(Uplift |Marc Cohen) Water, wellness and wealth
I honor the place in you where ‘pure water’ resides, the place of love, truth and bliss… And I recognise when you are in that place in you and I am in that place in me, we are one.
It seems obvious that water, wellness and wealth are connected. Indigenous peoples around the world have long talked about the importance of water. Grandma Agnes Baker Pilgrim, Chairperson of the International Council of thirteen indigenous grandmothers once told me,
We are all water babies and water should be everyone’s concern… without water we all die. All life dies. Water is precious. We need to give thanks to water.
The connection between water, wellness, and wealth is obvious if we observe our language. A ‘well’ is a natural water source: Being ‘well’ means expressing your true nature: And we all want to be ‘Wellthy.’ Furthermore, our metabolism produces around a glass of pure water every day as a product of cellular respiration. There is literally a ‘well’ in our being.
Water is a special substance
Water is mysterious and mystical. There are dozens of scientific anomalies of water that we still do not fully understand and while water is the third most abundant substances in the universe, the universe is not very wet. Liquid water is extremely rare and as far as we know only exists on planets in the ‘Goldilocks Zone’, which is the range of orbits around a star that is not too hot and not too cold, so that water can exist in the liquid state.
If liquid water is rare, then fresh liquid water is even rarer. If the Earth were shrunk to the size of a basketball, then all Earth’s water would be no bigger than a ping pong ball. Yet, most of this is salty ocean water so all the Earth’s fresh water would be no larger than a small marble. The vast majority of this fresh water, however, is either locked up in the ground or frozen in ice caps, making the amount of liquid fresh water the size of a small mustard seed. This tiny drop bathes the world and this small speck of wetness is shared by you and me and every living thing on Earth.
Water is essential for life and literally forms the essence that connects us all to each other and to all life on Earth. In a very real sense, we are water. While we may be ⅔ water by volume, if we count our molecules then 99 out of every hundred are water. Water molecules are tiny and bathe all other organic molecules. The reason we don’t end up as a puddle on the floor is that living water is a special kind of structured water. The special kind of water making up our bodies is called Exclusion Zone water, which is a gel form of water that forms at barriers or interfaces.
Hot springs: the source of life
The first exclusion zone water is likely to have formed at geothermal springs at the bottom of the ocean where the hottest water on Earth, laden with minerals vented from hot springs, mixed with the coldest, densest water that sank to the ocean depths. Such hot springs were the birthplace of life. Hot springs are still responsible for maintaining life on Earth. It is at hydrothermal vents at the bottom of the oceans where nutrients are generated that feed phytoplankton to produce the bulk of the world’s oxygen and form the foundation for the global food chain.
Hot springs are the innovation hubs of life and the most diverse living environments on Earth. Hot spring environments exhibit a wide range of temperatures, pressures, dissolved minerals and physical properties that give rise to a wealth of biodiversity in the form of extremophile (extreme-loving) bacteria. Without these bacteria, there would be no modern biotech industry because enzymes used for DNA sequencing come from extremophile bacteria discovered in hot springs at Yellowstone Park.
As well as producing food for the global biosphere, hot springs have always played a critical role in establishing human settlements. Hot springs dissolve and bring up precious metals from deep in the Earth, and lay them down in available deposits of silver, copper, gold and other minerals then used for human industry. Perhaps most importantly, bathing in natural hot springs is revered by all peoples and cultures as a source of health, wealth and rejuvenation. The Romans colonised Europe from one bath town to the next and the word ‘spa’ comes from the Latin term ‘salus per aqua’ or ‘health through water.’ Hot springs also form the basis for the oldest and most sustainable place-based human enterprise with two Japanese Onsen operating continuously for more than 1300 years and one being operated by the same family for 52 generations.
Bathing is essential for everyone
Bathing is a vitally important activity that is often taken for granted. Bathing is a fun, pleasurable, peaceful, social, multicultural and multigenerational activity that forms a common link across diverse cultural, religious and spiritual traditions and plays a critical role in ensuring good health, dignity, confidence, and comfort. Bathing is not only important for looking and feeling good. Bathing includes sanitary practices such as washing the body, face, and hair, along with hand-washing and cleansing practices after toileting and menstruation that play a vital role in preventing and controlling human disease.
In addition to the benefits of personal and public hygiene, bathing can be highly therapeutic. Bathing in different minerals and water of different temperatures has profound physiological and psychological effects. Bathing in warm water allows greater relaxation than any other activity, as water supports our body weight and lets us maintain our body temperature without effort, thereby allowing us to relax our gravity-defying muscles, find balance and connect to our essence through actively doing nothing.
In addition to fostering deep relaxation, bathing can also provide exposure to extremes of hot and cold that is under our conscious control and allows us to explore and expand our physiological and psychological resilience. Practises such as saunas and ice bathing give our adaptive systems a workout that helps to gently expand our comfort zone and discover our willingness to tolerate discomfort.
Can we bathe the world in love and water?
While most people in the developed world have access to a shower and bathe daily, access to bathing remains one of the World’s most critical health issues. One-third of the Earth’s population does not have access to bathing water and therefore cannot adequately attend to their urine, feces and menstrual blood. These are the poorest people in the World and include the nearly one billion people without access to clean drinking water and the 2.4 billion people who lack access to bathing water. It also includes most of the 2.4 billion people who suffer from tuberculosis and other endemic diseases.
Every day, nearly one thousand children die from a water-related disease and every day mostly women and girls spend two-hundred-million hours simply gathering water. Think of how else this time could be used. Access to water has a major impact on the health and future prospects of these people. To them, water is time, education and hope.
It seems obvious that a world of wellness is possible when everyone can bathe. This vital cause is gaining more and more traction. If you feel inspired to participate you can show you care by signing the United Nations’ petition to endorse June 22nd as World Bathing Day. This also supports the Bathe the World Foundation, which is working to raise funds to provide bathing water for the World’s poor.
Bathing is the cheapest, most potent and most accessible health intervention on Earth. No other health intervention compares to bathing and the simple provision of bathing offers global health benefits that exceed the health benefits of any pharmaceutical, vaccine, or other medical technologies.
We have enough technology, resources and wealth to provide water for all. We simply need to engage the global community and muster the awareness, governmental will and entrepreneurial prowess to address this critical issue.
Bathing in heat
Exposure to heat through sauna bathing has many health benefits. Sitting in a sauna provides a cardiovascular workout comparable to moderate exercise and has been shown to be beneficial for people with heart failure and other medical conditions. During sauna bathing your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and your blood vessels open increasing blood flow in a similar way to aerobic exercise, however, unlike exercise, during sauna bathing your muscles are not building up metabolic waste products, so instead of creating more waste, sauna bathing help flush waste products from your system. Furthermore, the sweat induced by sauna bathing provides a channel of detoxification for a range of toxic chemicals and serves to cleanse your skin from the inside out. While sauna bathing has similar cardiovascular effects to aerobic exercise, it can be done while sitting and socializing and regular sauna-bathing is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and overall mortality.
Bathing in cold
A traditional part of sauna-bathing in Scandinavian and Baltic countries is alternating time in the sauna with immersion in cold water. There is growing research to suggest that cold-water immersion has many of its own health benefits. The advent of modern cryo-saunas with liquid nitrogen-cooled air as cold as minus 170 Centigrade is promoted for its benefits that include anti-aging effects, weight loss detoxification, boosting metabolism, increasing endorphins, relief from pain and inflammation, improving muscle repair and recovery and elevating physical and mental well-being. These benefits also occur with ice water bathing, which may feel even colder than a cryo-sauna due to the fact that water is 25 times more conductive than air.
Every first-aider knows that the application of cold reduces the pain and inflammation of bruises and sprains and ice bathing is often used by elite athletes to enhance recovery. There are also additional benefits of ice-bathing. My PhD student Lauren Burns, who is an Olympic Gold Medalist in taekwondo, recently found that while world champion athletes regularly took ice baths, they felt the benefits were more from the forced mindfulness they induce rather than enhanced recovery.
