I just read in the news that there has been an oil spill off the coast of New Zealand. I imagine what life might be like without clean water, if crude oil came out of my tap everytime I wanted to take a bath. Or if the wish to make coffee, cook rice and brewing tea would ask me to travel far distances for clean water. I wonder if some prayers for water might be in order, and through that, prayers for all the life it sustains and destroys. Water is immensely powerful. It can annihilate villages and coastlines violently in hurricanes, tsunamis and floods. Ancient civilizations deified water for good reasons. In China, Gong gong is the water god responsible for floods. In Welsh mythology, Llyr, is the god of the sea. The Greeks had many water gods and goddesses: Amphitrite is the sea goddess and consort of Posedon; Ceto is the goddes of the dangers of the ocean and sea monsters and Palaenon is a young sea god who aids sailors in distress. The Romans had Neptune and Fonus. The Aztecs, Atlaua and Tlaloc. In India, there is Ganga, goddess of the Ganges River; Varuna, god of the celestial ocean. Sometimes, I wonder if in our post-modern mythologies, in the deification of money, technology and film stars, if we've lost an ancient reverence for the simplest things of life. How to begin with returning to a initial state of gratitude? Sometimes yoga practice starts with the simplest things. Today, for me, it begins with reverence for water.
Years ago I remember choosing water as a reminder to be mindful. Mindfulness, for those of you new to the term, means staying in the moment. Every glass of water I held to my lips held with it the reminder, or the "memento" as ancient Romans would say, to stay present with the act of drinking. "Memento aqua", I would say to myself, "Be with with the act of drinking. Recognize that I am not separate, that the water is no different from my body and from my mind. This water sustains life." And then from the first sip to the last, I did my best to stay present with the water. If a thought of "what happens next?" arose, I'd turn my mind back to the water. In simplicity, the rush of have-tos, and must-dos, and may-bes, that can circulate like a carousel in my head, stilled in the quiet expanse of the experience of the water. If I was truly present, the world tuned into one beautiful water-sip - the feeling of freshness expanded through the room, the sight of the light refracted through the glass and the play of light on the water clearly filled my eyes. The sound of the wind against the trees carried the quiet tune of 'now'. In the cold palette of tiny sips, time stood deep, wide and still.
Recently a yoga teacher reminded me of that same practice, of choosing one activity to remind oneself to be mindful. If I'm on target, at least eight times a day, the motion of pouring water into a glass, of watching it splash against the curves of its container, lifting it to my mouth, tasting it across my tongue, sensing it journey down into my belly - all that will turn into a practice of mind staying present. And each glass will act a "memento" of mindfulness, that hopefully will carry onto the next and the next.
In honour of the mindful practice of drinking water, I've prepared a special recipe for you. It's called, "Memento Aqua" and it's made of special mindful ingredients. The first is water. Clean, pure drinking water. I wouldn't recommend drinking out of plastic bottles, for we know how the birds and the fish and the seaweed too often end up choking on all those discarded Evian bottles. Tap water is okay, unless you are living in an area of the world where tap water may be unsafe. If you have to buy distilled or spring water, it's best to choose from a local source, for the cost of shipping fancy imported water causes more fumes to exhale into the rivers, which then pollutes the water in the bays, lakes and oceans, making it difficult on the denizens of the sea. Of course, that polluted water then comes back to us, through our taps, which is why so many people started buying plastic drinking water in the first place. The great Canadian environmentalist, David Suzuki drinks tap water, for he believes the more people drink from the tap, the more demand there will be to keep our tap water clean. I'd like to follow his lead.
In today's "Memento Aqua" recipe, I've added basil leaves and cloves. When I was living at an ashram, quite a few yogis used to drink basil water, for the properties of the herb have been known to increase the 'yang' of the body and to help the mind focus. Basil was once believed to be an elixir of good health, a magical substance, a potion of love. Romans noticed that it helped with digestion and counteracted poisons. It also looks pretty.
Cloves are special herbs too. They remind me of childhood and my mother who prepared what she called, after Peter the Rabbit books, 'Flopsty-Mopsy tea', made with cinnamon and cloves. Cloves have a warming effect on the body, and that's good for this time of the year with the coming of winter in the northern hemisphere. They have been known to act as an antiseptic, antispasmodic and an anti-infammatory.
Enjoy the water. Memento Aqua.
I wish you all mindful drinking.