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Life Purpose



Grief Listening


Praise Talk

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Injured Lineage


Mythic Allies






Explorers Free Course—Water—3 of 5

Water Medicine:  Living in a Time of Grief and Rage

W Intro


Elements | Water | Introduction

We are all carrying the helplessness of seeing the violence  and damage against the ecosystem and the powerless.


The end of this business-as-usual needs a literacy of grief.

A loss of our humanity and a loss of our world

Much of that anguish is passed down from ancestral injuries and laid on the current generation. In a modernity that belittles and outright ignores grievance against injustice, those who do "know the score" also may come under the dark spell of pretend hopefulness.

Indigenous wisdom says that we are meant  to grieve together, and that grieving properly is a skill of initiated people in an initiated culture. When grief is held back, nothing can be properly praised, and life withers as if in a drought. It is the grief that is the navigation we need.

Water Themes




Personal Benefits

Clearing improperly accumulated grief redeems the suffering and transforms it into praise.

Facilitator Skills

The modern backlog of grief calls leaders to understand how to hear deeply, how to give blessings, and how to carry the weight of our times.


Elements | Water | Wisdom
In this section:
  • Carrying an inheritance of grief
  • Distraction and suppression are ineffective
  • Grief has to include all grief together
  • This week's video
  • This week's blessing

Carrying an inheritance of grief

Our time is a time of ongoing obliteration against anything wild. Almost every cultural practice that dares to defy the supremacy of this project of repression and domestication gets marginalized. We carry the toxicity of inherited grief from the injuries and violence of the past. In turn, this toxicity gets acted out again in the current generation.

A world that hungers from the lack of knowledge and understanding about grief will seek to erase anything old—cultures, traditional knowledge, even Eldership itself. In the place of Eldership we are left with simply "olders," unvalued, uninitiated, unfit to lead culture, concentrated on the modern fantasy of the "forever young." It is an understandable damage, because there has been no visible way to deal with the grief of our times. We have lost initiation processes that could make olders into Elders, just as there has been a loss of initiations for young people. We must recover the knowledge of Grief Rituals.

It would be remiss to not mention early on when speaking about water that we are in a time that fire power is seen as a solution to every conflict. In such a situation, eventually nature herself comes under attack by fire as we see around the globe. The Dagara say that the proper proportion of fire to water is one to three.

Distraction and suppression are ineffective

An almost unrelenting grief. And it is dealt with, by and large, through distractions, or by ignoring it, or suppressing it. We don't have the old ritual ways of dealing with it, so grief can end up being carried in people's bodies as a toxic monster. Positive thinking and spiritual bypassing are understandable in a place that has lost the traditions of dealing with grief. Yet many old cultures see grief as an essential guide for community. 

Dealing with grief is to both release toxicity and to join with a sense of purpose to reform injustice. There is a toxic part of grief which needs to get out and be expressed. There is another aspect of grief that gets picked up and carried as a wisdom of experience.


The real knowledge about how to deal with grief is not to be found in psychology, but rather in the indigenous understanding of the cyclic nature of life and the reciprocity that necessitates that grief and praise are two sides of the same coin. Martín Prechtel's talk, which is the video this week, is the best introduction I've found on the topic. I highly recommend it, and in fact, I always request that participants invest the time to listen to it before attending one of the in person healing events.

Grief has to include all grief all together

Often people wonder if anger is part of a Grief Ritual work. And yes, it must be. The setting of a ritual context is to point the energy of the grief and anger away from people, where it can do damage, and instead let the powerful composting energies of the Elemental Forces take it and transform it.


Some people even wonder if they are "too sad" or tearful, or angry, or numb, to come to a grief ritual. This is the time to let your ancestors carry you in the old way back toward the caring heart of the village. Don't listen to the modern voice which might be inside you saying that protection is found in isolation.

The grief work always depends upon creating of the conditions  that might allow for the truth to be told. Grief comes in many guises, and many forms. People wonder if personal grief can be shared, if ecological grief, or grief about the state of the world can be shared, if old grief can be shared, if new grief can be shared, if the grief of empathy can be shared and on and on. In the Dagara tribe, once a grief ritual is called, it is understood that all the various kinds of grief are welcome to be expressed. Grief is seen as a blessing for the village. This is the old way of understanding that grief is properly meant to be a navigation guidance system for the human community.

In the act of proper grieving, both communities and people reconnect more strongly with what is still alive, and know the difference between a thing that should be let go and a thing that should be fought for. Grief is a community situation for that reason. There is a lot of work to be done.

This week's video

This week's video is actually an audio recording, even though it is on YouTube. The talk is in 3 parts.


This week's blessing

We are made of water, and the ocean is our great Elder that doesn't mind if the tears we hold return once more to the sea. Water, guide us as only you know about guidance, to naturally flow, to travel in accordance. If there is any way you can help us share your quality of sensing the moments to harden and the moments to evaporate, open our ears and our hearts. Thank you for quenching our thirst and keeping us alive as long as we will be.



"I see too many people who jump into spirituality as a shelter to hide from reality. It doesn't work that way. The way it works is for the spirit behind you to follow you wherever you go, like a loyal soldier, and show you how to face up to adversity. If you can't face adversity, you will get locked into a new age perception that everything is fine when it isn't."

