"The heart is quiet rather than noisy, intuitive rather than deductive, lives entirely in the present, and is, at every moment accepting of reality as it is. Moreover, the heart does not seek to distance itself from, or dominate anything or anyone by labeling.
Rather, it begins with an awareness of its relationship with the rest of creation (and everything and everyone in it),
It accepts rather than rejects,
finding similarity rather than alienation and likeness rather than difference.
Your heart knows no fear, it experiences no desire,
and never finds the need to defend or justify itself.
Unlike your mind, your heart never seeks to impose itself.
It is patient and undemanding. It does its work with no prompting
It nourishes our bodies in every moment.
Little wonder, then, that the mind, always impatient and very demanding, manages to dominate the heart so thoroughly unless we are vigilantly watching and making our hearts the absolute kings of our beings"
Words from Fr. Archimandrite Meletios Webber
In Part 2 of our Five Elemental Series we explore the glorious qualities of water. Think sparkling oceans, glistening lakes, magnificent waterfalls, puddles and raindrops - and what they teach you about your body, your health, your happiness. Our bodies consist of 70% water and so the water element is alive and flowing inside us…in a big way. How do we begin to connect to our water element – and how do an out of balance water element impact our health and quality of life?
Water – Flow effortlessly: Know where you are going.
Water always has one clear goal which is pursues with commitment and determination: to flow effortlessly, changing shape constantly, and moving, always towards finding the lowest point, in any landscape. Once there, water can become still – so still that you can see your reflection in it – like a mirror. On the path to the lowest point, water runs into many different directions, gathering bits and pieces to take on its journey with it. Likewise in our bodies, water transports information and nutrients, via our blood and circulatory system. We can see this in a symbolic sense as the water element representing the sense we make of knowledge and experience gained on the multiple avenues our life journey can take us on. We carry this information and knowledge with us, and can choose what we hold on to and what we discard, how and where we use these experiences. The point being that the knowledge and experience has been gathered – it is there for us to love or leave at our own peril.
Then eventually water actually reaches the lowest point. This symbolises “getting to the bottom of things” or the establishing the truth – our own true, our true potential, and our honest feelings. Being at this lowest point water illustrates that in stillness we have the ability and clarity to reflect. If we can quiet our physical body and above all our mind – we can learn and gain a whole lot! We have acquired all the information, knowledge, wisdom and experience along the path to get us where we are now….now we need to trust that we can use that properly and truly ascertain – where am I going?
The organs in our bodies that we associate with the water element are the kidneys and the urinary bladder. Water energy meridians run up from our feet through the inside and back of our legs, and up the torso to the clavicles in the front body and all the way up our back, the back of our heads and over towards the inner eyebrow. Water imbalances manifest with issues in our urinary bladder and kidney. It is also common to experience injuries on these energy lines or meridians such as tight hamstrings, back pain, neck pain and headaches. Common physical conditions associated with water imbalances are central nervous system issues such as stress, insomnia, fertility issues, menopause, sciatica, scoliosis, and all other spinal related issues due to the location of the urinary bladder meridian running up the spinal cord.
An out of balance water element, and corresponding physical dis-ease aims to draw our attention to the way in which we live our truth – or not. Are your water imbalance symptoms your body’s way of telling you that you have created a life on the basis of what you ‘think’ you ought to be and your true self has gotten lost in the ‘show’. Having to uphold a façade – regardless of how subtly we do so may lead to us either being very controlling of people and circumstances – all out of the ultimate fear of being exposed as a fraud, OR becoming very withdrawn, apprehensive and easily guided because really we have no idea where we should be going ourselves. When we have a water imbalance, we have low self-esteem born out of a lack of trust in ourselves. How can you trust yourself when you haven’t connected with your own truth? What/who exactly would you be trusting if you haven’t yet taken the time to connect with your true feelings and you don’t know your true potential.
A balanced water element means the teachings of water as mentioned above are seeping in – we become adaptable and more accepting of the truth in others and how it manifests itself. We have an openness to learn in a philosophical way as we follow the path of knowledge. We are less controlling of outcomes because we see the opportunity to learn and grow in everything – we find it easier to ‘go with the flow’ and appreciate the journey as much as the destination. We are able to be still, reflect, find our own truth, be connected to our feelings and grow in knowledge about our true potential and ourselves in general.
