by Rabbi Sarah Tasman
Right around the time we were scheduling our very first ImmerseNYC staff meeting, ImmerseNYC Executive Director Sara Luria called me to let me know that someone wanted to make an appointment for a healing immersion. It was the first time ImmerseNYC had received a call like this. We hadn’t trained any mikveh guides yet. We don’t even have our own mikveh (yet!). Knowing I would be coming in town at the end of January, Sara asked if I was available to guide. How would it work logistically I wondered? Sara confirmed that I could accompany the immersee to a mikveh on the upper west side, and that I should just coordinate directly with the immersee.
I met the immersee in the late afternoon in January outside the mikveh. We were buzzed inside. Being accustomed to guiding at Mayyim Hayyim, and having never been to this mikveh before, I didn’t quite know what to expect.
I asked if there was anything she felt comfortable sharing with me about where she was in the healing process so that I could better facilitate the kind of experience she was looking for. As she spoke, I listened to discern if she was in the depths of pain or if she had found some distance from the experience and was ready to moving forward. We talked for a little while and I asked her a few questions. Then I shared with her the seven kavvanot (intentions) for preparation for immersion and a few sample ceremonies from Mayyim Hayyim.
Before she began to prepare, I shared with her my understanding of immersion in the mikveh. I share it here as a kavvanah (intention):
The mikveh waters are not “magical” meaning they may not instantly or miraculously make something happen for us or change us. But, I like to think that the mikveh waters are able to do other things if we let them. The mikveh waters hold us in liminal and often vulnerable places and times in our lives, helping us to mark transitions that may not be easy. The waters mirror back to us our intention for immersion, and the waters reflect the spiritual and physical preparation we’ve done to arrive at the moment of immersion. The waters help to wash away whatever we’re ready to let go of. The waters renew and refresh us, and gather around us as we open ourselves to whatever is to come next in our lives.
I sat in the waiting area while she prepared. When she was ready, I escorted her to the mikveh. She had typed up her own kavannah on her phone and asked me to read it aloud for her. When she was ready, she then descended the steps into the waters of the mikveh. We used one of the Mayyim Hayyim ceremonies, and then I offered for her to have some time alone in the mikveh.
When she walked back into the waiting area after her immersion, dressed but still with wet hair, I noticed that she was radiant. She was absolutely glowing. As a guide, this moment never ceases to amaze me. I asked her how she felt. She said she felt “lighter.” She said she figured out what was missing when she had immersed before: “A sense of feeling guided through this process.” She also commented on how she had never before had a chance to simply be in the mikveh alone. She was grateful for both the feeling of being accompanied as well as for the opportunity to do it on her own, in her own way.
I was honored and humbled to guide for her. We walked together the subway. She headed home to Brooklyn and I took train back to New Haven.
This was ImmerseNYC’s first immersion.