Without water, there would be no life. Life on his planet began in water, and without water, life as we know it would end. Daoists celebrate water’s purifying properties and use water as a tool for both spiritual and physical healing.

Daoism teaches that water can be a spiritual teacher. Water helps all living things and asks for nothing in return. Water is adaptable. It can take on the shape of whatever container you put it into. I find it useful to my spiritual practice to meditate on the nature of water. When I look at a lake, the tranquil water gives me a feeling of calm. Even when the wind blows over water making waves, there is still a sense of peace. Water is like our mother. Returning to water can bring comfort and clarity in difficult times.

From a martial arts perspective, water is an example of yielding and softness. When you strike water, it disperses, and there is nothing to make contact with. When attacking, it can be strong and fast. Tsunami or waterfalls can exert a large amount of force. Over a long time, drops of water can even carve through stone. We can reflect on water’s abilities and imitate them in our martial arts practice.

Healing with Water

Practice 1 – Washing

The first practice involves the temperature of water you use to wash. In China it is very common to use hot water to soak your feet in the evening. The hot water increases circulation, making it easier to sleep. In the morning when the sun is coming up we use cold water to wash the face. This helps wakes you up and improves your energy level.

Practice 2 – Drinking

Chinese medicine teaches that drinking tea in the morning is better for your health than drinking cold beverages like milk or juice.  Starting the day with something warm has a soothing effect on the body and helps digestion. In China, some people who have low blood pressure can drink warm water with a pinch of salt. This can help raise the blood pressure, but should be done under doctor supervision as it can damage your kidneys if done incorrectly. Another drink is yin yang water. It is made by adding equal parts cold and hot water to a glass. The cold water is yin, and the hot water is yang. This is used to treat what Chinese medicine calls excessive internal heat in the body. Symptoms of internal heat include dry skin, canker sores, inflammation of the nasal or oral cavities, and constipation. Yin Yang water can be drunk two times a day, morning and night.

Practice 3 – Sweating

When I was a child, in my village there was not a lot of access to medicine. When we get sick, we would soak our feet in water until we began to sweat. This is a more aggressive practice than the gentle foot soaks mentioned above.   When you induce sweating, you increase the base body temperature helping it kill pathogens and fight infection. Chinese medicine says sweating opens the pores of the skin so that the pathogen can leave the body. Saunas and hot baths can also be used.  It is important that you protect your body after sweating.  Wind and pathogens can enter your open pores and make you sick. So, it is important to dry off and cover up afterwards.

We can learn a lot from water.  It nourishes our bodies, calms our hearts, and cleans us when we are dirty.  Water is worthy of our appreciation and respect.