At the root of healing change in Ayurveda lie the five elements: earth, water, fire, air, and space.My teacher Garchen Rinpoche has connected the elements, attitudes and suffering. He has spoken in the past about the relationship of anger and fire. The aim is not to erase anger, yet to act with love on what we see in anger. This is obviously no easy task. Sometimes it’s all we can do not to spew ferociousness randomly in every direction. As I write this, I’m in one of those places. In Rinpoche’s teachings, if you’re in the midst of an afflictive place emotionally, you work to get yourself to neutral first. You do this however you can, walking, fresh air, breath, meditation, mindfulness. “When strong anger arises for you, neither accept nor reject it.” (From The Prayer of Kuntuzangpo, recited on the solstices and the new year) If you can hold with neutral in the midst of fury or intense fear, there is the chance that love and wisdom can percolate in. To expect ourselves to leap from intense difficult feelings to positive love is for most of us too much to ask. The job is to get to neutral. Once there, you can think about moving into the new with more positive feelings.
Living in times of profound earth changes, it can be easy to minimize our individual role in what looks like a movie much bigger than us. Or to struggle to find ways to impact the larger picture. Yet from the causal perspective, what we do very much matters.
Jane Ellen, a perceptive healer and former student of mine, reminded me of this last weekend. She wrote, “Something you introduced me to years ago came to the heart of my mind when reflecting upon what I may hold in my awareness regarding the fires in California.” (AM, Note: More than 8,500 firefighters are fighting the gigantic blazing in its third week as I write this.) Jane continued, “You once recommended I place bowls of water in my home to help balance the fire element. I had the idea the other day to create an altar with a green cloth (opposite of red/fire), then place a bowl filled with water upon the altar (water to cool the fire).”
I thought this was a great idea. I especially appreciated Jane’s clear intention, her loving awareness. The five elements of nature feature prominently in many healing systems, including Polarity therapy. In Tibetan medicine, they are considered to be five sacred goddesses, to be respected as such. In the indigenous Bon system taught by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche (author of Healing with Form, Energy and Light), it is considered important to renew our relationship with these five goddesses on a daily basis.
In the same way, Jane Ellen was intuitively approaching how to heal with the elements. In her message, she asked, “Since the air/wind element is a factor in the fires in California, what is balancing for the air element? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.”
Thinking about air, often it is the restless mind that stirs things up. Space can help the mind to settle. Being positively aware of our interconnectedness, how love travels through space to every sentient being, can help the restless air. Anything that helps calm our minds in a positive way can calm air. Good company, breath and mantra are all possibilities.
Jane came up with something direct and to the point. “I especially resonate with the idea of placing a single word written upon a piece of paper, placed upon the altar. Perhaps simply, (the word) “calm”. Back to neutral. Though for me, calm is like maha-neutral, a healing place of wry humor, quiet, and wisdom at its best.
Doing things with intention, with loving awareness is the point. Jane Ellen has been filling a bowl of water with love and good will toward California, with an intention of healing. This is far more powerful than doing it mechanically (as I have sometimes done). Others are expressing their compassion by funding the firefighters battling the fire. Still others by consciously reducing carbon footprints. Each of us can work with the elements in ways that make sense to us.
Teaching recently in Chino Valley, Arizona at the Garchen Buddhist Institute (November 15, 2017) Garchen Rinpoche said, “The way to freedom is applying wisdom-awareness to whatever afflictive emotions are there, thereby releasing them. We are conquering our own afflictive emotions.” Referring to Bodhisattva practice #22, he continued, “Inquire into the root, not the outer manifestations. . .In other words, if we were all loving and kind, there would be no suffering.” Yes, and you know how hard this is, any time you are in a dark place.
This week we are at a new moon (12/17/17, 10:38 pm PSD) with the solstice today (12/21/17, 8:29 am PSD), the return of the light. It could not come at a more needed time. This new moon is conjunct the galactic center of our cosmos (26 degrees Sagittarius). What we choose now can be deeply aligned with a much larger whole. Ady Barkan, the courageous young North American speaking out against the corrupt tax bill in Congress this week, began his journey with an element. Diagnosed with ALS at 33, he knew that without a ventilator in his future, he could not get the air he’d need to breathe and hold his 18-month–old son. The tax “cut” was literally going to take his breath away. December 18th, was his 34th birthday. His birthday wish was a most expansive one. He asked that as many of us citizens of the U.S., stand up, take a photo and write a short note on the back of it about how this bill will adversely affect us and get it to our Congress people. I did. Now I’m sending love and gratitude to Ady and his wife as we enter this next stage of whatever we’re facing as a country.
While the new moon offers the opportunity to seed new intentions, the planet Saturn/Shani is moving into Capricorn from Sagittarius, in rare step with the sun for this approaching solstice. It can give the intentions we make now more weight. Step by step we can change our own relationship with the elements to those more in line with our need for healing and the planet’s.
Earth, water, fire, air, space. Each gives us so much. What healing do you want to create now, with what element? Here are some possibilities:
Earth: give away some food. Eat a meal with awareness and respect.
Water: it could be on your altar.
Fire: join with others. Light candles, literally and figuratively.
Air: sing your heart out.
Space: create space to listen, to yourself as well as everybody else.
What are yours? Best wishes to you at this solstice. May we work together for the benefit of all living beings.
Amadea Morningstar, MA, RPE, RYT is an expert in Ayurveda health care. She meets you where you are, and is available with respect, bringing over 40 professional years of experience, academic training and hands-on knowledge that includes: Western nutrition, Ayurvedic nutrition and herbalism, Polarity Therapy, Marma therapy, Integral yoga, and nature-based approaches.
Moving into the New, photo by Iza Bruen-Morningstar