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Elements of Life: Water

Everything in creation- not just things and people, but ideas, memories, feelings, relationships, and more- is made up of a unique balance of the sacred Four Elements: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water.


In this series, you'll get an introductory overview of the powerful qualities of each element as well as ideas to deepen your own relationship to them.


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Water in balance, grants us the gifts of persistence, intuition, creativity, purity (as in flushing out toxins and pathogens physically, cleansing the mind and spirit metaphysically), the ability to move easily from depths of emotion back to the surface without get stuck in either realm, and the ability to 'flow like water' over, around, and through obstacles.


Water, like Earth, also allows us a perspective on those obstacles that differs from the almost impatient immediacy of Air and Fire: these older elements measure time in eons and understand that it may take many human generations to complete certain tasks. And so Water can help us to release the urgency that's so popular in modern life and trust that it's enough to be moving in the right direction. We are, after all, just a drop in the ocean.


However, Water can be clogged and blocked by Earth, displaced by Air and evaporated by Fire. Read on to learn to recognize and correct imbalances.



Through eons of gentle persistence rivers carve canyons, rains and glaciers move mountains, oceans sculpt coastlines. Water shows us the power of joyful, quiet persistence to change even the things that seem unchangeable: that epic transformations can be the result of tiny, almost invisible actions repeated hypnotically. How many times have the tides ebbed and flowed?


The most changeable of the elements, Water shows up in a wild array of natural forms from underground pools to clouds; wide, tropical rivers to ice storms. Furthermore, each of these forms are subject to change based on the wind, the sun, the phase of the moon or season. In just moments, clouds can transform from pale wisps to threatening thunderheads, oceans can go from calm to deadly and back again. Water has the power to cleanse and to drown, to nurture life or to drag it massive trees out of the Earth and send them downstream.


Having your Water balanced doesn't mean that you're always calm, but that you're able to avoid getting stuck in one state or another. Changeability- shapeshifting- is one of Water's powers, though not one that's valued much in our world.


Stagnation, however, is a sure sign of imbalanced Water and one that needs attention. If neglected, it always leads to unwellness, whether mental, physical, emotional, or spiritual.


For these reasons and others- because Water is always seeking depth, because so much of the underwater world remains mysterious and unwelcoming- I consider this element to be the one most akin to our emotional body. Some assign it the spiritual body and I can see that too. For me, though, Earth is more spirit than emotion and Water is more emotion than spirit. Just slightly. The beauty with any of the Four Elements is that they're open to interpretation based on your own insight.


Another important quality of Water is its maturity. Water corresponds to the mother/ father stage of life, which doesn’t necessarily relate to children, but to the ability to nurture others, to protect, to put the well-being of new life, of the collective, of the future before your own immediate desires. Water shows us how rewarding it is to be in service to life, but also demonstrates that giving too much can cause internal drought.


All water is connected. All water is unimaginably old- immortal actually. Whatever ends up in a river in China will eventually be in every ocean, cloud, puddle and glacier- but water, through it's constant motion and transformation is also always purifying itself. The water you drink was once bathed in by Huns and Assyrians- even by dinosaurs. No new water has ever been created, every drop is both a time capsule and proof of Water's regenerative power.


Likewise, when your Water is balanced, it can help you lean into the fluid nature of time and relationship: Water can help us to understand Oneness.

The sacred, symbolic qualities of the Water element seep subconsciously into our language in many ways: when we’re ungrounded and isolated we feel adrift, overwhelm feels like drowning, sometimes our emotions well up and other times they flood us. When we’re joyful, our hearts overflow and when something dwindles we say that like the tide, it ebbs. If we feel we’ve failed, we might say we’re sunk. The word fluent comes from the Latin for flowing. What other water words can you think of?



Water People

As you already know, humans are mostly water, but some of us have more metaphysical Water qualities than others.


People with a dominant Water element tend to be thoughtful, introspective, creative, sensitive, impressionable, and gentle- though of course they also have the capacity to become stormy. In some ways, these people tend, like water, to take on the shape of whatever container they’re in- their family, friend group, or workplace, for example- so it’s very important to surround themselves with people they genuinely respect. At the same time they only need a pinhole to escape from that container and can wear down any obstacle they turn their attention to!

They have great, mysterious depths and need the space and freedom to flow.


17th Century Mughal Illustration, India

In Balance

When your Water element is in balance, you have elasticity (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually) without putting out your fire. Your roots are well-watered without being so flooded that they come loose from the Earth that holds them. Your emotions and ideas are able to flow freely without stagnating or becoming a tidal wave. Like a whale, you can move freely from the depths to the surface. You’re in touch with your creativity and nurture it regularly.


