The Power of Water
Updated: Dec 17, 2020
The multifaceted nature of water to heal, cleanse and teach us...
I remember hot summer days spent on Hampstead Heath – the murmuring sway of the long grasses in the breeze, and the viscous golden light of the late afternoon. I would march steadfastly towards the ponds, towel in hand, swimsuit on underneath, and think of the sweet surrender I would experience when my body was plunged into the inky waters. The journey from South West London was arduous, but it was a pilgrimage of sorts; a precious and sacred ritual.
My yearning to be in water that was wild ran deep. A pool just was not the same. No, I wanted wild water, pure water, untamed and untarnished, amidst the bulrushes and the birds, beneath a silver summer’s moon hung aloft the bright blue sky. To be at one with that kind of water gave me ineffable nourishment. It was a baptism. Each time I went I would become immersed in the sort of bracing presence that I rarely found elsewhere in the city.
As humans, our connection to water is ancient and primal. It is of the essence. The ocean is the watery womb whence we all came; the very origin of life. Great creatrix of unfathomable power and profound placidity, the bodies of water that comprise the majority of the Earth’s surface are an ever-present reminder to us of the miracle that is our existence.
Water yields. It capacitates us, it holds us – it cleanses us of our impurities. Whether that be the dust from a day’s living, or the emotional debris gathered over a lifetime. It brings us back to the source. Water hardens, as in the vast ice-caps of the poles, and the gargantuan glaciers of Greenland. In its icy incarnation it moves slowly – creaking and sliding through valleys, and down mountain crests. In this form, water reminds us to anchor ourselves – it reminds us of our capacity to be still and unwavering – grounded, patient, measured – to move in our own time, unaffected by the frenetic to-ing and fro-ing that surrounds us
When water flows, as in cascading waterfalls and rapid rivers, water reminds us that the universe is always moving – that the only constant is change – that we are finite beings on a journey through time and space, and that we must keep moving forward, no matter what befalls us.
Yes – moving, growing, expanding and evolving. Just as rivers carve out new paths for themselves, eroding rock and land to create their own meandering trajectory, we too must forge ahead and make our own lives – not the life that our parents dictate, or that society dictates – no, our own path – for we are all on a journey back to the ocean, back to the cosmic womb. Our origination is our final destination. The end and the beginning is one and the same.
Now, when I bathe in the tide pools, I can see the vast ocean stretched out in front of me; its waves crashing against the shore. I remember that water is the feminine element according to classical Tantra – the energy of receptivity, of yielding. When I experience the expansive nature of water like this, I am reminded of our own expansive nature – of our deep capacity to receive – from others, from the Earth, and from the Cosmic Consciousness. But as I witness the frothing, white-crested waves smash and dissolve against the shore, I am reminded, too, of the turbulence of water, – its capacity to drown and destroy.
Creation, sustenance and destruction. Water is like Kalí, the great Mother Goddess – all giving, all taking – birth, life and death, all rolled into one. So often we polarise – light and shadow, good and bad, feminine and masculine – but the truth is, there is no duality, there is no polarity – and we are completely whole. Yes – water instils a sense of wholeness within me – when I am submerged in its liquid loveliness, it as though I have am in utero – as though I am again a little baby – untarnished, perfect and pure.
Water helps me connect more closely with Being. It helps attune me to the transcendent. No element is closer to Aum – the primordial sound of the universe – than water. Like a Möbius strip – an infinite loop that is ever rising and falling, returning and re-originating – it is through the water cycle that water demonstrates the cyclical nature of Infinity. This is, I believe, why T. S. Eliot drew so heavily the image of water in Four Quartets. Those poems are, in essence, about the nature of the Infinite; about the ineffable pulse of the cosmos – and the pulse of consciousness that runs through each one of us. It is, too, about remembrance – about soul remembrance – about meeting ourselves so deeply, that we remember that death is where came from; that to die is to go back to the very beginning:
‘When the last of earth left to discover Is that which was the beginning; At the source of the longest river The voice of the hidden waterfall…’