I change constantly,
I am my grief,
I am my joy,
I am human,
I am divine light,
I can submerge when
I make the time.
Mikvah is an old tradition where we can enter a body of natural water and emerge anew. I grew up in the pacific ocean. My first love, she taught me at a young age that water is a holy healing source. Wherever I have traveled in the world, I found my way to water.
Now I live in Bulbancha on turtle island, a land surrounded by water. A land where we have built levees to keep her at bay and pumps to drain when she falls from the sky. Yet if I drive an hour to the gulf coast of Mississippi I can lay my body down in her.
I use the practice of mikvah often in my life. I have a host of chronic and mental health diagnoses that have softened me to meet ritual as a healing source. Mikvah has a history with purity, of washing away. I have found profound reclaiming in asking the water to guide me, help me, hold me in our connection — but pushing away the idea that there is an ability to wash myself away. When I was younger I wanted to fix myself. Now I use our ancient tools of ritual to be myself and deepen my connection to spirit.
I have done this practice alone and with my community. On joyous and somber days, sometimes I say these blessings in the shower after a hard day of work. I believe it is for the profound as much as the mundane. I wish for you to take my adaptation of our ritual as an offering.
Be bold: you are entitled to create your own relationship in the now to the ancient.
A Mikvah Practice I Return To
I find my way to a body of live water, may it be an ocean, a river, a spring.
I sit before I enter.
I breathe so deep and so full. I breathe in the life force that I am.
I hold up the sand, or dirt or rocks that lay at my foundation. I take a moment to examine them, I notice. In the pause I see its layered being and think of the layers I am holding that have come to weigh me down.
I have come here not to rid myself but to ask for ease, respite and a new perspective.
I pull out my journal, and I begin to write why I found my way to the water. In particularly potent times, the heaviness of what brought me here feels like a weight tied around my heart and lungs. The kind of grief or depression where I know release must come but I have been so consumed by it that any form of separation is terrifying, for I cannot imagine who I am without it. I will read out loud, to spirit, what I have written, then I will burn the paper.
Knowing there is no separation, no what was or will be.
I bury the ash in the wet sand, I thank the earth for holding and growing me.
I enter the water. I notice the way the sun leaps on the water. In that space I believe I see G-d — I challenge you to look and notice what you see.
I sing as I enter: “water heal my body, water heal my soul, when I go down to the water in the water I am whole.” (You can find the melody here.)
In the water where I am alone from people but connected to the water and the earth, I fall to my knees.
Sturdy in my body, sinking into the sand I say the blessing for immersing in a mikvah:
Barukh atah Adonai Elohenu melekh ha’olam asher kideshanu b’mitzvotav v’tzivanu al ha’tevillah.
Blessed are You, O Lord, our G-d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with Your commandments and commanded us concerning the immersion.
בּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְשָׁנוּ בּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָנוּ עַל הַטְבִילָה
I immerse my full body and head.
Then I say the blessing again and dunk again.
Then I say the blessing again and dunk again.
I sit for as long as I need. I lift up water and look at the world in the drops that flow from my hands. I am filled with gratitude, I am held, I leave the water and thank it for sharing in this ritual practice together.
Use this on your own, examine what comes up — there is no right or wrong. Last summer solstice while in a waterfall in Alabama I used this practice away from my travel companions to release the judgements I was holding in my soul after an intense period in life.
The summer solstice occurs in the month of Tammuz. Maybe find your way to this practice on that day.
At The Well uplifts many approaches to Jewish practice. Our community draws on ancient Jewish wisdom, sometimes adapting longstanding practices to more deeply support the well-being of women and nonbinary people. See this article’s sources below. We believe Torah (sacred teachings) are always unfolding to help answer the needs of the present moment.
What Is A Mikveh? My Jewish Learning
Queer Mikveh Project, Rebekah Erev Studio
Mikveh Guide Jewish Voice For Peace