creek or stream I encountered while walking in the Rocky Mountains as a young girl and woman. Because my Jewish education began when I started dipping my own feet into it, at the age of 18, I had not encountered this tradition until then. I still was doing it though, just not knowing why and what I was doing. This has to do with my tribal cellular connection. The part of me that is my bloodline and core connected across eons to a specific lineage and way of engaging with the planet and the Divine.


I try to always do a mikveh on Rosh Chodesh Elul,/the new moon that begins the month of Elul. I always do a deep 40 day process connected to the beginning of the month of Elul, which just began, and which ushers in a time of contemplation and preparation and work before the release and rejoicing of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. I invite other women to join me at the lagoon where I swim, I have done this for several years. There were five of us this year. I’m not attached to how other folks interpret or engage with the particulars of a ritual action. I lay out what is traditonal, give folks a chance to orient themselves around that and make their own decisions about how much or what they can or are comfortable with doing.  I’m all in, when I do it, most of the time I go full-throttle traditional.


What is traditional? One is supposed to be naked, free of all jewelry, make-up, nail-polish or other kinds of body make-up. Scrubbed clean of all dirt. The mikveh is not a bath or a shower to get clean in. You come to it clean, with all your knots combed through, if you have long hair, like me, and with nothing but your clean body, as if you were a baby in the womb. Just as free and innocent as a child swimming in a healthy womb enviornment, you completely immerse yourself three times or seven. You offer a prayer of thanks to the Holy One for the immersion and for the Living Water. There is always someone there who witnesses you to verify that you were fully immersed, no fingertips or toes were above the water line, for at least one full second, you were totally surrounded by living water. You spread your legs and open your arms, you fully allow the water to find and enfold all of you. You are transformed.


I’ve done mikveh without a human witness, when I’ve asked the angels to witness me and I’ve done mikveh with many women present to witness me. The witnessing is an important part of the process. The acknowledging of your shifting, or your intention, of your immersion and transformation are part of the bond to it and confirm that you are indeed engaging in sacred action.


When I am in water, I pray.

As I move through whatever waters I find myself in, I am engaging in deep prayer for all, including our planet, our rivers, and all who depend on this earth. I surround all of those I pray for with love, light, warmth, healing, whatever hopes they have shared with me or pains I try to focus on those when I pray for others.On Sunday, September 4th, I turned 52, this is my Gregorian Calendar birthday. My Hebrew birthday is always two days before Rosh Hashanah, so the 27th of Elul and the piece of Torah I was born with while swimming in the living waters of my mother’s womb was and is always Nitzavim.

Big Lagoon on a sunny day, where I swim and pray.

I am trying to be on a mini-silent retreat right now, only talking or engaging with others when necessary. This is a new part of my Elul practice and for my own well-being. I really need to minimize contact with everyone for my own internal process. It feels necessary to be on retreat after the last few whirlwind months of my life. It is common to fast from various things during Elul. My choices for this month are to work on more silence, fasting from chatter of all kinds and I am also fasting from wheat and meat and entertainment and using my kindle/ipad for books or movies.

I am working on dealing with ESSENTIALS and the PRESENT moment as much as I can.

My mother’s older sister, Aunt Jean, in Florida, is in Hospice care and is not feeling good as she moves closer to the other side. I have friends going through extremely difficult and life-saving/changing surgeries and navigating hard, hard challenges and transitions. I am pretty sure this is always the case for people on this planet, my circle of care is just large, and I’m an empath so I feel these realities deeply in my cells and bones and core.

I am needing a great deal more space and quiet than ever before. I have made a sea-change since being away on my retreat in Ireland. I want to be present for folks, but can only really do so, from my prayer practice and from my own center of quiet and calm, at this time. It’s been an extremely intense adventure for our family over the last four months. Having space alone with Kevin, with my prayer practice, and with myself is what I need right now.

I hope this month of Elul will be noursishing, healing and calming for me and for those of you engaging in whatever journeys or transitions you are in. I will connect with folks and activities, as I am able, from within my cocoon.

In my eleven year old self, cocooning. This photo was taken by Francesca Woodman, 40 years ago, but it expresses my mood right now.
I’m wrapped up in my home, re-making it into a space for Kevin and I, who have never been alone without children, since we got together 28 years ago.
In Stillness and Light,