Thus the overflow from things
pours into you.
Just as a fountain’s higher basins
spill down like the strands of loosened hair
into the lowest vessel,
so streams the fullness into you,
when things and thoughts cannot contain it
In her introduction to The Resurgence of the Real, Charlene Spretnak asserts, “that the actual presence and power of body, nature and place are now asserting themselves and poking large holes through the modern ideologies of denial.” (p.4) Perhaps nature, through the element of Water, is asserting itself through me, for some purpose that I do not yet understand. In this paper I will explore the connections and possibilities that are revealing themselves at this time.
Properties of Water
The basic tendency of water, and of all living matter, because water is essential for life, is to unite its parts into a whole. In his book, Sensitive Chaos, Theodor Schwenk writes:
Wherever water occurs it tends to take on a spherical form. It envelops the whole sphere of the earth, enclosing every object in a thin film. Falling as a drop, water oscillates about the form of a sphere. A sphere is a totality, a whole, and water will always attempt to form an organic whole by joining what is divided and uniting it in circulation. (p.13)
This tendency to grow toward the wholeness of the sphere results in spiraling movement; everywhere in nature we see the spiral form. Both the fluids of our bodies and the streams, rivers, waterfalls and oceans of the earth move in spiraling patterns. Schwenk also describes the rhythmic nature of the element of water:
Everywhere liquids move in rhythms. Countless rhythms
permeate the processes of nature. Not only are the great
currents and tides of the oceans subject to the rhythms of the
seasons; every lake, pond, every well has its movements that
fluctuate with high or low tides or according to other laws.
All naturally flowing waters have their rhythms, perhaps
following the course of the day, perhaps keeping time with
longer seasonal rhythms. . . . .
. . . Every living creature, in the act of bringing forth its visible
form out of its archetypal idea, passes through a liquid phase.
Some creatures remain in this liquid state or solidify only
slightly; others leave the world of water, densify, and fall to a
greater or lesser degree under the dominion of the earthly
element. (p. 20)
What occurs to me is that to become more like water is to become less dense.
We can choose to be more fluid, perhaps to even retain slightly more water within our tissues, and feel more of the rhythmic and flowing nature of water.
In exploring water, I reviewed the findings of Body-Mind Centering, the pioneering somatic work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen. Through an intuitive exploration of the relationship between the body and mind, Body-Mind Centering offers a fundamental approach to embodiment, which author Linda Hartley describes in her book on Body-Mind Centering, The Wisdom of the Body Moving, as:
. . . the human being at home, each of us in our own body. To
be present in our own body is a form of awareness, and it is a
first step toward being kind to ourselves and others. In
coming into our body we become connected to our greater
home, the earth; we become a part of the earth and she a part
of us. We are received into her, and she into us; we grow
through and from her support and nourishment, and we
express her qualities through our very being. She is our
ground. (p. xxi)
Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen has mapped the mind of each of the systems of the body, as well as the developmental patterns we experience as an infant. Our early developmental experience is informed by the properties of water. Hartley explains, “The very structures of our body come into form through these spiral patterns of fluid movement. Our ability to move upon the earth is mastered in infancy through a spiralic process of development.” (p. 65)
In our bodies the fluid systems are concerned with “communication, nourishment, breakdown, renewal and defense, the process of change and transformation, the living and dying of each moment.” (Hartley, p.239) They are the basis of our circulatory systems, our internal rivers and oceans. Schwenk explains the nature of a circulatory system:
A sphere is a totality, a whole, and water will always attempt
to form an organic whole by joining what is divided and
uniting it in circulation. It is not possible to speak of the
beginning or end of a circulatory system; Everything is
inwardly connected and reciprocally related. Water is
essentially the element of circulatory systems. If a living
circulation is interrupted, a totality is broken into and the
linear chain of cause and effect as an organic law is set in
Every cell in our body depends on the delivery of nutrients and the removal of toxins through the fluids, and an interruption in that can result in imbalance and disease. Through the fluids of our bodies we embody the power of Water to move towards wholeness. The fluids within our bodies are concerned with change and transformation, and perhaps by becoming more like water, we become whole.
Water As Spiritual Metaphor
The element of water has the tendency to move towards wholeness, as does the soul. In The Diamond Approach, John Davis describes the soul as “the totality of the human being. All expressions of our aliveness, functioning, and consciousness are expressions of the soul.” (p. 46) Davis then links the soul to the element of water, asserting that “The soul can be compared to water that is shaped into an infinite variety of forms. In fact, 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)
Later in the same book, Davis quotes a passage from Hameed Ali, the founder of the Diamond Approach, in which Ali describes the presence of self-realization as similar to water. “We feel our presence as a medium, like a natural medium, such as water or clear fluid. This medium is homogeneous, unified, whole and undivided, exactly like a body of water.” (p. 142) It is very interesting to me that Hartley quotes Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen as describing the cellular fluid contained within the outer membrane of each cell body as “the center of presence. It is – no coming, no going.” (p.285) Hartley writes that the cellular fluid is “the nourishing, nurturing home, the watery ground of life, an oceanic world in microcosm.” (p. 285) Perhaps we are learning to feel the intelligence at the heart of every cell, and perhaps water is the carrier of that intelligence.
