This week, as we continue to journey through the pancha maha bhutas (the five great elements) we’re turning our attention to the element of WATER.

The Five Great Elements – Water


  • What’s the flow of your daily life? Does it feel like Right Rhythm?

  • Do you give yourself permission to recede?

  • Do you honor and express your inherent creativity?


I’ve often said that the first thing we do in this life is inhale. In fact, I said it just a few weeks ago when we were exploring the AIR element. But as I’m sitting down to write this sermon about WATER, I’m reminded that before we take that first inhale, we leave the water of the womb. Billions of years ago life began in the waters of the ocean. And not too many decades ago, our individual lives began in the waters of our mothers. As I’ve been meditating on the element of water, the phrase that keeps repeating in my heart is the mother of creation. 

Water is the mother of creation.

As I write these words I’m sitting in front of the sea. I live just a few miles from a small bay. To my right I can see the Canadian Rockies. To my left I can see the San Juan Islands. And right in front of me, the waves are rolling in and rolling out. I can smell the salt and the seaweed. I can feel the breeze on my skin. The sun is above me. And the moon, which I can’t see, is behind me. According to an app on my phone, it’s just below the horizon. But even though the moon isn’t visible, I can still feel its force. As I watch the tide ebb away from me, I know the water is responding to the moon’s gravitational pull.

Everyday, depending on where the moon and the earth are in relationship to one another, the tide rises and recedes. And then rises and recedes again. Everyday, the waters of the earth move in rhythmic relationship with the moon.

As I sit here and watch the slow ebbing of the water in front of me I can’t help but think about the rhythms of my life and yours. How often do we give ourselves permission to recede? In her book “Water, wind, earth, and fire,” Christine Valters Paintner writes:

The tides teach us to witness our own rising and falling, … and to make space for the movement of both in our lives. As I discover while watching the tides, both are necessary. Our culture tells us to rise and rise and rise until we collapse in exhaustion. The ocean tells me otherwise… 

The ocean, the water—the mother of creation—teaches right rhythm. The rising and falling of the tides are a beautiful example of balancing energies. But I’m also thinking about the flow of a river. Have you ever tried to swim against the current? So much of our modern life feels like this to me. So many things work against us as we try to find enough time to sleep, enough time to actually sit down for three meals a day, or to take a little time to turn inward and listen for the voice of our hearts. None of us has complete control over our schedules. We all live within the demands of family life and work requirements. But I encourage you to sit in front of a body of water and ponder the rhythm of your daily life. As you watch the flow of water, I invite you to meditate on what right rhythm feels like for you.

And while you’re there, I invite you into the practice of ritual and prayer and blessing. I invite you to dip your fingers into the water and to touch your forehead and your lips and your heart and your belly and your hands and your feet. As you touch the water to your body, remember that water—as the mother of creation—connects us with every ancestor of this world. We’re all born of water. So dip your fingers in the water and offer a prayer of greeting. Say hello to the ancient life giver.

Next time you’re drinking a glass of water offer gratitude for hydration and nourishment. Next time you’re brushing your teeth or washing your dishes or taking a shower offer gratitude for cleansing. Next time you’re feeling sick and drinking watery broth, offer gratitude for healing. Next time you’re watering your garden or watching the rain offer gratitude for vibrant growth. Next time you’re lost in the flow of creativity, offer gratitude for the energy of creation itself.

Water is fluid. Water is flow. Water is a shape shifter. As John O’Donohue writes in his blessing called “In Praise of Water:”

Let us bless the humility of water,

Always willing to take the shape

Of whatever otherness holds it,

We can’t separate from water. We are made of water. And yet, water takes so many shapes that it can feel like an unknown Mystery. The ocean floor is as mysterious as the far reaches of space. Every time I stand in front of the wide open Pacific Ocean, I’m struck silent. The vastness of the ocean overwhelms me. The power of the ocean humbles me. I stand in front of the ocean and I feel the presence of God.

Water can take the shape of a vast and mysterious ocean. It can take the shape of a small winter stream that dries up in summer. It can take the shape of your water bottle or soup pot. It can take the shape of rain or steam or ice. It can take the shape of blood or saliva or tears.

I’ve wanted to cry a lot this week. There’s no particular reason—beyond the daily grief of life—causing the tears to come. But they’ve wanted to come. They’ve called my attention inward. I’ve asked myself: What’s wrong? What sorrow is present? I’ve found no answer. But still, I honor the tears. I honor the water. I honor the mystery. 

I sit here in front of the bay. I listen to the movement of water—to the crash of waves as the tide continues to recede. I stand. I walk away from my computer. I take a break from typing. I dip my fingers in the water and touch my tongue. I taste the salt. I lay my hands on the rocks and feel the flow of water rushing over my skin. And I pray.

Divine Water, I bow to you. I offer you my tears. I offer you the gifts of my creativity. Divine Water, Ancient Life Giver, help me move through the myth of separation and remember my connection with all beings. Divine Water, Shape Shifter, help me to see the flow of daily life as a sacred ritual. Help me learn to live in right rhythm. Divine Water, Mother of Creation, I offer you my praise and my gratitude. Thank you for this life.


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