Washing Hands as a Spiritual Practice

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Guest Author

By Darlene Carlson

Washing our hands has taken on new meaning because of the pandemic. What once was a quick, mindless cleansing has become an act of private and public safety.

Yet, water has always had significant meaning for humankind. It is life-giving. It symbolizes power, grace, purity and transformation.

In the following practice, please allow the washing of your hands to become a new ritual for you, a ritual to open your heart:

  • To begin, light a candle and allow for some quiet time.
  • (Take deep breaths, relax your body, rest your eyes.)
  • Reflect on the meaning of water in your life. What does it represent for you?
  • Look at your hands. Reflect on the love your hands have experienced in your lifetime. How have they helped you and others? (Among other things, you might consider work, nourishment, caring for others and the earth.)
  • Look with compassion on your hands, noticing the marks that are uniquely yours, the lines, shape, color and markings.
  • In a sink or a basin, pour water over your hands. Slowly and mindfully wash them. Imagine the water washing away the pain your hands have experienced. Let the water flow over your skin, relishing the sensations you feel.
  • As you dry your hands with gentle care, imagine you are preparing to hold something sacred to you – perhaps the gift of letting go, one of spirit, forgiveness, hope, peace or love.
  • Find a place in your home where you would like to share this gift.  
  • Hold your hands open to release the gift into your home.
  • Bringing your hands to your heart’s center, slowly breathe in this gift, exhale, and bow to this sacred space.

If you want to journal about the experience, you may start by discerning on this question:   What surfaced for you during this ritual?


Darlene Carlson In her own words: “I am a certified spiritual director having completed the two year training program at Shalem Institute for Spiritual Direction in 2020. I am an adjunct spiritual director at Mercy Center in Auburn, California. I am a spiritual seeker. I have always had a yearning to enrich my faith through the wisdom of a variety of spiritual teachers. Catholic by tradition, I treasure my faith and the meaning of the word: universal. God is alive in all of us.” Darlene also works as a retreat facilitator at Retreat, Reflect, Renew, a nonprofit retreat ministry. Her website: https://www.listen4love.com/

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