by Amber Caulkins, Director of the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network
I’ve been to the mikveh for many important moments in my life: for traditional reasons (converting, before my wedding), and other times for reasons like starting a new career or embarking on a move across the country. These experiences were all meaningful in their own way and each visit to the mikveh, whatever the reason, provided me with the time, space, and structure (in Hebrew, kevah) I needed to mark that transition.
Lately though, I have been thinking a lot about the times I have gone to the mikveh and not been quite sure why I was going, but knowing I needed to. Not because of Jewish law, or because someone told me to, but just having a feeling that I needed to immerse. A few months ago, I had one of these moments.
Before my immersion, I looked through the Mayyim Hayyim immersion ceremonies and googled different poems and readings, but nothing felt quite right. In the end, I took a few different ceremonies, and printouts of things I had found online into the preparation room and hoped my intention, my kavanah, would come to me. It did, but not in the way I expected.
Last year was a very difficult year for me as a mother. A year of dealing with school administrators, teachers, and doctors, trying to figure out how to best support my child, who was struggling in a way that broke my heart over and over again. We made it through the school year, but, in the words of my child, “just barely.”
As I stood in the shower, I realized why I was there—to let go. I started to cry, and as I cried, I felt the tension that I hadn’t known was there release. The hard, scary, painful feelings that had built up inside me that year—one by one—were acknowledged and washed away. When I was ready, I headed to the mikveh to immerse, ready to let go. That day the mikveh was a place where I found the healing I hadn’t even known I needed until I showed up.
As someone who works for Mayyim Hayyim as the director of our Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network, I know these types of experiences don’t happen by chance. There is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes at Mayyim Hayyim and other mikva’ot around the world to make it possible for people to show up and find what they need.
It’s not easy work, but it is possible. To me and the many others who are part of Rising Tide, creating these types of mikva’ot—open, welcoming, and inclusive—is critical to ensuring that all Jewish people have what they need to find healing, transformation, and renewal.
If you aren’t sure if the mikveh is for you, I invite you to show up. You might be surprised at what you find there.
To find out if there is a welcoming mikveh in your area, click here. Don’t see one? Consider joining Rising Tide to make sure your community has access to this powerful ritual. Want to learn more about the open mikveh movement? Join us November 10-12 in Atlanta, GA at Kevah and Kavanah (Structure and Intention): 2019 Rising Tide Gathering.
Amber Caulkins is the Director of the Rising Tide Open Waters Mikveh Network.