Tenalach and Our Connection With Water
Written by Madison Lawson
The word “Tenalach” is used to describe the relationship humans have with the land, air, and water. It is a deep connection that allows one to literally hear the Earth sing.
When you step outside, when you’re deep in a forest, when your feet sink into dirt and sand, or when a large expanse of water expands in front of you, you may feel that connection. Your bones may sing with the Earth’s song. The water fills your body and connects you to the core of this Earth we live on.
Interestingly, there is actually scientific reasons that we feel this way. Tenalach is a real feeling that most of us experience. Our brains really do love the ocean and humans really are drawn to the sea.
Since time long-established, humans have been captivated by water and drawn to it’s edge. It makes sense, when you think about it.
The human body is made up of about 60% water. And when this balance is off, when you don’t have enough water, you can see physical reactions. It is visible through sickness, dehydration, excess mucus, colds, sinusitis, swelled glands, thinning blood, and clotting blood. Humans can only live for about 3-4 days without water.
We need it. We crave it. And we connect to it.
Technology has recently enabled us, scientists of course, to look deep into the human brain. This means our understanding has broadened and we now have new ideas about perception, emotions, empathy, creativity, health and healing, and our relationship with water.
Have you ever noticed that not-quite meditative state you sink into when faced with the immense calm found hovering over the surface of the sea? The peacefulness, unity, and general sense of satisfaction with life in the moment, staring at the blue water.
When groups of neurons are activated in the brain by any kind of stimulus — a picture, sound, smell, touch, taste, pain, pleasure, or emotion—a small electrical charge is generated, which indicates that neurological functions such as memory, attention, language processing, and emotion are taking place.
Water’s amazing influence adds to, enhances, and expands the mindful state. In an age when we’re anchored by stress, technology, exiled from the natural world, professional suffocation, personal anxiety, and hospital bills, and at a loss for true privacy, disappearing from those unforgiving feelings is wonderful. Even necessary. The enhanced mindfulness brought by nature, any of the elements, can be life-giving and wonderful. With water, you can be weightless and totally alone. You can find a floating peace that is nowhere else. And you can be inspired. The sound, smell, and feeling of water, through swimming, fishing, surfing, painting, whatever it may be, can inspire you deeply.
Water can give us energy, whether it’s hydraulic, hydration, the stimulant effect of cold water, or the mental refreshment that comes from the gentle, rhythmic sensation of hearing waves lapping ashore.
“Water is something that humanity has cherished since the beginning of history, and it means something different to everyone,” archeologist Brian Fagan once wrote. We know instinctively that being by the water makes us healthier, happier, reduces stress, and brings us peace.
And water enhances our emotions. Whether it’s fear and intimidation or inspiration and peace, we have a heavy emotional reaction to water. It is awe-inspiring.
So perhaps explore your own version of Tenalach however you can. If the sea is not readily available, search out a river ore creak. Find a pond or lake. Go fishing, build a little boat out of paper and tape. Dip your feet in. Jump in headfirst.
Connect and explore.