Guidance comes to me in many ways, mostly through my body and movement. For this class I wanted to investigate something that had been lurking at the edge of my awareness for awhile now, something still very mysterious to me – my relationship with the element of Water. I have always loved water, but as I begin to assemble images, incidents and memories from my life, a pattern of guidance is beginning to emerge that connects me with nature, allowing me to feel my embeddedness in the universe.
In the last few weeks it is dawning on me that my life has been mysteriously shaped by the power of Water. For an assignment for my Literature of Embeddedness class last week, I wrote the following in response to a query on how our childhood ecosystem had shaped us: As a child growing up in southern New Jersey, I was cradled by the sand and tossed and turned in the great Atlantic Ocean, on the very same beach where my parents had met. My father had grown up in Ocean City, and we returned there every summer weekend. In the winters and during the week, we lived an hour inland at the edge of the Pine Barrens, in a small log cabin community that had once been a summer resort, with lakes that had been carved out of cranberry bogs encircled by sandy beaches and pine forests. We would glide through the lily pads in our canoes, or tip them over and play under them – through the holy waters of my childhood my body learned to feel pure joy, and when I began to dance I again experienced the fluidity of those waters, this time within me.
From my earliest memories, I have felt very carefree and playful in water, at home, lithe and agile in a way I didn’t initially feel on land. I loved to be in water, holding my breath and swimming as far as I could, doing somersaults and handstands, bodysurfing. As a child I felt awkward and out of place on land. The embrace of water, the feeling of being held and supported, moved and carried, was perhaps my deepest sense of relationship – I could feel another presence enveloping me. When I did begin to dance in my thirties, I remember walking into the improvisational space where we danced, having just seen the movie Big Blue with its underwater scenes of dolphins, and realizing that we were communicating through the medium of sound waves just as the dolphins do. In these last few weeks I am realizing that my attraction to dance – the fluidity, the joy, the freedom – echoes my early experiences of playing in water. My challenge in dance has always been to find the structural support for the vertical dimension to balance the fluidity.
Another memory of water occurred around the age of 36 on my first visit to Esalen. I had been happily living in Colorado for 13 years, and I was on a three week Continuum movement meditation course. At one point during the course, I had merged so deeply with the environment that I had the distinct impression of the ocean swirling inside my pelvis. Later, as I was standing on the cliffs looking out at the beauty and vastness below, I heard its voice calling me to California, intimating that I needed to be near water again. Mysteriously, as if the wheels had been set in motion, less than a year later I met a man who lived in California, married, and moved here.
Embodied Spiritual Inquiry
In my first semester at CIIS, nearly two years ago, I took a course entitled “Embodied Spiritual Inquiry” with Jorge Ferrer, in which my inner experiences were full of images of water. This was very surprising to me, as up until this time, I was more familiar with light or fire or feelings of space. Instead I would find myself falling into a dark pool in which I felt suspended and supported, feeling enormous trust, or feeling an infinitely creative spring in my center, a dark spiraling pool which seemed to be the source of the universe, sending waves through my body. During a partner exercise I experienced my heart as the source of waves emanating through our combined bodies, until gradually the feeling of distinct bodies disappeared altogether, and there was simply the dark sea, warm and nourishing, with the sense of the heart permeating the waves.
Another experience during that time period emerged from an exercise I created for the women’s movement class I lead. We were exploring the relationship of the uterus and ovaries to the eyes, and I created an experiment in which were inquiring into how the ovaries interact with the uterus, and what, if any, correlation there was with the interaction of the eyes and our “third eye” center. I participated in the experiment as well, and I wrote the following report in my journal: I experienced a beautiful deep green pool in my uterus, and another in my third eye. The ovaries and eyes fed their respective pools with information. As I felt deeply into these images of water within, I also became aware of the edges of these pools, the containers holding the water. I felt a profound sense of the power of water accompanied by the sense of myself as this powerful water. I perceived the skin of my body as the container for this larger body of water that was the personal “I”, and a deep sense of stillness and containment in being held in this way. My uterus and third eye are pools of infinite wisdom and creativity, wholly water. Aphrodite rises from within, born from the waters of my womb.
Later in the class, remaining connected to our inner experience, we danced from these inner feelings, and I was struck by both the peace and fullness I experienced. I had begun the class feeling in need of a vacation, stressed and needy, and as I danced I felt comforted and softened by the inner waters, as if I had been floating in a tropical pool for days. I noticed that my pelvis felt more substantial as I danced, swaying with the weight of the water.
