Life Lessons from Bucket Bathing

life lessons from bucket bathing

I recently had a small, then a big, then a huge leak in my second-floor bathroom drain pipe. This resulted in not just mold and warped walls in my kitchen but also the inability to use my shower and bathtub for about two months. It took me that long to find the right contractor and get the job completed.

I usually shower every day, even though it dries out my greying hair and aging skin. Not having access to a regular flow of water was a bit of a gross out for me. In addition, it limited my activity a bit. I was reluctant to do anything which might result in perspiration, like excessive yard work or going to the gym, as it would have been difficult to get clean.

Without a shower, I had a few options. I could have joined a fitness club, one with a shower as my low frills club has none, especially since many of them offer a free introductory month. I also could have asked friends or family to use their shower. Another option would have been to stay in a hotel. And because I live very close to not one but two rivers, a final option would be to bathe riverside.

In the end, I decided to bathe the old fashioned way, though not quite as old-fashioned as river bathing – by using a small bucket, soap, and washcloths next to my bathtub.

My time spent bathing in this way was actually quite delightful. Everything was quiet and slowed down. Instead of hearing the rushing water by my ear, I heard the sound of birds singing nearby and the hum of children playing in the distance. I noticed things that would otherwise have escaped my attention during those moments.

Yet, I would not want to bucket bathe forever. This experience helped me to appreciate having an in-home shower so, so, so, so much.

In the city where I live, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are 175 occupied homes that have incomplete plumbing facilities. That means that hundreds of my neighbors need to, on a regular basis, accommodate this structural deficiency by bucket bathing or whatever method they have devised. In addition, toward the end of my bucket bathing experience, Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas. How could I possibly complain about my lack of access to water when so many lives were lost and disrupted due to this deluge?

My short bucket bathing time helped me to put a lot in perspective. It made me realize how fortunate I am, due to geography alone, and how much I take for granted on a daily basis. I am grateful to have had this experience, but I am also relieved that it is now over!

Yoga is Free!

Yoga is Free

I went on my first yoga retreat in the 1990s, to a somewhat stoic place in the majestic Berkshire Mountains. At the time, I was a recent college graduate who earned little money working at a shelter for women experiencing homelessness. Yet, through yoga all things seemed possible — not just travel to not so far away places, but also a deeper sense of connection to my purpose and desires.

Today, about twenty years later, I have mixed feelings about the growth of yoga in American society. While its now commonplaceness makes it, in some respects, more accessible to people in multiple life spectra through proximity, it has also become a huge industry. Like its sister mindfulness practice meditation, yoga also has, to some extent, become an elitist practice that makes the uninitiated feel uncomfortable and excluded through profuse use of Sanskrit without adequate translation, expensive accessories, and the removal (disconnection) of spirituality or even personal transcendence for the less spiritually inclined from its teachings.

Because I have practiced yoga for more than 20 years, to one extent or another, I find myself on many mailing lists for products and services related to mindfulness practices. One such mailing list, which thankfully I have been removed from — probably because I was found to be an unwilling customer — was a meditation supplies catalog. Now, I understand that there are many specialty items that can be used to enhance meditation practice and that these items aren’t found in every corner store. Yet, seeing all of these things for sale in one non-renewable energy guzzling mail order place signified to me a shift in understanding yoga and meditation as a space for commerce in addition to a space for connection and transformation.

This shift is a divergence from the true meaning of mindfulness practice. Yoga is free. Meditation is free. They are practices that we perform do at any moment, not avenues to promote consumption. They are about connection — both inward and to all living beings, an integration of our minds, bodies, and spirits both individually and collectively. Yoga and meditation are immediately available to anyone, anywhere, anytime.

Good yoga teachers are wise sages. Like artists, they inspire beauty, bring out the best in us, and build community. We should support them, including with our precious resources, because they add value to our lives. We should also support people who create safe spaces for us to practice yoga and meditation. And yes, we should support the companies that provide products and services to complement our practice. We can practice awareness by noticing when we use our mindfulness practices as opportunities to overconsume and the ways that we unintentionally exclude people, people who might so greatly benefit from this knowledge and participation, by how we talk about and present opportunities to practice yoga and meditation. The intent of yoga and meditation has traditionally been to unite, not to divide.

Like punk rock, all good things eventually become commoditized. Such was the argument made — not about punk rock specifically but about music in general — by political economist Jacques Attali in his awesome book Noise: The Political Economy of Music. We can resist this tendency by focusing on what is most important to our yoga and meditation practice – awareness, rootedness, connection, unity, and well-being.

Cauli-Mex Salad

Caulimex

When I dreamed up this little summer recipe, I did not anticipate the surprisingly lovely flavors — bold, yet subtle; rich, yet delicate. It’s super healthy and easy to make, though it does require a bit of prep time.

Serving size:

One bowl (invite your friends over to share — you will have extra cauliflower!)

Ingredients:

  • One head of cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup of black beans
  • 1/2 avocado
  • One lime
  • 3/4 cup chopped red cabbage
  • 3/4 cup baby kale
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup fresh salsa
  • 4-5 sprigs cilantro

Step 1: Prepare Cauliflower

Mix one head of chopped cauliflower with olive oil and chili powder (as greasy and hot as you like it). Spread out on a baking sheet and roast at 375 degrees until it is your favored texture (I like mine crispy, almost but not quite burnt.

Step 2: Prepare Avocado-Lime Dressing

Smash 1/2 avocado. Squeeze the juice of one lime over top. Mix well.

Step 3: Assemble

(Per bowl) Line the bottom of a big bowl with baby kale and chopped red cabbage. Next, place about 1/4 of the cauliflower (save the rest for later!) in the center of your bowl. Sprinkle with black beans and pumpkin seeds. Drizzle with salsa and avocado-lime dressing. Garnish with cilantro.

Step 4: Eat!

Round 2 Bonus!!

When I made this recipe, I ate everything described above for lunch and dinner and day 1. On day 2, I had all of the ingredients left over but felt that I needed a bit of a change. I sauteed the kale and cabbage in olive oil and ate those components cooked rather than raw — infusing the dish with slightly new tastes and dramatically different textures.

How to Create a Welcoming Space

How To Create A Welcoming Space.png

Our hearts and lives are enriched through relationships with other people. I can’t imagine living in a community or doing work where there are neatly constructed borders that divide people. Rather, I see community, work, and family as opportune spaces to cultivate a sense of togetherness and shared destiny.

If you, too, would like to create welcoming spaces where all people feel safe, comfortable, and free to be themselves, here are a few ideas:

Open the Door to friendship and peace by inviting others into your space.

Set the Table by preparing a feast to generously share your abundance with others.

Create the Right Ambiance by promoting a climate of openness, kindness, warmth, respect, and appreciation.