Today, I woke up to the sound of rain.
Not gentle, drizzly rain, but harsh, insistent rain.
When it rains in Southern California, it’s a big deal.
When I first moved here, I would make sarcastic comments about how ridiculous it was that everyone seemed so thrown by a little rain, driving super slowly, staying indoors and canceling activities and appointments. Wimps, I thought to myself.
Today, I experienced the rain differently.
I didn’t go out to walk as I would have done in the past to prove my resilience and commitment.
I snuggled up on the couch and made a fire.
And I let it rain. And rain. And rain.
Not wishing for anything but exactly what was happening.
I heeded the call of Mother Nature and watched it rain.
And thought about its importance.
Water is a sacred symbol in most religious traditions, often referring to purity, rebirth, and fertility. The spiritual significance of water is highlighted in the Bible by stories about transformation and cleansing. Jewish tradition calls on people to immerse themselves in a mikvah (bath) on special occasions as a means of cleansing their spirits and Muslim people use water to purify their spirits and prepare for daily prayers.
Water possesses healing powers according to many spiritual traditions. Taoism considers water an agent of wisdom because of its ability to flow, regardless of any obstacles.
There are a number of songs about water that are powerful reminders of its magical allure.
The iconic work Revelations, choreographed by Alvin Ailey and performed by its superb dancers for over 60 years, includes a section with the African American spiritual Wade in the Water.
I’ve watched this piece hundreds of times and am always awed by the magical moment when two male dancers hold two sides of an ocean blue gauzy fabric simulating the waves and a majestic woman holding an umbrella steps into the “water” along with a young couple, all dressed in white, and a baptism is conducted while the gorgeous song is performed live. It is a breathtaking scene with the power of water at its core.
Literature is also replete with water imagery. In Peneopiad, author Margaret Atwood relies on this image of water as a driving force, continuing to flow no matter what. She writes “water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.” Wise advice.
In Siddhartha Herman Hesse uses similar imagery by equating the river with an endless flow of the present and writes, “the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Water is a catalyst of life. It fuels, renews, and cleanses us.
Perhaps because I am a Pisces, I am deeply connected to water. I take daily walks on the beach to experience its vastness and awe, and to be reminded of my own insignificance. At the end of each day, I spend time alone in the hot tub, looking up at the moon, cleansing myself of all that happened during the day, and harnessing my strength to deal with whatever life throws at me next.
And yes, I cry a lot. At poignant movies, inspiring books, pictures of my children when they were little, and of my parents before their decline, tender moments and sometimes, just because.
I wholeheartedly agree with the quote by Karen Blixen that “the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea”.
What is your relationship with water? Do you honor its healing qualities?
When you step into the shower, do you feel the sensation of what doesn’t serve you being washed away?
When you drink a glass of water, do you appreciate how your thirst is quenched?
Have you stood in a waterfall and allowed yourself to be completely cleansed and cleared?
The other night while cooking chicken, I burned my favorite sauce pan. My heart dropped when I saw black crusting on the bottom and the sides of the new pan. Its ashy smell and defiant stickiness irritated me as I tried to clean it off. I scrubbed and scrubbed and nothing happened. I couldn’t believe that even with “elbow grease” I wasn’t able to eradicate the burnt coating on the pan. Finally, I filled the pan with hot water, left it on the stove and went outside to do some breathing. I accepted that I had probably ruined the pan and that I would likely need to purchase a new one. The next morning I came downstairs and while I waited for my coffee to brew, I decided to rinse out the pan before throwing it away. As I poured out the water in which I had soaked the pan, the black crust began to wash away with no effort at all. It was a lesson in humility, patience, trust and the power of water.
I was gleeful that within moments I had a completely restored shining pan in my hand.
As Lao Tze says “nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it.” I love that description!
May we learn to be soft and flexible and, at the same time, irresistible.
Here we are in the middle of the holiday season of 2021.
Things are not what we expected. Things are not back to normal. There is still collective angst, disappointment and frustration. It seems that we are being called upon to make difficult decisions about what to do, when, with whom daily.
So, it is even more important than ever that we connect with whatever gives us a little relief. For me, rituals around water can bring me back to myself. Whatever gives you that sense of clearing and cleansing, whatever allows you to experience a moment of freedom, embrace it. In this time of ongoing stress and uncertainty, we need to perform whatever rituals of renewal we can. Take time to consider doing what, when, where and with whom you feel renewed. Choose that.
And when we are really connected to that sense of and appreciation for cleansing, clearing and renewal, we are on the edge of love. In the words of the author, poet, activist, feminist and tremendous human being bell hooks, “when we work with love, we renew the spirit; that renewal is an act of self-love; it nurtures our growth.”
I will continue walking on the beach and immersing myself in the hot tub, staying present to the deepest love I have and by so doing, nurturing my own growth.
What about you?
Sending all of you my most heartfelt love for the holiday season. May you feel at peace and in close connection with those you love, including yourself.
With love and light, Nora