Ice bathing certainly has profound psychological and physiological effects. The benefits of cold-water swimming are recognized around the world by ‘icebergers’, groups of people who swim in the ocean all year round, often in near-freezing conditions, and claim this enhances their health so they seldom get sick.
Acting on the decision to immerse yourself in ice water allows you to practice being relaxed in an uncomfortable situation and helps you practice overcoming procrastination. The forced hyperventilation that occurs with ice water immersion also reproduces the breathing pattern and body chemistry of anxiety and panic, yet if the extent of immersion is under full voluntary control, it is possible to use this to practice overcoming anxiety and build psychological resilience. This must be practised slowly and with supervision.
The physical effects of cold-water immersion provide further health benefits. Cold-water immersion induces peripheral vasoconstriction. This exercises the 100,000 kilometers of smooth muscle-lined blood vessels that are not normally under voluntary control. This has the effect of flushing the internal organs with blood by channeling extra blood into the body’s core. Regular cold-water exposure may also serve to induce the production of ‘brown fat’, which is a specialized form of fat that sits around the heart and great vessels and contain ‘thermogenically decoupled mitochondria’ that metabolize normal white fat to produce heat that warms the blood and maintains body temperature in cold conditions.
The benefits of hot and cold exposure are exemplified by Ian Flemming’s James Bond who has ‘Scotch Showers’ every morning, which involve taking a hot shower followed by an icy-cold shower. Thus, James Bond regularly practices being comfortable in an uncomfortable situation and therefore bolsters his ability to remain calm in the midst of chaos. In a similar way taking cold showers in the morning allow you to practice overcoming procrastination and this may carry over to your everyday life when it comes to making a decision to have a difficult conversation or do some other unpleasant task.
The benefits of hot and cold showers were recently confirmed by a study of over 3000 people who were randomized to have either a hot shower alone or a hot shower followed by either a 30, 60 or 90 second 14-degree cold shower every morning for a month. After a month, the cold shower group were found to have had 29% less sick days regardless of the length of time of the cold shower. This may be because even after 30 seconds, the spontaneous urge to hyperventilate driven by the fight and flight response is overcome by the body’s relaxation response, which is then bolstered.
It is clear that taking cold showers can make you happy and healthy, yet while a small minority of people say they take regular cold showers and that this makes them feel alive and helps prevent illness, the vast majority of people say they are not ‘cold-water people’ and can’t tolerate the cold. For these people, I propose a playful song and dance routine called the Cold Water Hokey Pokey to help make cold showers more comfortable.
Here’s how you do it.
Start with a hot shower so that your blood vessels are dilated and filled with warm blood. You then turn up the heat so your whole body feels flushed and then step back, turn the hot water off, turn the cold water fully on and:
Wet your left foot and leg
Then your right foot and leg
Wet one hand and arm
And the other hand and arm
Continue breathing calmly
And smile to yourself
That’s what it’s all about
Put your left side in
Put your right side in
Put your front side in
Then turn yourself around
Put your whole head in
Move your head around
Stand still and get a drenching
Slowly turn yourself around
Ooh Hokey Pokey (direct cold water on your groin)
Ooh Hokey Pokey (direct cold water on your kidneys)
Ooh Hokey Pokey (direct cold water on your armpits)
That’s what it’s all about
Next time you take a shower because cold showers are a great way to start your day and if you’re going to stand under a cold shower you may as well sing and dance and have fun in the distraction while you do it. The Cold Water Hokey Pokey takes less than two minutes and it will have you start your day singing, dancing, and feeling exhilarated with the determination to accomplish anything.
Let’s dive into water awareness…
When you are next in the shower, bath or even hot tub, offer energetic support by sending a blessing of saturated hope to all beings on the planet. Say a gratitude prayer for the luxury and gift of water. Just by bringing awareness to the sanctity of water we can inspire a global shift in H2O hope.
Many fresh water blessings to you all.
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