Years ago, when I was helping my mother while she was dying, she got me a pass to the local YMCA. Once or twice a week, I would leave the house that cancer was tearing down and swim. For a full hour, I would submerge myself in the water, feel it support me and hold me while it added my tears to its own substance. I came to revel in that time, reflecting on its restorative properties. I didn't have a mindful meditation practice at that time, but swimming definitely filled that particular need. It kept me (mostly) sane during an incredibly challenging time in my life, and helped me float through at least some small part of my grief.
Last week I was reminded of those qualities in a powerful way. We'd just discovered how to keep the water in the Jacuzzi tub hot overnight, so we could take a huge hot bath instead of a quick shower to start our day. And of course I thought to myself, why not combine my morning meditation with the bath? At the time I wasn't thinking of my previous connection with water, but rather how nice it would be to simply relax in the water instead of sit in the living room (okay, I was being lazy, I admit it).
Once I was in the water, though, and began the mindful practice of simply paying attention to what was around me, all my previous experiences with water came rushing back in. Only this time the tapestry was more rich; not only was the water holding me and supporting me, I also connected with its incredible power and strength. Thoughts of jagged boulders tumbling gently through time into the smoothness of a pebble danced through my mind. The weight of that kind of patience, that simply knows it will outlast the rough edges, that the simple gentle, repetitive nature of itself would smooth things out, began to unfold.
Later, as I was making breakfast for the kids and drinking my morning tea while simultaneously packing lunches and getting everyone ready to go out the door (the usual for many of us)...I found my patience to be almost limitless. Every time I took a sip of hot, scented water, I felt the power and patience of it coursing through me. I found myself embodying the essence of water, of breathing in power, breathing out patience.
That morning was a turning point in how I started being (not just talking or doing or behaving, but actually being) with my children. With my husband. With my students, and the parents with whom I work. Throughout the day, every time I would take a sip of water I could feel that same mantra...breathe in power, breathe out patience...breathe in strength, breathe out peace. By connecting with the element of water, I was able to connect with my own reservoir of power and strength, as well as the deep knowledge that over time gentleness and kindness would prevail. These are the traits that will smooth those jagged edges...given time. I have the depth and power to support those whom I love, and know that, in the long view, love is what will shape our family into what it has the potential to become. I also have the capacity to stay in this moment, in this time, to appreciate those fleeting waves, to connect more deeply with and hold close those around me.