Learning to Pray for Myself

By Ceceley Chambers, Cohort 7 Mikveh Guide

A dear friend of mine wanted to celebrate the anniversary of her conversion with a trip to Mayyim Hayyim, so I made an appointment for myself as well. Honestly, I didn’t really have a reason to immerse, although there were some transitions going on in my life. I think I was hoping a reason would just come up.  Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), a reason did come up less than a week before my appointment.

For me, the accident went in slow motion.  As my body was being thrown across the aisle of the school bus and I heard the kids screaming, I remember thinking so clearly, “I can’t believe this is happening!” But it did, and it was terrifying. The constant refrain since the accident has been that we were really lucky in that it could have been so much worse.  I personally am not the type that is comforted by the horrific images of the worst-case scenario, but I understand why people say such things. And it is true that everyone survived and is more or less okay.

So I arrived at Mayyim Hayyim, grateful that there was a most amazing guide on duty who took care of my friend, and armed with the ceremony for healing, I went to my favorite prep room. While looking at my body in the mirror I was overcome with emotion: some bruises were already starting to fade while others were just starting to show up.  In the shower I got emotional again feeling completely by myself… but then I remembered that I wasn’t alone- my guide was a phone call away and my friend was just across the atrium.

When I immersed for the first time, I forgot that deep breaths hurt my bruised ribs, but at the same time being in the water felt so comforting. Tradition tells us that prayers said in the mikveh before the second immersion are more likely to be heard, so I found myself starting to pray for the healing of others, as is my usual habit of praying, but I stopped myself. This was not the time to pray for others, but to pray for myself. So after fumbling for a bit I came up with: “Thank you! Thank you! Thank you God for not giving me any more than I can handle!” Then after my third immersion, I felt I wasn’t done so I said thank you again for having this place, this ritual, this guide, and this friend and then I ended with the Schecheyanu.

After I got dressed and saw my guide, she had no idea how integral she was to my experience, how comforted I was by her presence even though she did not witness my immersion.  Or maybe she did and that’s just what it means to be a guide at Mayyim Hayyim.

Ceceley is a chaplain by training and loves to talk to college students (and everyone else) about God.  She was an intern at Mayyim Hayyim in the summer of 2010 and is now a Mikveh Guide from Cohort 7.


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