Water is truly the elixir of life. Life on earth would not exist had water not come into being billions of years ago. Our true creation story begins in the distant oceans – the source of all life arose from ancient deeps – our salty blood reminds us of our marine evolution. As Unitarian Universalists we honour this life force as an essential aspect of the interdependent web of life.
For UUs water represents the healing nature of our common life, the welcoming pool that accepts us all, as we are. Our water in-gathering ceremony reflects this symbolic understanding as we bring water from our summer experiences to blend into our water chalice on the Sunday after Labour Day. As water is the focus of our “beginning again together” ritual, it feels right to use water as the theme to begin this year of spiritual practice.
This month we turn our awareness and attention towards water, grateful for its life creating properties. In paying attention to water, we remind ourselves of our deep connections to all life on earth. We expand our awareness to the larger whole through the lens of water. Water also connects us to the larger Unitarian Universalist community, reminding us of its support and care.
2017 water ceremony – our beautiful water chalice.
Water: First Practice: Joys and Sorrows
The sharing of joys and sorrows is, along with quiet meditation, one of the most common spiritual practices for UUs. Most worship services include both in some form or another. For many congregations, joys and sorrows are expressed through lighting candles. Others use glass pebbles and water. Spiritual Exploration groups often use a water chalice. Each week when we gather, we take the time to place pebbles in our water chalice or light a candle, sharing the ups and downs of living. As we drop in a stone, we know the ripples extend beyond ourselves, letting our joys increase and helping our sorrows to dissipate. This simple act reminds us that we are not alone, others have experienced the same losses and concerns, and that happiness returns in time.
This week, our spiritual practice is to simply take “joys and sorrows” into our homes as a reminder that we are part of this chalice community wherever we are.
Fill a bowl with water. Collect some pebbles, glass stones, buttons, or pennies and place beside the bowl.
Each day, take five minutes to sit with the water chalice. Take a minute to simply sit and be, looking at the water. As you look at the water, reflect on your day. What are you struggling with? What are you worried about? What is hurting you? Pick up a pebble, name your struggle aloud. Release it into the water. Continue to sit looking into the water. What was the best part of your day? Where did you find delight? Pick up a pebble, name your joy aloud. Release it into the water. Sit quietly as long as you need to. To end, you might wish to say “Living with joys and sorrows, I am whole and part of the whole.”
Couples or Families
For families or couples, practice this at bedtime or at the end of dinner, whenever you are all together and have a few minutes to focus. Gather the family around the water chalice. Begin with quiet, just looking at the water. Then ask each person to share something significant from their day. After everyone has spoken, or after each person speaks, you might say “we listen in love”. To end, you might say “Together we face our sorrows and celebrate our joys. Blessings on us all.”
Tips: If your children (or you!) have trouble settling, begin by ringing a bell or striking a chime or drum. Clear some space around the chalice so there are few visual distractions. Use words that work for you. What matters most is taking the time to sit, look at the water, and reflect on the ups and downs of the day.