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The Water Way

drops of water on stalk

Whether examined scientifically for its unique properties, or philosophically for its powerful, yet adaptable behavior, water is an amazing teacher.

The vast majority of the Earth and most of our bodies are composed of water. We encounter it every day, yet may not realize just how profound this element really is.

The Water Way

Taoism often uses water as a metaphor to convey its principles and teachings. Because of its adaptability, it can embody the concept of Wu Wei or effortless action.

By adapting to change with grace and ease, we can flow around any obstacle, rather than wasting energy fighting against the necessary change.

Water is also viewed as a symbol of harmony and balance. Like water, individuals are encouraged to align themselves with the natural flow, like a river that guides us forward.

By following the path of least resistance and avoiding unnecessary struggle, one can achieve harmony with both oneself and the world around them.

The gentle, yet powerful nature of water is capable of shaping landscapes over time through its persistent flow. Taoists often advocate for humility and gentleness, encouraging individuals to emulate the qualities of water in their interactions with others and the world.

By cultivating a soft and yielding nature, one can achieve greater effectiveness and influence, rather than through force or aggression.

The Water Way reminds us of the ease of living and can return us to joy.

Removing Boundaries

Perhaps the most important philosophical model presented by water is what it can teach us about formlessness and emptiness. Taoism is the practice of removing boundaries, just as water can take on any container or shape it encounters.

When we embrace emptiness and formlessness, we can be open and receptive to the ever-changing nature of existence.

Thirty spokes share the hub of a wheel;
yet it is its center that makes it useful.
You can mold clay into a vessel;
yet, it is its emptiness that makes it useful.
Cut doors and windows from the walls of a house;
but the ultimate use of the house
will depend on that part where nothing exists.
Therefore, something is shaped into what is;
but its usefulness comes from what is not.

By letting go of attachment to fixed ideas and identities, individuals can flow effortlessly with Tao and experience a deeper sense of freedom and fulfillment.

When we contemplate the nature of water, practitioners can gain insights into the principles of Taoism and cultivate a more balanced and harmonious way of living.

The Science of Water

Thousands of years ago, the Taoists revered water as a sacred teacher, prior to our scientific understanding of how unique it really is. Water is the only naturally occurring substance on Earth that can be found in three physical states: solid, liquid, and gas.

Portraying Yin and Yang, water molecules are also polar. Oxygen is more electronegative than hydrogen, giving molecules the ability to bond with each other and other polar molecules. These qualities give water its unique and powerful capabilities:

Agent of Renewal: Water is often called the "universal solvent" because it has the ability to dissolve a wide range of substances. Its polar properties bond with the molecules of other substances and break them apart. This is crucial for many biological and chemical processes, as it allows for the transport of nutrients, gases, and waste products within living organisms.

Climate Regulation: Water has a high heat capacity, meaning it can absorb and store a large amount of heat energy without significantly changing its own temperature. This property helps to moderate Earth's climate and stabilizes temperatures in aquatic environments, making them more suitable for life.

Defies Gravity: Water molecules are attracted to each other, creating a phenomenon known as surface tension. This property allows water to form droplets and maintain cohesion, which is an important aspect of how plants can draw water upward into their leaves. In this way, water can defy the pull of gravity.

Economy and Wellness: Most substances contract when they solidify, but water expands as it freezes. This unique property causes ice to float on water, insulating the liquid below and allowing aquatic life to survive during cold temperatures. It freezes as snow at higher elevations to sustain life downriver throughout the year.

Although it is an element, water is like a force that is everywhere and nowhere at the same time. It sustains, breaks down and renews in a way that is essential for life. We could survive for weeks without food, but only 3 to 5 days without water.

Whether emulating its behavior or marveling at just how life-sustaining it is, water is truly the Earth’s most sacred element.

cave with waterfall video by kari hohne