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Mni Wiconi: Water is Life

The average adult human body is made up of 50-65% water. Babies are made up of even more, typically around 75-78% water, dropping to 65% by one year of age. Fatty tissue contains less water than lean tissue, so our body composition determines what percentage of water we contain, but we ARE made of water and water is essential for life. It is the first thing we look for on other planets to see if they might sustain life.

I write this blog post the day after the Native people of Standing Rock won a temporary victory over the construction of an oil pipeline that, if finished, will run under the lake that provides them with safe and clean water. They have been protesting for months, joined by others who care for this Earth. This weekend, veterans from our own U.S. military joined them in solidarity. In response to the protest of millions of people in the U.S. and even around the world, the Army Corps of Engineers declined to issue the permit for Energy Transfer Partners to go under the lake. This is only a temporary victory, because the company could ignore the Army Corps and just pay the penalty later, or wait for the next administration that is deeply invested in this pipeline to give them approval.

As this fight for our rights to clean water has played out, I have been reminded of my own Water quest over 20 years ago. I completed 2 Vision Quests in my early 20's in the Lakota tradition, one under the guidance of my teacher, Caocoochee, and the other on my own - on a friend's land in West Va. After my first quest, I earned the name Shining Waters. Some time after that quest, I decided that I wanted to deepen my relationship to this element. According to my teacher, Caocoochee, there were Element quests that one could take for Earth, Water, Fire or Air - the requirements for each differed depending on the element. He led me through a Water Quest. I will not reveal all the details of my personal quest, as I strongly advise that if you engage on any kind of Vision Quest, that you find a teacher to guide you through it. But, basically, it consisted of going 3 days without water. I could not drink water or any other fluid or even eat watery fruit like citrus, melon or apple. I ate very lightly because, it goes without saying that if you eat a lot of fibrous material WITHOUT water, you will become constipated. I was able to meet my most basic needs for water through vegetables and my treat was a frozen banana that I ate once a day. I also spent time at Oregon Ridge Park in Hunt Valley, MD where I would sit by the stream and meditate on the flowing water. By the third day, my thirst was palpable. My appreciation for water had deepened, and I could literally feel the water flowing through my veins and arteries. I became keenly aware of water's comforting, healing, nurturing and refreshing qualities.

Having access to clean drinkable water is a requirement for our survival on this earth. Some of my own ancestors were "earth keepers". Native spirituality includes a deep understanding of our connection to the earth and all elements including water, air, and fire. From the time the first European colonial settlement took place on this continent we have abused the land for our own temporary gain. It is time we learned from our Native brothers and sisters and ancestors how to live with respect to these elements and keep them for ALL people - not just the white and the wealthy. We must protect our resources for ALL people.

In yoga, the element of water is connected to the 2nd chakra, Svadisthana - located below the naval. It is connected to our sexuality, fertility and creativity, as well as our emotions. Here is a simple meditation you can do to connect with the water element. Come to a comfortable seat - if possible seated cross-legged, as this will help to gently open the hips - or perhaps lie in Reclined Bound Angle pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) with cushions and blocks or blankets for support (see photo).

Take Jala mudra with both hands - touching the tip of your pinky finger to the tip of your thumb, and rest the backs of your hands on your thighs or the floor. Close your eyes and focus on your breath, breathing into the belly and lengthening your exhale. If possible, use sedanta pranayama. Touch your upper and lower teeth together and place your tongue behind the upper teeth at the palate. Inhale through the mouth and exhale through the nose. This is a cooling pranayama. Begin to focus on your 2nd chakra - at the lower abdomen, the sacral area. Take several breaths, imagining an orange light growing brighter as you inhale into this space and contracting as you exhale. Imagine your breath as a river flowing throughout your entire body - through your veins and arteries. Feel the connection with the water that makes up your own being. Stay with this as long as you like. Then begin to come back to the sensations in your mouth. Feel your tongue inside your mouth and the water surrounding it. Let your jaw relax. Take 3 more breaths and slowly blink your eyes open.

Please respect our Earth and our Water. Water is prana. Water is life. If we all lived as the Native people of this land once did, we could make a difference. As Oren Lyons, Seneca Faithkeeper of the Onondaga Nation said, "The Peacemaker taught us about the Seven Generations. He said, when you sit in council for the welfare of the people, you must not think of yourself or of your family, not even of your generation. He said, make your decisions on behalf of the seven generations coming, so that they may enjoy what you have today." Namaste.

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