The poet Rumi also employed water as a metaphor in “When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.” Another time he says, “Love is a river. Drink from it.”
Wind on Water
During the day, when I was hiking before sitting down to write this paper, I had invoked the power of Water, asking her to reveal to me what I needed to know.
On my hike, I had dipped my hand into the lake, creating rippling circles as I spoke to water of gratitude, joy and love. Late in the evening after writing the above, I took my evening bath and began to enter a liminal space, hoping for further direction from water. Nestling into the covers, warm and cozy, I began to focus on the breath at my nostrils, exploring the breath moving through my nasal passages. In the back of my mind was the idea of the wind on water, an image that has played on me for years since I began walking around the lakes, watching the wind dance over the water. I had always felt this image had some specific meaning for me. Lately, when I breathe through my nostrils, I had been feeling the breath wash through me as if moving over water.
The idea to invoke the word abundance came to me as I had never explored this archetype through mantra. Nor had I focused on breath as I said a word. With three distinct syllables, I was able to clearly sense the vibration of abundance moving through me, specifically affecting the root chakra and moving down the legs. The turbulence of the waters within me was very distinct, and I watched with amazement as my lower pelvis and legs came alive. I clearly experienced my breath being powered by the vibration of the word, and the waters of my body responding.
Thoroughly intrigued, I chose the word peace next, and immediately experienced the middle of my head around the 6th chakra, with the waters moving towards my occipit area, at the base of my head. With its one syllable and softer sound, the vibration was of an entirely different quality. Penetrating sensations moved through the base of my skull from center of my head, opening the back of my head and moving down my neck and arms. I have been working with my Network chiropractor on opening this area, where I carry much of my tension, so it was fascinating to feel peace wash through the tissue.
After this experience I chose the word power, knowing that it would likely resonate in the same area, and was again surprised to feel the quality of the vibration, very different than peace, a deep penetration into my eyes and eye sockets. As a very nearsighted individual I carry tension around my eyes as well, and I have never felt anything like the profound movement into my eyes that power delivered.
I have been experimenting with invoking archetypal energies and feeling that I
have been tapping into the essential aspects, but I have been most familiar with love, joy, compassion and strength. I had practiced the TM version of Patanjalis’
sidhis, and I am familiar with using a word as a mantra. Connecting this up with the Air, the breath, and Water through the internal fluids, is a new experiment.
As my exploration continued, I explored my old favorites again, with more clarity than I had ever experienced. Love radiated gentle rolling waves from my heart. Strength was a very strong feeling in my belly area, very focused in the 2nd chakra, radiating down the front of my legs, in contrast to abundance, which favored the buns and back of the legs. Joy clearly centered on the right side of my heart area, and compassion on the left, each with its very distinct vibrational quality – I could see how feeling develops from the vibration of the sound through water. The sound affects the vibration of the breath to produce the archetypal pattern in the feeling medium of water.
I had never explored will before, and found my mid-torso/3rd chakra moving with focused intensity. Desire moved through water up the front of my body from my genitals to my throat chakra, where it had a sweet and focused depth, then moved down my arms. Beauty surprised me, radiating down from the top of my head, cascading and illuminating the waters within. In the days to come these rhythmic wave patterns, vibrations, reverberated in my being, opening me.
For instance, I found myself feeling rebellious, trapped and angry in a situation, and as I stayed with the feelings I felt the back of my head in the occipital area stretching open to accommodate peace. Another time I was able to feel the energy of frustration as the anger became trapped in me, crushed down, compressed instead of able to move, in a familiar cyclic pattern. It was the rage of not enough, never being enough, no one being enough – the rage of consuming.
Three days after my archetypal revelations, I am feeling more emotional, yet able to recognize the emotion and be with it as I ride the waves. Abundance, fullness, trust — dances with archetypes — feeling the rhythms of various archetypes more clearly. Clarity. Perhaps Water is the Earth’s intelligence. Rilke writes:
How surely gravity’s law,
Strong as an ocean current,
takes hold of even the smallest thing
and pulls it toward the heart of the world
Each thing —
each stone, blossom, child –
is held in place.
Only we, in our arrogance,
push out beyond what we each belong to
for some empty freedom.
If we surrendered
to earth’s intelligence
we could rise up rooted, like trees.
When we surrender to gravity – to the earth’s intelligence – the chi rises through us and we are supported in abundance. There is another world, a world of feeling rather than thinking. ”So streams the fullness into you when things and thoughts cannot contain it,” says Rilke. (p.110) Riding on an ocean of waves, floating, supported in a womb of love. Not that thinking is completely absent. It comes when necessary.
