….whether I need it or not.”
Who do you think said this? I have long been aware of the saying, but have usually heard it in comedic contexts. In fact, it appears that it was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I who spoke in all seriousness about her regular bathing habit. In Tudor England, the majority of people either could not afford hot water for bathing, or were fearful that communal baths might be responsible for the transmission of the plague.
Of course, the concept of bathing goes back much further than the sixteenth century. Here is a potted history of bathing. This site highlights the prowess of the Greeks and Romans in building elaborate bath houses. One of the most famous and best preserved Roman baths in the UK, and indeed in the world, are the wonderful Roman Baths in the City of Bath.
I am mostly a shower girl myself. I love the fresh sense of being under steaming and streaming hot water. Yes, I know people say that it is good for you to have a cooler, or even cold, shower. But that’s not for me, thanks. Sometimes this can be thrust upon you (we have had boiler failure on occasion, in which case a cold shower is better than nothing!). But in an ideal world, I like the temperature to be as hot as I can bear it.
I do take baths, but I am not a ‘lounger’. I like the idea of wallowing and floating around for ages – candles flickering, incense burning, lights down low – all very relaxing in theory. But after about 15 minutes, I am ready to get out! It all seems like a lot of effort to go to for just a quarter of an hour.
Perhaps I should take some lessons from Japanese culture. I was interested to read this blog post about bathing traditions and rituals in Japan. I love the idea that ‘the tub exists for reasons unrelated to getting clean’ and that ‘the bath becomes a rejuvenating moment of simply being’.
In fact, this fits with a key message within one of my all-time favourite reference works – Lao-tzu’s Tao Te Ching.
I particularly like the approach taken by Dr Wayne Dyer in his book Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life, where he has translated each of the 88 verses of the Tao, accompanied by a short essay to expand on what Lao-tzu might have meant.
This site quotes his essay about verse 8, which, as you will see, focuses on the benefits of ‘being like water’. Here is verse 8 being read aloud from the translation highlighted in this post:
The Tao is intriguing, complex and challenging. To spend any time with it at all is to be rewarded with thought-provoking insight and calm, sensible advice for life. I am smiling as I type this because when I started writing this post about bathing, I did not expect to end up touching on something as deep as the Tao. But perhaps this is where I was meant to finish all along. 🙂