Dr. Malidoma Somé
Author, Initiated Elder and Diviner of the Dagara Tribe,
Burkina Fasso,
West Africa

"“Grief is not a feeling it is a capacity. It is not something that disables you, we are not on the receiving end of grief we are on the practising end of grief.”

Stephen Jenkinson
W Wisdom
W Assignment


Elements | Water | Assignment
In this section:
  • A composition of grief and praise
  • Writing the poem
  • Water and water prayer
  • Extension
  • Declaration and support of benchmarking
  • Radical ritual of Water medicine

A composition of grief and praise

For the water module, the assignment is to write a poem. The poem has to have a little grit, a little grace, and a little guile in it. Michael Meade once quipped that "Poets are required to tell the truth . . . at least some of the time!" He is getting at the old idea that a creation is partly a thing that is coming through, not only the personality, but from a deeper source connected with the great mysteries.

If you are familiar with poetry, and feel comfortable writing, go to it! For those who might need a little encouragement, here is a way to get you successfully through the exercise. Remember, we are not trying to save the world with one little exercise! This is a step—a next best step. So in the next section I will do my best to get you writing an ok or even good poem.

Writing the poem

Here is what I recommend. First, read these instructions to the end. Then go do the steps and give yourself a time limit, 20 minutes. The first ten minutes, you can look around at a collection of some decent poems that I will send you to. Pick one that you like, enough to use in the exercise.


Find the collection HERE​

You are going to work with that poem as your "muse," an inspiration point. Either take the same topic of that poem, or a topic very related, or even the very opposite as your subject. You will only get (a maximum of) 13 lines to say your comment on that subject in the form of a poem. The lines need not rhyme, or even be in time. 


The ritual part of this is that you must mention 3 aspects of the topic—the Grit, the Grace, and the Guile. It is a practice of mentioning the grief and the praise in the same conversation. You have to step into a moment of handling what "only the poets can handle." Because of course, we all do have to handle that complexity of oppositions in life anyway. 

And the job is NOT to have "the final say" on the matter. That is too grandiose. What we are looking for is a little bit of you and a little bit of the divine. Your perception is already wired that way. Give a blessing to your reader by saying, "You know, things are just this way, some grit, some grace, and yet, us humans, we get by anyway by doing such-and-such." 

Water and Water prayer

Get a bowl and fill it with water. If you can get water from "living water," that is a river, lake, ocean or from rainfall, all the better, but you can certainly use water from the tap as well. Each day, put your hands in that water for a couple of moments, while you say a prayer out loud, something similar to the following:

"Water, help me if it is possible for you to do so. I wouldn't mind sharing some of your great skill in letting things move. As a human, sometimes I forget how to flow, and how to turn into mist, and how to be solid at the appropriate times. If you can share some of your teachings, I don't mind, and I appreciate it."

You keep that water in your house, and then before you refill the bowl each day, take it outside to the ground, or a tree, or even give it to your houseplants. All of these little prayers are a way of giving you a taste of the medicines of different elements, for two reasons. First, to begin to get an understanding of their different frequencies, and second, to begin to give you an understanding of your frequencies. For those who go on to more work, there will certainly be different kinds of kinship felt with different elements.


If you are very keen on the work of water, you could write a poem every day. Or you could go to a body of water, natural water if it is available, and immerse yourself, first giving a coin to the water the way people will throw a coin into a fountain asking for good luck. Often these practices have ancient or even indigenous roots.

And if you are interested to read some of my poems, they are located on this site under


Résumé | Poetics

Declaration and support of benchmarking

Use your notebook to make notes daily about how your days are going. Copy a couple of inspiring poems into your notebook, along with your own.

Remember the lines by Kabir:

"When the Guest is being searched for,
it is the intensity of the longing for the Guest

that does all the work."

One important image contained in this is the idea that the true grief or praise does not depend upon some fancy verbiage, but rather is valuable for the heart and soul behind it. With that in mind, you can give yourself a congratulations, well done.

Radical ritual of Water medicine

Over the last twenty-five years, I have both attended and facilitated dozens of weekend long Grief rituals. In our grief illiterate situation, of course, it takes some time to navigate into the territory where the honesty can begin to be shared, and an appropriate container set up. Despite the attendant organizational difficulties, I always strive to make these events residential. It is a Friday night to Sunday afternoon time scale, not simply one evening. This is necessary to travel deeply into the territory and begin to address some of the wounding.

"Everybody has to die.

I will die, and you will die.

The important thing is how to live until you die."

Nawal El Saadawi
Monkey Bathing
W More


Elements | Water | More
In this section:
Emotional Work: Confusion Presses In
The Smell of Rain on Dust

Emotional Work: Confusion Presses In

Episode 1 from

"Medicine Without an Expiry Date:

Indigenous Remedy for Modern Trouble"

by Randy Jones.

Read for free in pdf through this link:


"The Smell of Rain on Dust"

by Martín Prechtel

Written with Martín's unique poetic voice, his musings and instructions on this most keystone need for healing of the modern dystopia.

Buy direct from the author through this link:

W Invitations


Elements | Water | Invitations
In this section:
  • Continue the course now
  • Other programs
  • Hosting or requesting an event near you

Continue the course now

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