01/10: Cradled by the Water

It’s likely that the last time you were cradled in someone’s arm, you were a child. The nearness, intimacy, and safety found in being held is powerful. It ideally is a part of our childhoods and infancy. It may bring up feelings of being protected. Those are the good vibes that are seeking for this meditation.

As mentioned before, this process is meant to examine physical sensation and revising self-talk. Parts will be uncomfortable. Sometimes, it may feel stupid to be sitting alone in your bathtub, talking to yourself. I have felt that way. No matter how lame I may have felt in some fleeting moments, these practices, when repeated and tweaked, do work for me. I cannot promise they will work for everyone, but I have high hopes.

Run yourself a bath. I like mine hot hot hot, but this is about you. Choose whatever temperature is most comfortable for this first meditation. For the first bath, let’s refrain from using yummy bubbles or smelly oils. Just you and the water.

Things will vary depending on person size and tub size. One of the “poses” should fit for you and your tub. Hopefully more than one.

When the tub is full, let anyone in the home that may need you (partners, kids, fish) that you’ll be MIA for the next 40-60 minutes. Make sure you have a glass or bottle of water within reach. Set a timer for yourself. This is time that you are carving out for your health and well-being. This is good for you. You deserve this space and effort. Do your utmost to release yourself from guilt, shame, or other unhelpful feels over doing this practice.

In the bathroom, make sure you have your towel and any robe or clothing you may need. I always like candles. Tealights can be found at any dollar store, and those work well. Candles soften the lighting of a room. Your body will lose its sharp edges with the soft light. I find that people don’t spend much time with only candles for lighting. It changes the look of a room. That changes the way the mind reads the room, and what your brain tells you about the room. Candles are a forgiving light source. I find myself able to be more forgiving in their presence.

Now you’re ready: full tub, reachable water, dim lighting, private time set aside. Yay! Now, let’s soak.

Step into the tub. Sit down. Lie back. Breathe in through your nose, filling your belly and your chest, slowly. Exhale completely. Do this a few times. Let the water lap up around the edges of your body. Let the tub cradle you, hold you, and shelter you in warm movement. Can you expand your body so it takes up the whole tub? Feel the way you fill the tub and the way the water fills the other places around your body. Your breath is steady and yet fluid. It fills your body and flows out of you, like the water that surrounds you will move from your head to your feet. Your breath cycles through your body and the water moves around your body. Feel this process inside your breath and outside on your skin.

At this point, I tend to encounter negative self-talk. I think of all the “productive” things I could be doing instead. I think about the phone calls, the emails, and the chores that need doing.I think about that back shed and how I should probably be cleaning that instead of lying in a dumb tub, trying to feel water currents I created. Given my abuse background and my current society, negative self-talk is ingrained on the inside of my head. I don’t like it. It’s not useful. Changing it is possible, and it’s a bitch. Let’s try to start that process.

As any anxiety, judgement, or nasty-jazz-phrasing comes to your mind, observe it. It’s gonna try to rear up and bite you in the bare ass. Listen to the thought as passively as possible. Let it rage in your mind a moment. That is a valid feeling. It might not be logical, accurate, or helpful, but it deserves to be heard. Inhale, and exhale the thought. It happened, and now it’s gone.
For me, this is a process I repeat constantly. Negative thought or judgement, observe, exhale the negative. I have a new thought, I repeat the process.

It has helped me at times to have a different phrase or idea to replace the nasty-jazz-phrasing. Mantras and affirmations are personal notes we read to ourselves. It’s the short “I love you” we say to ourselves. They are important just as you are important. In the first meditation, lying back and letting the water cradle our bodies, try the mantra, “The water cradles me gently”. Repeat your mantra out loud. Roll the idea around in your mind as the water rolls around your body. You’re being cradled gently because that’s how you deserve to be treated. You deserve to be held close, warm and safe. Say the mantra with your eyes closed. Say it again with your eyes open. Let yourself feel cradled, protected, and held. Let yourself feel worthy of such actions. You are worthy. Don’t forget to breathe.

Our next movement is taken from yoga. If the exact pose cannot be used, invoke the spirit of yoga in general. Meaning: breathe deeply, slowly, and consistently. Be gentle in what you ask your body to do, and listen as your body replies with its limits and needs. Please make sure your tub is not too full, and that you have a towel on the floor to catch any accidental overflow. Slipping is not fun.

From the position on your back go into a slight happy baby pose. Bend your knees towards your chest with the soles of your feet aimed towards the ceiling. Hands can hug your legs in closer to your chest, or hold the bottom of your feet. This will look different for each bathtub. Please modify to prevent drowning or slippage. In this position, feel the different type of cradling that is happening. Your back is curved into the tub, the water is holding you differently. You may feel like parts of you are floating. Breathe with the water. Feel how you are supported and how your body moves with the water.

For happy baby pose, try the mantra, “My body can move with the water”. Your body can move because it is flexible. It is fluid. Your body is part of the movement around you. The water moves because of your body, and your body can be moved by the water itself. You are connected to the water. You are connected to your body. Breathe.

The last cradling we’ll do with the water tonight is for specific body parts. Over the years I have done this with every body part I can get to float. I recommend adventures in pools, rivers, oceans and lakes for full-body floating. This has been especially powerful when working with parts I used to injure. Sitting in the tub or sitting on the edge of the tub will work best. The idea is to let a part of your body float, and then reassert control. Let’s use the leg as an example.

Sitting in my tub, legs stretched out before me, I release the weight from my right leg. It floats slightly up into the water. I feel movement on all sides of my leg. It bobs slightly, moving with the water. The water cares for my leg by holding me. After a breath or two, I put force back into my body. I pull my leg down to the bottom of the tub. I can feel the control and action that I purposefully took. The water moved away, allowing me to regain my power. I switch legs and repeat the process.

The suggested mantra for floating parts changes, depending on the body part in use. For the example above, I’d use, “I can feel my leg floating, and I can regain control as soon as I desire”. Being an incest survivor, I felt like I didn’t have control over my body for many years. This exercise gave me a way to witness my control. I was strong enough to put power and movement into my legs, my arms, my head. I was the only one who had control. I practiced trusting the water to hold my body and trusting myself to be able to regain that control.

For those new to this type of work, I suggest ending between 40-60 minutes into the bath. You will know when the time is right for you to be done. Trust yourself. This is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s a slow, mindful practice. In comparison with most of your life, this should feel slow. Maybe painfully slow, depending on how much you like to multitask. It’s difficult. It’s also been worth it, for me.

Remove yourself from the tub. Drain the water. Wrap up in a dry towel or your favorite fluffy robe.

Before leaving the bathroom lay down on the bathroom floor. We’re doing an end pose, one that I repeat after each bath. It marks a sort of transition between the work you just did and going back outside the bathroom. This is another yoga pose. You’re going to lay on the floor with your sitting bones against the wall. Your legs go up against the wall. Your arms lay open. Breathe. This will change the way your blood is flowing. It will change the way your mind is working. You will shift gears out of the mental work you’ve been doing, and be ready to go back into the world beyond. Take at least six breaths against the wall. Be careful getting up, as you may get a head rush if you move too quickly.

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