We have all seen and experienced water imbalances in ourselves and in the people around us. Living a life out of fear has devastating effects on your relationships, your career, and your general quality of life so let’s look at ways of balancing water pronto!
A Yoga practice aimed at balancing water will have a general aim of flowing and doing so with equanimity, effortlessness and ease. Fluidity in movement is extremely important when balancing water. Yoga postures aimed at stimulating the urinary bladder, kidneys and both organs’ energy meridians involve:
· Backbends – baby and big back bends are all stimulating to the kidneys and water meridians
· Forward folds – both standing and seated forward folds
· Kidney Squeezes – baby cobra (Bhujangasana) and variations
· Shoulderstand (Sarvangasana)
· Plough (Halasana)
Yoga postures challenging our balancing capacity also helps to balance water so have fun with:
· Tree (Vrksasana)
· Dancer Pose
· Half Moon Pose (Ardha Chandrasana)
· Standing Hand to big toe (Padanghustasana)
· Warrior 3 (Virabhidrasana 3)
Note: always remember to warm up your spine properly before undertaking a strong backbend practice and alternate backbends and forward bends to keep balance in the spine.
Lifestyle and Eating Habits
Foods that balance water tend to have a salty taste to store food and energy deep into the body. We recommend rock salt or sea salt as opposed to processed salts such as table salt or salt found in processed foods.
In balancing water you want to be eating foods that promote kidney functioning and you want to be hydrated – always! Consider including barley, quinoa, tofu, black beans, soya beans, mung beans, kidney beans, seaweed, spirulina, sesame seeds, soy sauce miso and pickles in your diet. Spices like cloves, fenugreek seeds, anise seeds, black pepper, dried ginger, and cinnamon are great to include and enjoy lots of walnuts, onions, leeks and chives.
To connect to the water element in your body, undertake activities involving water such as swimming, enjoying hot thermal baths or seeking out hot springs. Try guided meditations on water and its qualities and seek out opportunities for stillness and reflection. And if all else fails – just make sure you stay hydrated!
Try to find ways in your life and practice to find your water, find yourself, and find where you are going.
I am the Master of my Fate. I am the Captain of my Soul
- Nelson Mandela
Wise words by an extraordinary man. Someone who managed to live a life that served as an inspiration to the entire world. He created what he wanted, against all odds, and emerged a peaceful and loving being, despite all the hate, anger and injustice that was projected onto him. How can we begin to live and embody that philosophy of life? What does it really mean to be in charge of your life, to be the creator of what you are, what you have and what you become?
The truth is, whether you are aware of it or not, and whether your life is the way you want it to be, or not – you are already the master who designed your own fate and the captain sailing your soul to where it is now. Simply by being alive, this power is mobilised. You are not a victim of circumstances or ‘frowned upon’ by ‘God’. You are exactly what you have been creating…and so is your life, the people in your life, the job you have, the hobbies and habits you cultivate – the wonderful things you are so grateful for, the painful experiences that make you question the meaning of life or whether there is a God. It’s all yours. Your current life is 100% the product of your beliefs, imagination, assumptions and attitudes towards yourself, your life and your thoughts around what you deserve.
Whatever you believe you are, you will be. Whatever you believe you deserve, you will have. Whatever life you can imagine living, is yours. Whatever attitude you foster towards yourself and the world is what you and your life will reflect back to you. It all starts and ends, with YOU.
Most of us experience two major issues when creating our own destiny.
1. Conscious vs subconscious mind
You might ‘buy into’ the notion of creating what you want in your life. You set your mind fully and wholly on what it is you wish to create – a car, a house, a happy marriage, a new baby, healing from terminal illness - and you focus on this - daily, with commitment and devotion. Wonderful. Yet you are not getting what you are creating? The truth is that you might think, in your conscious mind that you are authentic in creating what you want, but your unconscious mind is full of limiting beliefs or attitudes that are the complete opposite of what you are consciously putting out there. So you end up creating the exact opposite of what you intend or hope to. Your subconscious mind holds those beliefs that are so ingrained and deep seated that you don’t even know you have them anymore – they operate on autopilot. It’s second nature to you - you don’t even have to think about it.
If this is what’s happening for you, then make a commitment to yourself to dig a little deeper. Begin to uncover your true beliefs about having a happy marriage, a car, a house, healing, or whatever it is that is eluding you. You will find there are some profound blockages there, which form your true intention – the opposite of what you think you want. If you’re constantly hitting a brick wall – even with what you perceive to be the best of intentions, begin to ask yourself: ‘what are the pay-offs for me NOT getting a new car, being healed, finding a partner?’; ‘What would happen if I did get what I wanted/how would that change me?’; ‘Do I really believe I deserve what I am hoping to create?’
By taking the time to systematically work your way through those deep-rooted belief systems, you may uncover that you are holding on to some ideas that hasn’t served you for a long time. They might not even make sense to you anymore or it may be that you need to do some deep work to dislodge those beliefs. Either way, isn’t it worth doing if these beliefs are keeping you from living the life that you deserve? Let me tell you – you DESERVE whatever it is you want. Do whatever you need to, to get to believe that wholly and fully!
2. Consciously Expecting What You Don’t Want.
Some of us don’t even beat around the bush. We don’t even pretend to think we can have what we want. It goes something like this: ‘I’ll apply for the job but I probably won’t get it’; ‘I’ll do this for my wife but I know she won’t notice or appreciate it’; ‘I’ll give the team this new process to make life easier but they won’t stick to it’. Then things don’t work out or something goes wrong and our immediate response is: ‘I knew it’; ‘go figure’; ‘that’s just my luck’; ‘told you so!’
But wait – There’s MORE! Creating our world on a day-to-day basis is very profoundly affected by our words: ‘The people I work with are all stupid’; ‘my partner is cheating on me’, everyone in my life lets me down’, ‘my life is one big struggle’. Imagine yourself being a wizard – everything you say is a spell that you’re casting. Everything you say, and believe, is what you create. You’re creating whatever comes out of your mouth. “My life is one big struggle. Yep…just as you ordered ma’am!
Your wizardry style might not change over night, because once you have learnt to watch your words because you understand the power they have in creating your life, you will still need to begin to truly believe in what you aspire to create. But all success is the sum of little efforts – so start today and take the first step by cultivating a language that spells out what you WANT in your life.
If you find yourself in this state of expecting and speaking the worst-case scenario, feeling done wrong by and victimized - begin by pausing between thoughts, between words, between actions. Aspire to think, speak and act according to what you WANT. NOT according to what you DON’T want. Let your words, thoughts and actions begin to paint a picture of what life is like when everything is exactly how you would want them to be. Speak, think and act as if it is all already true, already happening right now. Just go straight into expressing your gratitude for this beautiful life that you’re so masterfully creating.
Now try this: You’re cultivating a language which speaks of the things you love - the things you want more of in life. This immediately shifts your focus onto those things in your life that you can form positive thoughts and language about. Needing to speak only positively shifts your focus to those things that you do feel positive about, right? This means your focus shifts from negatives to positives. From the things you don’t want, to the things you love and feel grateful for. You have the power to create what you focus on – and now that your focus is on positive things – more positive things that you want and are grateful for, enter your life. Slowly, the positives you’re focusing on and bringing into your life starts to permeate every other area of life. You are beginning to create the life you would love to live. You are the Master of your fate – the captain of your soul – by choosing to focus on what you want to create.
Take some time to figure out which of these two categories apply to you. Notice where you have been holding yourself back. Take your awareness out of your mind when you try to ascertain where you are truly at. Get in touch with your soul. Your soul is the source of infinite wisdom, so let it guide you as to where your small effort today has to start.
The Five Elemental Series:
In working our way through the five elements, their qualities, how they present as balanced and imbalanced in our bodies and how we make them work for us, we begin by looking at Earth – the densest of elements. Our solid foundation – our home.