Other impressions come to me while dancing. Dancing the archetypes, the shaman shifts shape, water flowing, circulating in new shapes. Communication occurs through the shaping. In dance we express feelings through music from various cultures; shape-shifting our bodies and feeling the archetypal energies of various cultures, we grow in empathy. And become full. Becoming the container for the fullness as well, feeling the skin, the boundary, the strength and will supporting the feelings. With the legs supporting the heart, the bones become increasingly wave-like. Music penetrates, and body receives the vibratory waves. The fluidity of dance seems to come from the moving waters within.
The Influence of Continuum
From 1985 until 1989, I studied Continuum, a form of movement meditation, with Emilie Corad D’aoud and Susan Harper, participating in workshops in Colorado, where I lived at the time, as well as traveling to California for longer events, including a three week course at Esalen which I mentioned in my previous paper. It was in Continuum that I made the transition to dance, learning to move fluidly from the inside out. Today I went to the CIIS library to research another paper. I was reminded of a book I own by Don Hanlon Johnson, Bone, Breath and Gesture, a collection of writings on various practices of embodiment. Idly thumbing through the book, I was guided to an article by Emilie that I had never read because it had seemed too poetic. In her essay entitled “Life on Land” I randomly turned to a page and looked at these words, somewhat stunned, “Breath is the movement of wind on water — it becomes a beckoning of our origins. As amphibians that developed legs to pursue life on land we return to our watery beginnings to resurrect.” (p.307)
Breath is the movement of wind on water.
Almost 20 years later, I had discovered something for myself that I had never understood at the time, because even though we had done numerous breathing exercises, and I had felt subtle movements inside, I had never actually felt Water inside me. I had craved water, submerged myself in water, but had not felt filled by water, or myself as a container for water. I finally have felt in my body what Emilie describes: “For me the message of God can be felt in the movement of water. The fluids in our cells are the liquid presence of our spiritual birthright. The ocean – our blood – the water inside the planet – amniotic and spinal fluid – are all the same.” (p. 310)
We are a continuum of water, the water that moves in all living matter. Emilie continues, “All fluid activities are in resonance. They mutualize and inform each other. The fluid inside this biosphere called earth and the fluids of our bodies are in constant rapport.” (p. 310)
It was through Continuum that I discovered Sat Prem’s work, The Mind of the Cells, through which I was first introduced to the Mother’s exploration of cellular consciousness. Mother directed her awareness into the cells, and employed the vibrational power of mantra, repeating OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH to the cells to invoke the power of love. She believed she was awakening matter and transforming the physical mind of the cells to a higher level of consciousness through the repetition of the mantra. Influenced by her experiment, I began repeating the word love to my cells over 15 years ago, and was always struck by the internal change I would experience, as if the cells would come alive, almost jumping with joy. I have always believed I was continuing Mother’s experiment.
When I discovered the book, The Message from Water, a few years ago, I began to suspect it was the medium of water that was carrying or receiving the vibration of words. With my recent experimentation with the wind on water, I now think that the element of Air transfers the word to the element of Water where it becomes the wave motion of feeling. In exploring this with my women’s class the last few weeks, each of them, with many years less meditation experience than myself, felt distinct wave like movements within the body, with the area of focus depending on the particular archetype invoked.
I have thoroughly been intrigued by this exploration into the power of Water, and believe that the guidance coming through water has been profound. We are carried within water in our mother’s womb, and the breaking of her waters announces our imminent arrival. Water is fundamental to our survival on this planet, and all living organisms depend on it. The exchange of fluids is central to our sexual play and procreation, our deepest feelings are revealed in the shedding of tears, and our dying is accompanied by the rapid loss of fluids. The soul itself is described as similar to the medium of water. Could it be that we are ensouled through water? Near the end of Solar Storms, a novel by Native American author Linda Hogan, wise woman Dora-Rouge is heard saying, “that a human is alive water, that creation is not over.” (p. 350) Perhaps the mystery of who we are and our continuing evolution is being revealed by the messages from Water .
I am dancing in a sea of feeling, wind on water. This is an exploration to be continued.
Barrows, Anita and Joanna Macy Rilke’s Book of Hours. New York: Riverhead
Conrad-D’aoud, Emilie, “Life on Land” in Bone, Breath and Gesture, Don
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Davis, John The Diamond Approach. Boston: Shambala, 1999.
Emoto, Masura The Message From Water. Japan.
Hartley, Linda The Wisdom of the body Moving. Berkeley: North Atlantic
Hogan, Linda Solar Storms. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.
Sat Prem The Mind of the Cells. Mt. Vernon, WA: Institute for Evolutionary
Spretnak, Charlene Resurgence of the Real. New York: Routledge, 1999.
Schwenk, Theodor Sensitive Chaos, New York: Schocken Books, 1976.