Have you ever noticed how the rings of a sliced tree trunk are spaced? At the center, when the tree is young, the rings are farther apart. As it ages, the rings get closer together. I remember learning in school that trees grow one new ring every year, but I wanted to be sure this was actually true, so I looked it up here. Sure enough, each light colored ring comes from the tree’s spring and early summer growth and the dark colored ring comes from its late summer and fall growth. Fascinating, isn’t it?!
Last weekend, my 5 year old neighbor excitedly told me about her upcoming birthday. From the details of the party she described to the presents she’s certain she’s going to receive, I was pretty sure her big day was coming up within the next few weeks. But her mom clarified that it’s actually next February. LOL.
In this, we have a lot in common with the trees. When we’re younger, it feels like it takes forever for our next birthday to arrive. But when we’re older, they seem to come pretty often! And unless we stop to mark life’s milestones, we don’t always have a sense of where we are on our journey. Asking ourselves how we arrived at our present self is part of living an awakened life.
Besides keeping the Jewish calendar, I can think of no better way to mark time spiritually than by immersing in the Mikvah. As an embodied ritual of transition, immersing three times invites us to consider where we’ve been, to have a moment of appreciation for where we are, the present day, and to set an intention for where we want to go in the future. Someone told me once that immersing in the Mikvah is a physical shehechiyanu, explaining that it’s their body’s way of expressing gratitude for reaching a new season.
People immerse at our Mikvah to mark milestones and transitions of other types, such as recovery from addiction, finishing chemotherapy, graduation, retirement, becoming b’nai mitzvah (as either kids or adults!), mourning a loss, or getting married. A Mikvah in Boston published a beautiful set of ceremonies for many life transitions (including several zero-ending birthdays) and we have them all here at The Soul Center. Some people come to the Mikvah once. Others come according to a cycle, either weekly (like before Shabbat), or monthly, or yearly. You are welcome to look through these ceremonies to get a sense of the possibilities for your own life. We can also help you create a personalized ceremony for a unique occasion.
I understand that going to the Mikvah is daunting for some people. It might feel too religious or too vulnerable. I get that! But I want you to know that it’s here for you, whenever the time is right. You can immerse completely by yourself. You can wear a bathing suit. There’s no right or wrong way to immerse and it’s impossible to mess it up. We have a wonderful cadre of Mikvah Guides here if you’d like guidance, and you are welcome to come by yourself if you prefer. Many people are skeptical and then discover what a special and meaningful ritual it is. As one member of our Morning Gratitude zoom said last week, “It’s not just water!”
This is the message of the Mikvah: Whatever your size, shape, color, age, ability, or gender, your body is holy. It’s your connection to the Source of All Life and it’s the ship in which you journey through life. Transitional moments, when we near a milestone and can actually be destabilized by it, are often when we most need to be reminded of our own holiness and of God’s presence. The Mikvah is a place to experience that holiness.
Want to talk more about Mikvah? I would love to help you find a path toward this practice. Email me and let’s find time to talk on the phone, go for a walk, or sit on the comfy couches of The Soul Center!
Warmest wishes from my soul to yours,