Lessons We Can Learn From Water

Spiritography Day 6: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life

Since approaching photography as a spiritual practice, I’ve learned to focus more on the process of it rather than on the final product. It has become a lesson in receiving rather than in taking. Instead of a trophy that is hunted, the image I receive is a gift.

Like meditation or contemplation, photography-as-receiving requires me to cultivate an attitude of receptivity.  When I do, I open myself to surprise and mystery.

While it has taken time and deliberate effort, my lens for viewing is definitely changing.

On one of my contemplative walks, water became the subject, not as an object, but as a collaborator, even a co-creator. I spent some time contemplating different bodies of water to see what images I would receive and what messages would come through.

"Nature's Bridal Veil"

“Nature’s Bridal Veil”

I’ve stopped by this waterfall many times, but on this day it arrested my attention because it reminded me of a beautifully flowing veil. It was a sweltering day. The waterfall invited me over, as if to say, “Come. Take refuge here. Let me cool you with my mist.” Message: nature is our bride and we are her stewards. Only when we “marry” ourselves to nature will she reveal what’s beneath her veil.


“Little Dudh Kosi”

I call the photograph above “Little Dudh Kosi” which in Nepali means “Milk River” for the river that flows through the Everest region in Nepal. The milky water, here, flows from a hidden source within the bluff. Message: when we tap into the hidden resource within ourselves, abundance flows forth in our lives. We find ourselves living in the land of “milk and honey.”

The photo below is deceiving. Looking at this makes me feel as if I’m in an M.C. Escher illustration. The angle makes it seem as if the flow of water is moving away from me, from left to right, down into a dark cavity. It’s really flowing toward me, cascading down from the right toward the left and into the light. Message: life can be an illusion for those who are struggling with personal darkness.


The photo below shows the interplay of stone and water, creating various ripples. Message: the current of life that exists in all things flows in a natural rhythm, and connects everything.


Fellow photographer and friend Mike Rothman experiments with light and water in his contemplative practice. What he calls “water drop photography” is an exploration into the nature and beauty of something many people take for granted.  He uses the common element of water and the science of physics to create images that are not only aesthetic but comforting on a soul level. The photo below is a beautiful example of his work. Note the precision and the concentricity.

Photo by Mike Rothman

Here’s another that leads the eye on a visual journey accented by pops of color (completely unretouched, no photoshopping). Who would have thought that water had such a colorful personality?

Photo by Mike Rothman

Of course, the message I receive may not be the message another receives, but that just goes to show how multi-dimensional the sacred is.

Collaborating with water has taught me a few things:

1.  The act of living is the act of flowing. Water teaches us to be fluid, to flow, to move, to change, and to let go. If water is dammed up, it can’t flow and will stagnate. If we resist flowing with life, we, too, grow stagnant.

2. Water is nature’s reminder to relax and enjoy. It soothes us and produces a very relaxed state.

3.  Like water, we can make waves and make change. We can also create storm surges and tsunamis, so we must take care that the waves we do make are not destructive.

4.  Our body is approximately three-quarters water. The water that flows in the world is the same water that flows within us. Our bodies require it to live. Interestingly enough, studies have shown that our thoughts and emotions can change the molecular structure of water. This in turn affects our health and well-being.

Water is part of the rhythm of life. It teaches us how to live when we embrace its message. Let’s respect and appreciate it and give gratitude for it’s life-giving properties.

15 thoughts on “Lessons We Can Learn From Water

  1. Michael Schuyler

    For me, no. 1 above in particular points out to me the important message of moving and not stagnating. Life brings people in and out, and sometimes back in our lives as we go down Life’s river. Sometimes life pushes us in a direction we find ourselves resisting because we’re afraid. In spite of that we find ourselves proceeding onward via a strength and sense of purpose that override our fear and desire to take the easy and comfortable path. “How are you gonna get anywhere if you’re afraid of everything?” That’s a line I recently heard in an old Depression era movie….something to ponder. Wonderful blog, Penny.

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Hi Michael!

      Water will carry and support us when we stop resisting and let go…and in life, when we let go, we will find that we are supported by those who surround us with their love…it keeps us buoyant so that we can move forward.

      Love the quote…”How are you gonna get anywhere if you’re afraid of everything?” If we live our lives in fear of the unknown, we may as well hole up inside a cave and die.

      Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts, Cuz. Much appreciated.

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Hi Gena!

      I think one of the reasons why we resonate with the sound of water is because our physical bodies are comprised mostly of water, and so it is familiar, comforting, and soothing. It brings us back to ourselves. Some of my favorite adventures included camping on the banks of rivers, where the sound of water would lull me to sleep.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the photos.

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Hi Judy!

      Ahh, how can anyone NOT love water and what it has to offer us. It’s a beautiful thing! And if I can’t get to water, I keep a water feature on my patio so I can listen to its music.

      Thank you for dropping in and sharing. Big HUGS to you, too, my friend.

  2. Andrea Wisden

    What beautiful photographs. I love being near water, I find it deeply peaceful. I love your messages you received from the water. Going with the flow is a great one, great imagery of water stagnating, just like we do if we resist or stay still; much better to just flow. We have many waterfalls and sacred wells and other sites here in Cornwall. There is one such place that springs to mind (pardon the pun) seeing your beautiful images here. I can remember the first time I went there (St Nectan’s Glen) and being very moved by the energy and power of the waterfall. Not as large as the one you show here, but you could feel the energy. It is a very special place, and whenever we visit we get ‘orbs’ in the photographs. They are definitely not water droplets, but spheres of energy of some kind. Many debates as to what they might be, but they are definitely attracted to water. Strangely, we stood next to a man who did not believe in such things, and there were no orbs in his pictures, yet literally hundreds in ours, stood right next to him and pointing the camera at the same spot. I love this series, Penny, and I love your insights on what you see through your spiritual lens. Blessings! Andrea

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Ahh, thank you, my dear Andrea…

      It sounds like you are in a most special place in Cornwall with the waterfalls and sacred wells. Sounds absolutely beautiful.

      Water is energy and energy is designed to move and flow, as are we. I think one of the reasons we resonate with water is because our physical bodies are mostly made up of water, and so it calls to us because it is familiar and it brings us back to our point of origin…water connects us to the whole, and we recognize/remember that we are part of something much greater than ourselves. Water serves as that reminder for us.

      I’m glad you are enjoying the series. It’s been a wonderful challenge to approach life through this lens.

      Thank you for dropping in and sharing your thoughts. It’s always a blessing to hear your spiritual take on things.
      Blessings, my friend!

  3. anonymous

    I like the the point that you made when water becomes stagnate when one is stuck in a place of utterly miserable situation. .they feel like they can’t do anything right….that so resonated in me…..I can remember sitting in your classroom feeling like that…stagnate n feeling like there was no hope drowning in my self pitty…but at that moment in your classroom I started that shift in me & you turned my life around with how I should be thinking and giving me TONS of books which got the stagnate water FINALLY unstuck in my life…..I will always be grateful towards you for seeing a diamond in the ruff n pulling me out of the stagnate waters. …what a blessing…love n blessings to ya….

    1. Penny McDaniel Post author

      Hello my “anonymous” friend… 🙂

      I’m glad that point resonated with you. There’s nothing worse than feeling stuck and stagnate in life.

      I was but a vessel for the universe to work through, and I am happy it did. Your growth has been amazing to witness. I wish you continued growth and flow in your life. You blew the dam wide open, girl! Congratulations on receiving your shift!

      Blessings and love…

  4. Pingback: On Hold… | pennymcdaniel.com

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