The Taste of Wild Water: Elemental Lessons from Water

It has been a few days since I returned from a week-long backpacking journey through the wild Paria Canyon, a narrow perennial waterway in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, with towering red slot canyon cliffs, numerous wild springs, and cottonwood studded sandbars, which eventually drains into the mighty Colorado River and the Grand Canyon.

During this journey which required 5 days of hiking through the muddy waters of the Paria River, I was given beautiful, gentle, fierce and difficult teachings from the elemental energies of the Waters.  Each time we find ourselves in pilgrimage to a wild place, we have the opportunity to experience the landscape and its elemental energies viscerally and deeply.  We are given teachings about ourselves and our relationship to wildness and the medicine of the Earth if we can listen through our heart and senses, allowing the logical, rational, linear brain to take a break.

Water is the element of feeling, fluidity, movement, emotion, intuition, cleansing, and release.  When we are in right relationship with water- we are able to express ourselves clearly and with emotional intelligence, we are connected with our intuitive wisdom, we move through feelings and experiences fully, without blocking or damming it up, we honor the power of water to wash away and cleanse that which is no longer needed, and to help us flow into the next bend in the river of life. When we might be out of balance in our relationship to water- we may feel emotionally stagnant, disconnected from ourselves or our beloveds & family, or confused about the right course of action because we are unable to sense our intuitive knowing in the questions of our life.

Water can whisper to us of its pure, gentle life giving sustenance, or it can roar at us in a violent flood ripping away the roots and foundations of what we believed our life to be.  Water is both life giver and destroyer, just as our emotional experiences of life shape our souls, water shapes the rock of ages with each flood and rainstorm.  The force of water cannot be held back, it springs forth from the tiniest cracks in the stone walls, allowing green ferns and mosses to flourish, and it rushes through narrow river channels, spilling over the banks, ripping up anything in its path.

Day after day with feet wet and soggy from walking in the muddy river, I felt the nature of its continual flow, the need to let feelings and emotions move through at will, even when things are murky, and unclear.  When I collected the clear spring water dripping off maidenhair ferns  through narrow fissures in the rock walls above the river, and sipped that sweet nectar, I connected with the life giver, the creative, feeling force within my own body and soul, and the gentle nature of the mother of the waters, who nurtures all life with her moisture. And then the rains came- pouring hard on the tent walls, and I wondered about the soft sand I was camped upon, and the towering walls of fragile rock that could wash down in any moment, reminding me of the impermanence of even the firmest structures of our lives.

Standing on the river bank that last day, watching a flash flood wall of water, full of debris and logs, rush past, just before we stepped into the channel, water taught me of its strength and ability to destroy.  It easily could have been me, or my companions in the river channel, and I felt the deep gratitude for the songs I had sung to the water spirits as I gathered my last bit of spring water the day before.  And when we became stranded an extra 24 hours with less than a liter of water each, painstakingly gathered from the murky flood, and settled, twice, and then filtered, I was taught again about the importance of gratitude for every drop of water we are blessed to receive in our lives, and how vital it is we, as a culture, begin to honor our life giving waters, for without it, we thirst, and perish.

Water our gentle and fierce mother -life giver, cleanser-healer, artist-shaper of souls and vibrant canyons.  I am humbled by the teachings and honor of your medicine. I give deep thanks for the water that pours forth from my faucet, from the skies, and pray its nourishment reaches all beings, and that its integrity is protected by the earthkeepers, water protectors and human communities all over the planet.

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