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Water Mindfulness

By SaraHope Smith, Oregon, USA

As the yoga of awareness, Kundalini Yoga invites us to bring the heightened awareness we gain through our practice into everyday life. This practice can benefit us in so many aspects of our lives. I once read a memorable mockery of the history book phrase “discovering America,” contrasting how early settlers arrived at a place as if they had “discovered it,” while Native Americans had lived there for several hundred years and were still in the process of “discovering” the place. This is a beautiful metaphor of how different people walk through their lives with various levels of engagement and awareness.

Bringing our attention to our environment is a huge part of what the environmental movement/Eco Awareness is all about. It is what Mother Earth keeps calling us to do. One of my favorite exercises that the environmental movement brought into schools is to ask kids to think about where their water comes from and goes to. If you bring your awareness to when and how you use water throughout the day, you are bound to have gratitude for the modern plumbing we have worked out in this country. But where does all that water come from? And to where does it go when we are “done” with it?

Here is a fun exercise to try. If you did it as a kid, not to worry—I bet you live in a different place now, and the answers that matter are going to be different now too. Start with the water that you wash your face with in the morning, or use for your hydrotherapy shower. Where does it come from? Sure, it comes to you through the faucet or showerhead, but really, where does it come from? I live in Portland, Oregon and we get an annual report from our water district that lets us know about our water supply. It comes from Mt. Hood and the Columbia River through the Bull Run watershed, and can be stored in the Mt. Tabor reservoirs. It is then piped out across town. Some of it is gravity fed and some of it is powered by pumps. In other parts of the country and the world where people live directly off the land and have their own water supply, it is both a practical matter of health and a matter of personal pride that they maintain a clean water supply. For those of us in cities, we rarely know where our water comes from or what a watershed even is.

A watershed is the entire ecosystem that supports the water that flows into one place. Sometimes a city is fed from a single watershed and sometimes there are several, depending on the complexity of the surrounding geology. Sometimes the water is piped in from far away, because the city or town is built where it is too dry to collect enough water to support humans in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed in our modern lifestyles. In many regions our water use is putting stress on our local watershed or depleting irreplaceable aquifers. Since water is so pervasive throughout our lives and our bodies, knowing where it comes from, how viable that is, how healthy the eco-system is, and if there is potential dumping (even by cows!) that might contaminate the water can have a big impact on our personal lives. There are so many stories where people did not know, or were not able to stop what was upstream from them, and have had dire consequences as a result of contaminated drinking water. Watersheds are important.

So, the next time you sip water from your tap (or decide not to, because you don’t think the water is pure enough) think about where your water comes from. Allow your awareness to guide your curiosity to find out more about your watershed and how you might be able to protect it. One of my great teachers advised us that we can all choose to be guardians of something in the wild that does not have a formal voice in our society, and that as the champion for this place, or these beings, we can help protect not only their place in the world, but our vital connection to their place. Let this end-of-summer month be filled with water awareness. Challenge yourself to see how many levels of water mindfulness you can find.

The EPA's "Surf Your Watershed" tool provides detailed watershed specific information for thousands of watersheds in all 50 states: http://cfpub.epa.gov/surf/locate/map2.cfm.

SaraHope Smith has been part of creating 3HO’s Summer Solstice Green Team in its current incarnation over the last 4+ years. Professionally she is an Energy Analyst and Resource Conservation Manager for School Districts throughout Southern Washington state, helping them systematically reduce their consumption of electricity, water, natural gas, and solid waste while creating educational opportunities for the students as well. She is a certified Kundalini Yoga teacher, is trained in Permaculture Design, Solar Applications, Green Building, and has a deep history in local, sustainable biodiesel.