Originally Published on StartAgain Media
“Water is the driving force in nature.”
-Leonardo da Vinci
When I was a child, I rolled my eyes when my health teacher, the talk shows that my mother watched, and yes, my mother herself told me that I needed to drink more water. Consuming 6-8 glasses of such a tasteless substance seemed like a chore. As I’ve aged, my position on water’s tastelessness has gratefully changed, along with my attitude towards it. Throughout my recovery, the importance of water as a vital piece of the wellness puzzle continues to grow, whether I’m drinking it, bathing in it, swimming in it, listening to it, or just appreciating the vast array of metaphors that come with the flow of water.
In my career as a trauma educator, I’ve spent the last six years on my feet in front of audiences, talking for three, four, or up to eight hours at a time. When I began this portion of my work in 2008, my resistances about drinking so much water were still pretty high. Before I knew it, I realized that constantly hydrating was a necessity to not only keep my lips moistened but also to keep my body temperature regulated and my energy up. Sipping on coffee, soda, or even juice just didn’t cut it quite like water.
I noticed that as I began drinking more water during my talks and classes, my desire for it in other areas of my life intensified—consuming a glass in the morning and a glass in the evening, drinking it with meals, sipping on it during clinical sessions, and even using it a vehicle through which to practice mindfulness. To me, there is no greater joy than just being in the moment with water. As a person who naturally overheats, taking a few mindful sips of water and noticing the slow trickle down my throat and into the rest of my body is one of the best techniques I have for coming back into my body when the literal heat or the heat of stress makes my head float away. On the other side of the spectrum, His Holiness the Dalai Lama discloses in much of his writing that sipping on hot water is a favorite activity of his for calming the nerves. As a young man, he found himself drinking a lot of tea and then one day it struck him that his body didn’t want the tea, his body wanted the warmth.
I am also a big believer in the cleansing properties of water, not just literal, but energetic. When I began teaching with more and more frequency, a holistic health care practitioner I see suggested that after every talk I give, dance class I teach, or day’s worth of clients I see, to take a shower. As someone who was raised to shower in the morning or evening, taking showers at 5 or 6 in the afternoon became a bit of a shift in my routine, but it’s one I haven’t regretted. The difference in energy I feel afterwards is incredible. In the process, I’ve also been able to practice gratitude that I have the means to be able to take two showers a day, as it is not lost on me that a good portion of our planet is without a fresh water supply. I recently engaged in a wonderful conversation with the director of a treatment center. In dialoguing about the ways to practice mindfulness in everything, he shared, “I practice gratitude by realizing there are worse ways to start the day than by taking a hot shower.” How right he is.
I can probably write a whole new blog post just on the virtues of soaking in a hot tub or taking a walk along the beach or a lake and listening to the music that the water creates. In sum, there are so many ways to practice wellness through getting in touch with the flow of water. Yes, nutritionists and healthy living experts continue to extol the virtues of drinking water, pointing out just how vital it is to hydrate for our health. My contention is that the more you spend time with water and its various form, the more you will realize this truth for yourself. One of the most formative lectures I heard as a student came from a PTSD specialist and retired Israeli Army officer, Elishiva Kaftal. In speaking about the importance of preventative self-care for clinicians she noted, “When you grow up in the Middle East, you know that if you’re drinking the water when you’re thirsty, it’s too late—you have to be constantly hydrating to stay healthy.” What fantastic wisdom that can be appreciated both literally and figuratively!
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity