Nourishing Every Cell with the Elements


By Amadea Morningstar

Are You Ready for a Fresh Start?

Instinctively in the West, as spring approaches and a new seasonal calendar begins, we consider beginning anew. As we approach this coming equinox, I’d like to invite you to open to the five elements — earth, water, fire, air and space — the ingredients of nature around us. In Tibetan indigenous culture, the five elements are seen as five goddesses, who can help us with our healing. For example, In the pre-Buddhist Bon religious tradition of Tibet, people chant and meditate to create a strong relationship with the goddesses, who in turn help them by retrieving lost elemental energies.
For us Westerners, we could begin some like-minded adventure by noticing how the elements nourish us and which elements we might need more of in our lives. The elemental “Nourishment Questionnaire” contained here (see sidebar) can get you started with a look at your own life and how you’re living it. Whether or not you actually want to make a fresh start with the elements is entirely up to you.

In past columns, I’ve talked about light, airy Vata and warm, passionate Pitta doshas, two of the three vital biological energies that mobilize our metabolism from the Ayurvedic medical perspective. The third dosha yet to be explored is deep, reliable Kapha, slow and dense, the physical equivalent of the smiling Hindu god Ganesha, lord of abundance. When we are working well with Kapha, health and wealth stick around. Kapha dosha, made up of the elements earth and water, is like the soil after a good amount of snow or rainfall: cool, moist, fruitful. Fortunately, this winter we’ve been experiencing more of this Kapha-style weather here in northern New Mexico.

Kapha offers us strength, endurance, a grounded quality about how we go about life. None of the flitting of the winds or flash of fire for this dosha — it’s earthy to the max. In honor of Kapha season (winter and early spring), before we melt back into the heat of late spring and summer and Pitta predominance, I’d like to get practical, Kapha’s specialty. It notices what it’s doing and what needs to get done. Hence, our elemental Nourishment Questionnaire.

From the Ayurvedic perspective, when we have a strong amount of Kapha, or earth and water energies, in our constitutions, we may need to lighten up, get some stimulation, move. How we chose to move can vary a great deal from one of us to another. When it comes to change, Kaphas move slowly. Yet once the Kapha energy has been activated, it will stick to its proposed changes with more tenacity than either Vata or Pitta. Consequently, if you see a behavior on this questionnaire that rings a bell for you, that you might want to shift, invite Kapha to help you make an enduring, effective change.
For example, if you found yourself checking a fair number of responses in the “Space” category on the Nourishment Questionnaire, it might be time to create more space in your schedule to feed yourself. This could mean literally inking in at least 30 minutes at noon for lunch. It might mean making a commitment to skip fewer meals, or to create a more appealing place in which to cook and eat. The space element implies both space, space for oneself, and time, time in which to enjoy that space.

With the air element, it’s a matter of getting fresh air: for example, taking time to get out and get the kinds of exercise you need in fresh air. Or letting yourself notice whether you’re letting yourself breathe fully, especially in tense situations. Breathing actually helps our ability to digest, physically as well as mentally.

The fire element keeps us warm inside. It stokes our digestion, warms our thoughs, feelings, and physical bodies. Full-spectrum lighting, and being exposed to enough sunlight, are part of having enough of the fire element in our lives.

The water element is pretty easy to notice – as adequate or lacking – here in the desert! Many people choose to take breaks near water, whether it’s the Pecos River or a more distant body of water like the ocean. Dehydration is an extraordinarily common cause of headaches and other bodily pains. Dreams and the free flow of feelings are another level of how water manifests in our lives.

Getting back to the earth element, setting boundaries and limits are the ultimate Kapha activity. In honoring our earth, we honor our limits. Without earth, we can just keep committing, to more and more activities, until there’s no space left in our lives for the small quiet moments of down time we need to nurture ourselves. Earth element supports space by creating limits to its endless possibilities.

When you look at yourself and this questionnaire, is there any one change you’d like to make, that would benefit yourself and others? Are you willing to follow through and let the solid, strong, committed energy of Kapha be your ally in this time of new beginnings?

I hope so!

Healing with Form, Energy, and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche includes a clear, specific way to work with the five goddesses of the elements.
This article first appeared in the March, 2005 issue of The Eldorado Sun monthly magazine,