When you get to the water

I obsess over songs. I will find a song that moves something in me and listen to it over and over and over again. The repetitive listening stops when I get to the other side of whatever I’m experiencing. Spiritual and emotional growth is easier when set to music. Don’t you think?

The song of the hour is Burning by Yeah Yeah Yeahs. T​here’s a line in the song that asks “Whatcha gonna do when you get to the water?”

W​hatcha gonna do when you get to the water?

This question intrigues me. It offers me an opportunity to contemplate.

W​hatcha gonna do when you get to the water??

W​hat is ‘the water’? F​or me, the water is the Truth. It washes us of our masks, limiting beliefs, old stories, incongruous actions and makes us True. Water cleanses and is unyielding.

The song refers to the River Styx and, in my limited understanding of Greek mythology, bathing in the river would grant invulnerability — hence the story of Achilles whose mother dipped him in the River Styx so that he could not be killed except for where she held him by the ankle. These waters of the River Styx protect against arrows, but one must surrender oneself to the river first and submerge in the Truth of the water. Mythology depicts the River Styx as an inevitable transition space between the living world and the underworld. When there is submission — a sinking into the truth of life and death, we can become invulnerable to the arrows of our enemies — or the arrows of ourselves. The arrows of suffering.

Water is a powerful symbol for life. If I go back to my christian roots, water is the element utilized in the baptism ritual. This is not only true for monotheistic religions, but in almost every spiritual practice. Cleansing rituals, purification rites, healing practices all happen in a body of water. We emerged and emerge again from the water.

So then I must ask again — What do you do when you get to the water?

I am learning to hold sacred space for women, and I am also working with plants. Both paths have brought me to the waters edge. Meaning — both have put me in a place where I must let go of old patterns; stories that no longer serve me. To hold sacred truth for others, means I need to recognize and allow who I am in a way that I haven’t before. To see and understand the plants, I must allow myself to feel all the feelings that come with transformation.

Water reveals the truth of transitions. When we enter this earthly realm, water spills from the body of our mother. When the spirit leaves the living body, cells release their water. Most of our precious Earth is water. Water flows and changes. Much of the water on our planet resides in the clouds –and more remains frozen at the polar caps. Water establishes life and eradicates it. Water reacts in the face of fire, and freezing temperatures. It can carve beauty into stone. It sustains the most glorious ecosystems. For these few reasons, the idea of coming to the waters edge — standing on the banks of the source of love, the source of truth and life and death — is a powerful one. And for me, one worth exploring.

And so I ask:

What will you do when you get to the water? What will you do when life flows before you like a raging river? Or spreads itself like an ocean and beckons to you?

What do you do when the depth of human consciousness bubbles up at your feet, asking you to let go of your armor? To let go of the one thing you hold most dear and precious? Do you? Do you let go? Strip down to your most tender soft skin and enter? Submerge and wash yourself? Do you surrender your safety? Do you allow it to cleanse your wounds?

I have stood cursing the river of grief before me. I have paid the boatman to ferry me across — to the shores of something other than sadness. I have tried to skip the transition and vulnerability, not allowing the water to cleanse the pain of loss, but instead I distract myself with what is next. And then what is next. And then before I know it, I am layered by a calcified shell — I am stone. I am dissociated. Hidden. Heavy.

This consumerist culture we have made for ourselves makes it so easy to live dissociated. To distract and distract and distract. But in the end, I find myself right back at the same river, and when I have nothing left to offer the boatman, there is none but the water before me. In the end, we all run out of health or life or safety, and must stand at the waters edge understanding at last that it is inevitable. Water is inevitable.

Whatcha gonna do when you get to the water?

There is joy in the water. Now that I stand before it, I see the beauty. I look at the water and I see others — I see people dancing in the water. I see great cottonwood trees lining the edge of the river, their brave roots plunge deep into murkiness. They give me courage to dive below the surface and face whatever might live in the dark. Lilies in florescent shades open wide to the sun. They remind me how to float in my own brilliance. Even the graceful slither of a water snake teaches me how to swim. This water seems preferable to the ragged boat rowed by the ferryman — which is so packed with desperate people. People who are not ready to look into the water. And that is ok. We, each of us, have our own paths. We all come to the water many times in life and in death. There is time for renewal. Truth is inevitable and love is indeed abundant. And when we run out of time, health, energy, willpower and have nothing left to pay the boatman. We have to decide–

Whatcha gonna do when you get to the water?

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