Hot Tubs and Baths
From 1988 – 2000 I was blessed to live in a house with a hot tub out on the ridge, and it was deep enough to tumble and somersault in, pushing off from the edges. I developed a form of play during this period in which I would stay submerged, bouncing off the sides, only coming up for breaths when needed. I kept the water temperature mildly warm, so I could stay with this game for long periods, entering an altered state of tropical bliss. I am fairly sure I was communicating with Dolphin energy at this time. Only in this past week have I seen the connection with the ways I would play as a child.
Since moving from that house, I have found myself taking at least two baths a day, one on rising and one before bed, with a third before-dinner bath on many a day. They seem to be more necessity than luxury, as if my soul requires them. I was fascinated to read, in John Davis’ The Diamond Approach, “Water may be an especially good metaphor for the soul since its ancient root meaning is ‘coming from or belonging to the sea.” (p. 47)
I will relate one particularly vivid bathtub experience that I recorded in my journal, which occurred towards the end of my first semester at CIIS. I submerged myself under the water, and the safety and warmth of the womb immediately came to mind. I found myself dissolving into the primal ooze, no longer my own self, more tidepool-like, an earlier lifeform – or my fetus-self forming. There was so much feeling and sensation in the dark waters, without vision to distract, and I remember thinking, “of course, feeling and sensation preceded vision”. Later, when I brought my head above the water, I was aware of the watery organs and glands within my body, everything suspended and connected in an inner sea. It seems that the element of water allows me to experience both the ocean of transcendence and the immanence of embodiment. Since water evokes the safety of the womb for me, dissolving back into a dark sea, floating in a pool of sensation, is familiar and comforting. When I become the container for the water, I feel the fullness of embodiment, with my uterus inside as sacred center.
Soon after, I found myself drawn to walking around lakes, and my daily hikes became centered on the lakes of the Marin Water District. I felt the magnetic power of Water, and I felt soothed by these walks. And it was on one such hike around lake Lagunitas that I resolved to delve into Animal Medicine, a topic that I will include later in this paper.
The Message from Water
I feel water is communicating with me, teaching me, guiding me. A few years ago, a client handed me the amazing book by Masaru Emoto, The Message from Water. Emoto froze water crystals from streams and springs, as well as polluted waters, examining the crystalline structures under microscope. He also played different music to water crystals, as well as speaking kindly and lovingly or abusively to various samples. The results were startling, showing clearly how pollution affects the crystalline structures, as well as how quality of thought impacted the water. The receptive nature of water revealed itself in how it was affected by its environment, either creating crystalline shapes of stunning beauty when positively affected, or disintegrating into dark and muddy images when negatively affected. Recently I have begun exploring speaking to the water I drink and bathe in, as well as to the fountain on my patio. For many years I have communicated with my cells through words like love or joy and felt them respond, and I am now realizing that I have most likely been communicating with the fluids in the cells.
Inspired by Emoto’s work, I have also recently begun putting my hands in the nearby lake and sending messages of peace and love through the water. What is becoming clear to me is that Water is teaching me to recognize it’s innate intelligence, and serving as bridge or entry into the intelligence everywhere in my external environment.
Journeying into the Underworld
For a period of time in 1985 I would create a pyramid in the center of my third eye, and journey through the pyramid. What occurred to me during this recent water exploration is that I would always dive into a deep pool in the pyramid, and journey through water to my destination. Water was always my means of travel! In one journey that I recorded through pictures in my journal, I surfaced on a tropical beach where a man named Baba sat in a hut. In another picture there was a parrot, a leopard, and a woman. What has always intrigued me most about that journey was a huge turquoise crystal that sat on the sand, and seemed to represent power of some type. Until I searched back in my journals for this story, the turquoise crystal and surfacing on the beach through the water were the only memories that stayed with me.
The Hummingbird and the Fountain
In the last year and a half I have been using the Animal Medicine deck frequently. I have been exploring Hummingbird medicine, the vibration of pure joy. I bought a flowering plant that attracts hummingbirds, and every day as I stood in the kitchen window Hummingbird would come to the plant outside the window, much to my excited yelps of joy.
