30 Jul 2018
Water memories are some of our most powerful. We experience the world, and comprehend it, through our senses. The sea, especially, leaves a powerful imprint in our body-mind. It is such a multi-sensory experience, which is important for our health. It’s visually stimulating with a thousand shades of constantly moving blue. Wave-exposed coastlines release negative ions believed to alter our biochemistry and light up our mood, relieving stress. Smells and sounds of waves all have an effect on our sense of wellbeing. And that’s before you even dive into it.
Our earth is 70% ocean, and yet only 10% of it has been explored. The oceans are receiving growing attention in global media with the spotlight on the harmful impact of ocean plastics for marine life and human health. As a society we are waking up to how our actions directly impact the ocean. 97% of our waste ends up in the ocean, and it’s estimated by scientists that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than ﬁsh. This evidences how our interconnection and interdependence with the ocean is absolute. Despite this, our watery disconnect in the world today is immense.
Move Like Water, an immersive leadership and personal development retreat for women, seeks to bridge this disconnect. Twelve women making waves in the world converged on the lake shore of Lough Melvin in the North-West of Ireland to celebrate our part in the water cycle and water as a powerful life-metaphor from source to sea:
River as the journey of life;
Lake as a place of mystery and deep reﬂection;
Sea and surf as the power of play, and ﬁnding ﬂow in the movement of waves.
We were a diverse mix of ‘wavemakers’, disrupting the status quo in some way, from policy, academia, civil society, non-proﬁt, the arts, business and journalism. With many working to positively impact and protect our seas and waterways, and the communities who depend on them.
The event was founded on the belief that water can act as a powerful mirror to the essence of who we are. We opened with a special ‘meeting of the waters’ ceremony led by water healer and environmental artist, Ruth Le Gear. Each of us had brought a sample of water from our source - a meeting of rivers, streams, lakes, bogs, estuaries, seas and even glaciers! The aim of the retreat was to tap into the power of water as an embodied learning experience and to highlight the interrelatedness of our bodies and water, helping to create greater body literacy, cycle awareness and build connection and self-worth.
We awakened our connection to both our inner and outer waterscapes. Our bodies have been shaped and formed by water – we literally have an ocean inside us. We learned that like the earth, we are 70% salt-water. Our hearts and brain are almost 80%. And like our mammalian cousins, dolphins, we too have evolutionary aquatic markers: amniotic ﬂuid is the same density as sea water, our mammalian dive reﬂex causes our heart rate to slow when in water. Cold water stimulates the vagus nerve, calming our ﬁght or ﬂight response, lowering cortisol and releasing feel-good hormones. Which we experienced to great effect when we plunged into a bracing river rock pool below a roaring waterfall! Our blood, our sweat, our tears all return, ultimately, to the ocean where it is continually recycled and renewed. After following the ﬂow of the water from river to lake, we ended up in the sea at Rossnowlagh beach on our last evening. The emphasis was on ‘wave play’, reminding us of the importance of letting go our need to be in control and surrendering to the playfulness of the surf.
Through immersive and embodied practices, Franklin Method body work led by Rachael Hall, mindfulness in nature, neuro-imaging, journaling, open dialogue and group sharing we deepened our process of connection and capacity to heal and be healed by our watery environments.
I'm trying to let go more and literally be like water. When I feel the familiar stress and tension of work pressure come on me, I try to picture the river we sat beside and go with the ﬂow.
Being immersed in these environments helped challenge notions of separateness and otherness:
It was a space that allowed me time for myself, where I felt safe and respected. I came to the retreat feeling my well had run dry. The demands of work, of family life, of being all things to everybody and often putting my own needs at the back of the queue had left me wrung out. The weekend allowed me to put my needs back on the table. It gave me the space to explore what I need more of in my life in a group of women who were also seeking. It brought me joy in myself. - Kathy
Each woman offered a fresh perspective on the experience of the female body in water, stripping it back to the essence of why we do what we do; to connect more deeply to who we are; and through this process of change, to connect more deeply with those around us and become more alive to our environment:
A transformative, inspiring weekend spent with possibly the kindest and most interesting plethora of women I have ever met. An experience that hit the blueprint of my being. Truly grateful. - Lizzie
To close the retreat, each of us received a small vial of the waters we had mixed at the beginning, the source and essence of who we are and where we came from. The remaining water was returned to the lake as our way of giving thanks to how much water heals. The hardest part is often ‘coming ashore’ and how we integrate the depth of wisdom from these powerful experience when we re-enter the ordinary world. I’ve been longing to embrace more ‘ebb’ in my life. Instead life has felt like it’s been in full ﬂood and all I can do is jump in and not resist the force. How do we remain grounded and connected to that joy in ourselves? Keeping the space open for honest communication and support is essential. I’ve been nourished by a steady feed of images and experiences of nature connection from each woman on her watery journey out in the world since the retreat. I’m reminded we are never alone, we are always connected by water. What’s next? I hope this is just the beginning of a greater reconnection with our watery origins and rich natural heritage and water environments in Ireland. On this island nation we have been utterly shaped by water.
To close the retreat, each of us received a small vial of the waters from Ruth that we had mixed at the beginning. What if we could pride ourselves with being the ﬁrst nation to be ocean literate, ﬂuent in the language of the rivers, lakes and seas? It’s through this understanding that there is empathy and connection – that’s how we overcome the seemingly overwhelming global crises we face. Wherever you are, ask yourself where are you meeting resistance in your life and what would it be like if you could be more like water?
Image Credit to: Dacotah Splichalova.
With special thanks for support from MalinWaters and Donegal County Council
For more visit: www.likewater.blue
Easkey Britton, born on the coast of Donegal, is a pioneering big-wave surfer and marine social scientist specialising in ‘blue space’, how water environments beneﬁt our health & wellbeing. Founder of Like Water, her work explores the relationship between people and nature, using her passion for the ocean to create social change and connection across cultures. Passionate about facilitating creative & collaborative processes, she uses the sea and surﬁng as an active metaphor to dive deep into the power of letting go & trusting in the process.
Rachael Hall, who lives on the coast of Devon in the UK, is an Advanced Franklin Method educator, Universal Health Principles practitioner, Pilates teacher and ex-professional Ballet dancer. Rachael’s passion and gift is creating a space where students begin to feel deeply at home in their body, deeply in awe of their body, connected to and clear about their unique role on our planet. She believes that when a deep rhythm is found within the ecosystem of the body it’s ripple effect spreads farther than we can imagine.