The Elements: Water As Symbolism

“You are not a drop in the ocean, you are the entire ocean in a drop.” -Rumi

As long as I can remember I have had a love of water. Now maybe that sounds a little odd, I mean its water for “flex” sake. We need it to survive and even to thrive on earth. Nothing in the world can live without at least a little bit of it. But at a young age I remember bath time would last hours. I never wanted to get out of the tub. I loved splashing, playing mermaid, and floating in the bubbles. As I got older my fondest memories became of swimming pools and jumping on trampolines while it was raining. Into my adolescence my friends and I would spend every waking minute at the lake or on a kayak down a creek or river. As I got more and more into spirituality and meditation (you know, all the hippie woo woo stuff) I realized that I was a Water Sign (there are 4 signs: Earth, Air, Fire, and Water). I am a Scorpio (the other Water Signs are Cancer and Pisces), each horoscope falls under one of these element signs. So maybe I am more sensitive to the symbolism of water but I’d like to believe we all are. After all, our horoscopes are never 100% on point.
What is water trying to tell us? It has an ancient history of symbolism. In the Bible, water is used to baptize and cleanse as a route for rebirth into the way of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost while also mentioning a great Flood that purged the Earth of evil and wrongdoing. The Quran also emphasizes water as a form of rebirth and a divine gift of wisdom from the Heavens. Ancient cultures were brought together by rivers and trading routes were posted along these paths (Egypt along the Nile). And we now know that some of these ancient cultures might have even been able to create electricity using their water sources. In the Buddhist tradition water is offered at shrines as a way to cultivate purity within the mind and body and many Native American tribes in the West call water a scared life form. We have seen this play out in recent activist protests in South Dakota as tribes have tried to block the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline in fears that this sacred water would be poisoned. In Hinduism water is said to have exceptional cleansing powers, there are even seven sacred cleansing rivers in India. In almost every religion on Earth it seems water plays an important role.
Let’s think about the different types on water structures on Earth. Each has a part to play and a story to tell. There is a constant ebb and flow to life and we see that so clearly in the ocean tides. We see the gravitational pull of both the sun and moon and how they affect the sea levels at any given time of day. Are we not also in this rhythm of life at the mercy of both the sun and moon? I don’t know about you but in the summer time I am always called back to the ocean. I try to go at least once a year. I feel like it always has something to tell me. There is a voice in the sea reminding me that “You are not a drop in the ocean but the entire ocean in a drop” (Rumi). The ocean itself is a metaphor for the vastness and mystery of the universe. That vastness also represents the mind. And the deeper into the mind we dive the bigger the mystery and the void become. Diving deeper and deeper we find stillness and peace. The deep dark abyss symbolizes the abundance of love and truth that we are gifted with on Earth and if we listen close enough we can discover our higher selves.
“The grass is greener where you water it.”
I’m almost positive most of us have been swimming in some form or fashion. Its somewhat of a birth right. Have you ever stopped to notice the zero gravity feeling in your body as you float? This feeling of weightlessness is said to symbolize peace and calm within the mind and spirit. If you ever dream about floating in calm waters it might actually mean that you have your shit together! But what about those rough and stormy waters? A metaphor for troubling times perhaps? Now obviously this is not going to stand out as anything particular to everyone all the time but maybe these symbols start showing up for you in dreams or pictures or on TV. Maybe these are signs that universal forces are trying to tell you to listen to your emotions. To me, there is something very freeing about floating in water. It feels like the forces of nature are holding me up and supporting me. Its a true “I got your back” kind of thing.
Just recently I had a very profound mediative experience. In my last couple of blogs I have touched on the fact that I am going through a heavy transitional period of life and frankly its a little scary with not knowing how the future is going to play out. I’ll spare you the details but towards the end of the meditation I had a visual experience where I ended up at the ocean. I saw one version of myself on the beach looking out at the water where another version of myself was floating on a raft. She needed help so I literally swam to her and pulled her ashore. Later after I came out of my meditation I realized that the version of me on the raft was the old and tired reality that I have been living. It was time for the me on the beach to take over. A new me.
Of course I googled the symbolism of what water might mean in meditation and frankly I was stunned at some of the common representations. Many see it as a cleansing experience. A chance to wipe away the old energy, the tired, the lacking. It symbolizes a rebirth of sorts and a new chapter approaching. Water is often said throughout many cultures to purify. Don’t you feel purified after showering? Water is a gift that washes away that which does not serve us any longer. It comes in so many beautiful forms and like a river it encourages us to push forward. But even if we find ourselves pushing against the current we grow stronger from the challenge.
“Now that’s high quality H20.” -Bobby Boucher, The Waterboy
I find it fascinating that water is one of the only things on Earth that can change forms. It goes through cycles of liquid, solid, and gas at the will of Mother Nature. And since water make up 75% of the physical self, we too are at the the will of Mother Nature. We come and go in different mind sets based on the weather and the seasons, even the moon cycles. Maybe our minds sometimes feel like they are up in the clouds, we feel like we are floating and based on life circumstances we rain down and come back to earth (we become more grounded) in a solid state. And many times we can feel loose and transitional and truly feel the liquid flow of life happening all around us.
We can take it for granted, I know I do, something so pure and common and good as water. We use it everyday, but it has a voice too. Let it tell you a story, be willing to listen. Let it support you and nurture and comfort you. Thanks for reading, I think I’ll go jump in the pool now!

Comments 1

  1. Sylvia Sykes
    September 18, 2020

    This was a great article! I was looking for water symbolism because I have an art project that I want to theme around water. This was awesome springboard for me, thank you. Also, I loved the humorous little inserts throughout like the Bobby Boucher quote 👌 nice 😂

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