Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The tonic of first morning urine

Right up there with choking down roasted human flesh, pee drinking makes the top ten list of things most people would only do if forced by extreme circumstances. To such persons, sipping the salty nectar is merely the last wretched resort of the desperately dehydrated -- i.e. shipwrecked sailors adrift at sea and desert travelers lost amidst the burning sands. Although inaccurate, the popularity of this image is understandable. After all we rarely hear of urine drinking outside the context of survival tales -- prisoners of war, villagers beset by drought, residents of besieged cities. Equally compelling are the stories of those too squeamish to drink the "waters of their own cistern". Too principled (or foolish)to sip their own nectar, they found their end swiftly, usually in two or three days. If a person was unusually strong and in excellent health (and hydration), they might live as long as a week. For children, the survival time was even shorter. Not surprisingly, in such circumstances our notions about what is and is not appropriate behavior can change abruptly. In the face of pain and suffering, or the death of our loved ones, we find ourselves ready to do whatever is necessary. And regardless of whether the necessary deed is drinking urine or eating bugs (or our own dead friends and relatives), this sudden shift of priorities has the power to transform our deepest held beliefs -- sometimes permanently. That is, once we've crossed the threshold of our inhibitions, we may find there is little reason to return to our previous standards of behavior.
Which may go to explain why, in some cultures, urine drinking is considered perfectly acceptable. At some point in these cultures' development need led to acceptance, and acceptance opened the door to popularization and, ultimately, to ritualization. Thus it was that the indigenous Siberians used their own urine for washing and bathing (see Practical Uses of Pee), native Alaskans used urine as an antiseptic for wounds, and in India and East Africa, tradition-minded people washed (and still do wash) themselves in cow urine (which can be more sterile than some water supplies). In India, pee drinking has a long and noble lineage. It dates back at least 5,000 years to an ancient spiritual text known as the Damar Tantra. Part of the teachings of Yoga and ayurvedic medicine, the practice of drinking ones own urine (a.k.a. Amaroli or Shivambu) is believed to accelerate one's progress toward samadhi, or spiritual enlightenment. Naturally, the spiritual aspirant must do more than drink his own piddle every day
(for more on pee on Rotten )

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