When water doesn’t move it becomes stagnant. Stagnation is the root of all ill-health- as long as things are circulating well, your body will take care of the balance. Exercise is important, but heat, qi gong, and lymphatic support are needed to stimulate our other, more subtle circulatory processes (like Qi and lymph).



Deficient

When we’re disconnected from Water, we become dry and brittle. We cannot bend with changes or adapt to new environments. The worlds of emotion and creativity feel unsettling and unstable compared to the solid ground we’re accustomed to. Hiding out in logic and rational thought or the rigid rights and wrongs of religion or politics will feel safer to these people. They need absolutes to feel safe.

Physical symptoms (though their roots may be emotional or spiritual) of deficient Water are, of course, dehydration, skin that's parched and limp, and skin conditions that look and feel cracked and dry. Fatigue and chronic pain both point to a lack of Water to invigorate the body at the cellular level or to cool the Fires of inflammation. Stiffness of joints and limbs can be a lack of Water for lubrication and states of toxicity suggest that the body might not be cleansing itself the way it's designed to.

By Sonia Alins Miguel


Excessive

On the other hand, with too much Water, logic and rational thought sink and a person is set adrift with only emotion as their compass. There are times when this is necessary, either because of the intensity of the emotions- grief in particular feels Watery to me and it certainly has the ability to drown, even if just temporarily- or because the emotional body has been neglected for so long, but generally you want your various aspects to be working in harmony, not dominating.

Physical symptoms (but again, the roots aren't necessarily physical) of too much Water can show up as kidney issues, damp skin conditions (blisters, wet rashes), phlegmatic conditions, water in places it doesn't belong- like the brain or lungs. Many 'cold' states- from old age to severe illness to postpartum and grief- have an aspect of excess Water.


Brooch by Aube Breton


Balancing and Connecting with Water

Water is a constant presence in our lives, providing us with constant opportunities to change how we relate to it. Even the Water in your bottle or glass right now is receptive to your intention and respect. Remember: it's been around since the beginning of time!

• Spend more time with Water in Nature. Swim in lakes and oceans, dance in the rain, stand barefoot in rivers. Notice how each form has a unique expression of flow and containment. Observe how the Water is balanced by Earth, Air, and Fire in the environment. Make parallels between these elements both within you and around you.


• Give offerings to the natural water you visit to cultivate reciprocity instead of just taking without giving. There are many ways to do this- but again, your intention is the most important thing. You might leave a small gift of a plant ally or something you've made (that won't disrupt the natural environment- nothing that could choke a duck or disrupt the health of the water), you could sing or pray to the water, you could make a mandala with found items (being sensitive to the natural order in the items you use and where you place the mandala). In addition to these, picking up any litter you come across- and not adding your own- shows that you're genuinely paying attention and aren't just trying to get your own needs met.


• Learn about the plants and animals that live in close relationship to water- especially those that inhabit the rivers, streams, ponds, marshes, oceans, swamps, etc. near you- and cultivate relationships with those you feel connected to. Water is absolutely bursting with life- don't forget the microscopic creatures!


• The water in your home is kind of oppressed- captured in its native environment and redirected into service to people who take it for granted. How can you shift this relationship? An obvious beginning is to implement practices of gratitude for your water: when you bathe in it, when you drink it, when you wash your dishes, when you….. flush. Give thanks, charge it under the moon, add a bowl to an altar or nature table. Think about where it’s come from and where it’s going- you could even research this and visit it at its source.


Water is incredibly powerful medicine just on its own, without any herbs added. The power comes from the depth of your relationship to it.


• If you feel brittle, stagnant, or emotionally disconnected, find ways to introduce flow into your life: free-writing, an intuitive dance practice, visiting a river or seashore as often as possible, joining a pool, giving yourself space and permission to cry (expect there to be a backlog in the beginning), working with watercolors, pulling daily oracle or tarot cards (letting your body- rather than your mind- guide your hand).


• On the other hand, if you feel like you’re drowning under the flow of emotion, bring in the other three elements to create some healthy boundaries: use consistency and structure to contain and direct your water, create spaciousness by providing specific times and practices for emotional release, restore connection to your physical body through strength training and to your mental body through learning new things.


I hope this article inspires wonder and respect for the Element of Water in your personal life and in the world at large! To learn about how all of this applies to you specifically and to bring balance right to the places that need it, set up an intake consultation here:


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