1. Earth - Find Your Center, Know Who You Are
When I think “Mother Earth”, I think place of safety, nourishment, home. “Mother Earth” has the qualities I associate with my own mother and so -lucky for me – the earth element’s qualities make sense to me. The Earth gives to us, her inhabitants, without asking for anything and without any judgement – completely selfless. Even when we treat her with disrespect or disregard – she just keeps on giving. She gives us a place to be – a center – a place where we belong in space. The strength and solidity of the earth comes from her very core, her center. It is from this center that she is able to hold us, nourish us and provide for us.
Brining the qualities of earth into our bodies we think about our core, our center. This is a concept we often hear about in yoga and if you weren’t ever really sure if the teacher meant your abdominals or maybe something more…now you know. Our own center is our bit of ‘earthness’ When we connect to our own center, we connect to our ability to nourish ourselves and others, from a selfless and centerd place, where we don’t ‘run out’ or ‘need something in return’. We draw personal strength and self-reliance from our core. Being able to be ‘centered’ so we can connect to the earth qualities within us, requires us knowing who we really are and that is the exact question that Earth asks us to come to terms with: Who are you?
The organs in our bodies that we associate with the Earth Element are the stomach and the spleen and the earth energy meridians run down our legs and feet – our physical foundation. Earth imbalances manifest through physical symptoms in the stomach or spleen, or along these meridians and common health conditions associated with an earth imbalance are diabetes and food/eating disorders, such as obesity, anorexia or bulimia. An Earth imbalance can also be identified on a personal and emotional level. If you find yourself to be a bit of a people pleaser, perhaps compromising yourself in an attempt to gain a sense of belonging or value, that points to an earth element imbalance. Often times we feel depleted from giving so much to others and in that case it is because we’re giving from a place of loneliness or fear. This results in feeling resentful when we feel our kindness is not being returned. Rigidity is another sign of an earth imbalance. The incessant need to control everything and everyone, and persistent attempts to keep things in a consistent and predictable pattern are all actions aimed at maintaining the sense of safety that has so carefully been constructed. It’s a false sense of safety because the real sense of safety and security, coming from the earth in our core is weak or not even present. It is a lonely place to be.
We are balanced in earth when we have a strong sense of belonging – just within ourselves. Earth’s strongest babies ooze strength and solidity, but will balance this well with softness, care and support. They know their boundaries – when to say no and they don’t need others to agree or approve of what they decide. It’s simple – when you know who you are, and you are honest and loyal to that connection with yourself (your core/center), you will know how to care for yourself. In so doing you are in a much better place to care for those around you.
You will agree – earth in balance sounds great, earth imbalance – not so much! So how do we get our earth on!
God bless YOGA!
The success of just about every yoga posture is dependent on a strong foundation to the earth (through your feet or whichever part of the body is connected to the earth) and your core. Bringing your awareness to that strong foundation, strengthens your connection to the earth and earth energy in your body.
Most importantly though, is your awareness of your center. We generally refer to our center as being in the center of our bellies. We bring our awareness to the center of our bellies through our breath through pranayama techniques but can do so simply by focusing on our belly expanding on the inhale and falling on the exhale. All the qualities of the earth: the strength and support, care, self-honesty, loyalty, boundaries, self-less giving – are right there – inside us. When we connect to this part of ourselves we connect to our true selves and when we respond and act from this center, we do so in a congruent way. We do so on the mat by realising our amazing strength and not crossing our own boundaries and hurting ourselves, and off the mat by being honest about who we are. We increase our awareness of our earth qualities and cultivate them. We begin to understand which people or situations ‘take our center away’, i.e. have us lose who we are and start behaving from some frame of reference born our of fear. If we can become aware of situations that have us responding from somewhere outside of our center, we learn something about ourselves right there and then. We can take the learning and practice holding our center in those situations or taking ourselves out or away from those places or people. Our breath and focus in yoga connects us to our center and this is the best place to practice recognising and then holding on to that connection.