I was giving a party a month ago, and shortly before that had succeeded in getting my landlord to fix a fountain on my patio that had never worked in the three months I had lived there. The significance of the fountain flowing seemed huge to me, as I had been having difficulty communicating my needs to my landlord. The evening before the party, my best friend Marcia and I had been talking about Hummingbird and its association with the Ghost Shirt religion mentioned in Medicine Cards – “that a certain dance done properly would bring about the return of the animals” (p. 213) on the earth, and return the earth to joy. The day of the party, just as Marcia arrived to help set-up, Hummingbird came and began drinking from the fountain of water. It hovered there for a long time as we all clapped and jumped up and down with joy!
I felt Hummingbird was communicating to me about the significance of Water – at the very least I have never before been graced by the sound of flowing water in my living environment. And certainly water is a way I experience joy. Hummingbird’s pointing out the water, just when Marcia had walked in, clearly seemed to be a message – and the deciding factor in exploring the mystery and power of Water.
Following the Flow
In the middle of the night, one day before this paper was due, I found myself becoming sick, my throat burning in the night. It wasn’t completely unexpected, since my closest friends have had a cold/flu bug, but I have been feeling so peaceful and connected that I was somewhat surprised. I cancelled everything for the day, and went out onto my patio, lying down in the middle of it with the sound of the flowing water from my fountain. Immediately as I looked up at the huge Oak that partly shelters my patio, I felt her protection and love, and at the same time I felt a contraction in my right eye and the tiniest sense of tears emerging. The feeling continued, and I was curious, since I haven’t been feeling particularly emotional.
A bee interrupted my inquiry. Feeling slightly annoyed, I went in the house to look up the symbology for Bee, which was fertility and the honey of life. Bees live in community, and the symbol of the honeycomb is associated with the sweetness of the heart and the sweetness found in our own hearts. Bee reminds us to pursue our dreams.
While I was in the house I decided to pull a medicine card to see what might be up. I drew Turtle, the symbol of Mother Earth, representing goddess energy and the eternal Mother. This was the energy I had felt from Oak. The reading spoke of using the water and earth energies to flow harmoniously and to feel my power. Of course, I had previously positioned myself with the water on the patio and the earth of the tree. Feeling on track, I returned to my spot on the patio, again looking up to the tree. I asked for assistance in releasing the energy that was creating my sickness and anything in the way of my dream of deeper connection and embeddedness with Mother Earth. I felt the tears again, and within a minute or two I was bawling, with no content, just looking up at the tree and wailing.
After a time, as my tears subsided, I heard the cry of Raven, and looked up to see him on a branch of the tree behind my head. Knowing that Raven symbolizes magic, and is both the carrier of ceremonial messages and a healing guide, I asked to be taken deeper into embeddedness and connected to deeper community, both a loving partner and others who are also yearning to connect in deeper ways. Raven had flown off, but into my mind came the idea that he would acknowledge the delivery of my message, and sure enough, a few minutes later, I heard his cry again.
After writing this I poured some water into the fountain, then took some of the water from the fountain and sprinkled it on the Oak and the flowering plant the bees enjoy. As I did this, Bee arrived, and I had the thought that something old was being healed between Bee and myself, for as a child I was stung over and over by the bees feeding on clover in the grass near our little plastic swimming pool. My feet would swell up so much that I couldn’t put shoes on, and I had learned to fear bees.
I returned to my lying position one more time, and this insight began forming. For many years I have believed that if I went deep enough into the matter of my own cells, I would enter a level of interconnection with the Earth that few have experienced. Somehow it is through the water in the cells, with the cell membrane encompassing the cell as a permeable boundary, that I am being made whole, and Water is serving as the guide, teaching me about the flow between inner and outer.
About a month ago, I found myself drawing Frog in the medicine deck, which the accompanying text relates to cleansing. I did some ritual baths at that time and walked around a nearby lake, listening to Frog’s deep voice. But only in this last hour, when I looked up Bee in another text, Animal Speak by Ted Andrews, did I come across a slightly different interpretation – “Transformation through Water and Sound” (p.356). No wonder I was so excited about having my fountain finally turned on, and being able to continuously listen to the sound of water. Frogs are often associated with the magic of both water and land, and to the lore of fairies and elves, according to Andrews. I have always known that this was my direction, into the realm of the Devas. He also speaks of Frog as a symbol of metamorphosis, of coming into one’s creative powers. May it be so.
Andrews, Ted Animal Speak, St. Paul, Minnesota: Llewellyn Publications, 2004.
Emoto, Masuru The Message from Water, Japan (can’t read the characters)
Sams, Jamie and David Carsons Medicine Cards, New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999.