Strong earth postures in Yoga that will make you feel grounded when you focus on connecting to your center and the earth energy are:
· Warriors(Virabhidrasana 1 and 2) = focusing on the foundation – feet (squeezing the big toe into the ground activates earth meridians), legs, hips
· Chair (Utkatasana)
· Camel (Ustrasana)
· Low Bridge (Setu Bhandasana) – form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders – lifting hips by pushing into the feet, drawing energy from the earth and squeezing the big toe. (To intensify raise one leg at a time with soles of raised foot facing the ceiling and hold for 5 minutes)
· Mountain Pose (Tadasana) – feeling all four corners of the feet connected to the earth, thighs are engaged and strong, tailbone tucked, stomach in.
· Hero Pose (Virasana)
· Core work – focus on a connection with both your front body as well as the back body – this is more than an ab work out!
Lifestyle and Eating Habits
You can balance your earth element with your diet and also with day-to-day activities. Focus on eating root vegetables like carrots, yams and beets. Corn and Peas are also strong earthy type foods, as are wholegrains, quinoa, pumpkin, apricots and pears. Think ‘yellow’ foods that create a sense of satisfaction. Help the spleen to function even better by lowering your fluid intake during meals.
You can further connect to earth energy by having daily practices of connecting with your center. Do this in one or more of the following three ways:
· Ritualistic practice – decide on a ritual for you to remember to practice connecting with your core – I try to tie it in with my meals – so every time before I eat I take a moment to stop, breathe and center myself.
· Dedicated practice – set aside a time of day when you stop to center – 6am when you wake up, 3 pm when you usually fall asleep at your desk. Have a certain time of day and set an alarm to remind you
· Spontaneous practice – center whenever you think about it!!
If you regularly practice centering yourself like this you will soon find that you find it much easier to center in situations when you need to be strong to be true to yourself, and knowing when you have been ‘knocked off’ your center.
Further connect with the earth element by simple things such as walking barefoot (and noticing it), cooking whole foods (and appreciating the goodness from the earth), taking a mud bath, doing pottery, and engaging in gardening or permaculture.
Connect to the earth element in you – the Earth needs you to.
We in the western world have in recent years had to acquiesce that our modern medical model does not 'heal the world' and there is much to be said for and learnt from the wisdom of ancient healing methods...such as Chinese medicine, now widely employed in western hospitals through acupuncture.
Traditional Chinese medicine use the Five Element Theory to understand all relationships between the physiology and pathology of the human body and the natural environment in which we live. The five elements, Earth, Water, Fire, Air (aka metal) and Space (aka wood) each have distinct qualities, and they are in constant interaction with each other in response to what is happening in our world. When one or more of these elements get out of balance we experience some form of physical illness or dis-ease, which can also be emotional. The theory is extremely complex but if we can just get our heads around the fact that our bodies, and our natural environment exist as a composition of these five elements, we know enough to begin to explore how the elements play out in our body, mind and spirit, and how we can balance elements to improve our health and quality of inner state.
It is one exiting, and very empowering journey when you become curious about how your body works, and where dis-ease stem from! Feelings of discontent and unhappiness, physical illness, allergies, injuries, mental health issues, relationship difficulties, addictions and so forth – can all be explained and healed through understanding and acting on the elemental imbalance that brought them about. Your body communicates with you through physical symptoms so you can become aware and DO something about imbalances. Listen to your body because the body knows and the body never lies!
We become amazingly powerful once we:
· accept responsibility for listening to the messages communicated to us by our physical body to warn of imbalances,
· understand that our body will communicate messages and these messages will get more intense and harsh the longer we take to listen,
· understand most of all – that our body can heal itself.
In the five element series we will describe as simply as possible the five elements in our energy bodies:
· their qualities,
· how they relate to our physical bodies, and
· how they manifest in balance and out of balance.
You can then begin to identify the qualities of the elements within your own body and mind and notice where the imbalances are. We then offer you some helpful yogic, diet and lifestyle advice to bring these elements back into balance.
Enjoy the journey of learning about and understanding the amazingly complicated yet powerful creature that you are!
Let us begin this year with love in our hearts. Love towards our fellow man. Love towards our surroundings and love towards our God. - Dwayne Kemp