You’re heart’s desire, the fire in your belly, the pain and discomfort associated with purification and transformation – all of these are associated with the element of fire. In Part 3 of the Five Elements Series we take a closer look at how the element of fire plays out in our lives. The element of fire poses the rhetorical question: What do I NEED? Begin to try to answer that for yourself. What are my true heart’s desires? Can I allow myself to even want what I need? Where and how do I hold power in my life…and how do I lose power?
The fire element is a psychological element and so working with the fire element will raise a big response from your mind. You will meet resistance, justification and rationalisation as your mind protects the status quo. Allow your mind to have its say and then dig a little deeper. The wisdom of fire will calm your mind… eventually.
Fire: Meet your heart’s true desires and give the power back to YOU.
Fire’s nature is to destroy and transform: In the act of destroying lies also the beauty of a new creation. Understanding this teaching of painful destruction, preceding total transformation, is key to understanding the wisdom of fire. Coming into contact with fire can be seen as a sacrificial act – giving up the current form for the purpose of transformation. Mostly we hope for beautiful creations and new beginnings, but fire has a dark side too. Thinking about fire ceremonies and rituals, it is clear to see how bewitching fire can be: inspiring joy, celebration, creativity and MAGIC! Ever noticed how the dance of fire hypnotises those sitting around it? How it is strangely magnetic? Remember the old saying “ don’t play with fire ‘cause you’ll get burned”? These all illustrate the power of fire to draw you in…and possibly devour you. The issue with too much fire is the notion of giving away our own personal power to the external pleasures we seek. This leads to overindulgence, addiction, and compulsivity. The transformation that fire brings can be a beautiful process of growing in power through an increased freedom in love. However, that same fire, when out of control, can bring mass destruction as we lose ourselves and become a victim of our own desires. As always, the balance here is so key.
The bodily organs associated with the fire element are the heart, the pericardium (muscle that protects the heart), and the small intestine. The body’s immune system, described in Chinese medicine as the triple heater, is also associated with the fire element. The energy meridians for these organs all run through various fingers and up the arms into the chest, up to the head and face. Imbalances manifest in the organs themselves and in injuries, dis-ease or discomfort along any of these energy lines. The fire element is a psychological element. It is therefore much more common to find a fire imbalance evident in your approach to life and your state of mind - a stifling of your inner joy, a numbing of your charisma, lack of compassion and self-love, and an increase in pointless self-destruction.
Common physical conditions associated with an out of balance fire element are peptic ulcers, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoperosis, acne and so on. Psychological issues associated with a fire imbalance are bipolar disorder, addictions, and compulsivity. A fire imbalance will also show up in personality difficulties such as an obsession with euphoria and sense gratification as well as compulsive patterns of self-destruction. The opposite end of the imbalance points to a person lacking in creativity and energy, being weepy, bored and easily disempowered. One can clearly see two opposite ends of the spectrum in the out of balance fire element – on the one end the energiser bunny that completely burns himself out, running around, trying to find more and more pleasure and fun and satisfaction, draining everyone around them – and the opposite end: a person lacking in drive, with no fire in their belly left to engage in anything creative or exciting, low or no levels of joy and celebration or excitement. Both ends of the spectrum have placed the ‘power’ for their own love, joy and happiness in the ‘incapable’ hands of external sources of pleasure and satisfaction. They are not accessing their heart’s true desires and their quest to find it anywhere but inside, have rendered nothing but dissatisfaction and a further need to seek!
Balance in the fire element sees an individual acting from a place of unconditional love and compassion to self and others. Such a person doesn’t feel the need to hide his heart as a way to protect himself. Instead the heart and what it has to offer is sacrificed with the knowledge that by sacrificing, nothing is actually ‘lost’. It is simply a part of the natural cycle of elements moving through us, as we remain on a path of purification leading towards a higher consciousness. Fire brings about the quality of passion. People who have the power (and so the lack of fear) to acknowledge their heart’s desire and live accordingly – true and trusting – enjoying a life of celebration, charisma and creativity. It is not a path of least impact, least tears or least pain…but it is a path of huge rewards and satisfaction. It’s a typical case of ‘nobody puts baby in the corner’. If you can access and balance your fire – you make magic – in life and in love. Here’s how to balance your fire:
Yoga postures that balance the fire element stimulate mainly the meridians and to a lesser extent the actual organs. Balancing fire could require a dynamic practice, breaking a sweat and building physical power to create the quality of power in the small intestine, and it can also involve a very slow and conceptual yin practice, honing in on messages of love and opening up the heart – allowing ourselves to be vulnerable; sacrificing fear for transformation. Yoga postures include:
· Plank (Palakasana)
· Boat (Navasana)
· Arm balances
· Headstand (Sirsasana)
· Handstand (Adho Mukha Vrksasana)
· Forearmstand (Pincha Mayurasana)
· Dolphin (Makarasana)
· Savasana with heart opening backbend
· Heart Salutations
· Pericardium opening stretches
· Clear intentions for practice given the activity of the mind in fire practices.
Lifestyle and Eating Habits
Foods that balance fire include cooling foods such as celery, lettuce, sprouts, cucumber, tofu, watermelon, lemon, limes, mung beans and chamomile. These foods will cool down your system and are easy to digest. When trying to balance fire it’s best to eat raw and green foods, as well as food cooked at high temperature for a short time. It is important to look after your small intestine in balancing the fire element in your body. Digestion in the small intestine is closely linked with all the other digestive organs – yet 90% of all digestion takes place in the small intestine. Health, in many ways, can be measured by the effectiveness of the digestive FIRE – that which is found in the small intestine.
As for lifestyle tips in managing your internal fire, the following are recommended:
· Swimming in cool water or simply finding ways to stay cool
· Engaging in creative activities, writing, painting, choreographing or dancing
· Meditation to assist your mind in focusing
· Devotional practices, depending on your religion or taste, singing devotional songs and Kirtan are known to light the fire in our hearts, to open us up, to experience the love from the Higher Source that lives through us – that love of endless compassion, care and kindness. Connecting with our higher loving selves here is invaluable.
When we are able to access the full capacity of our loving hearts we find immeasurable power within ourselves. Balance fire – calm the mind and open the heart.
Believe in miracles – because you are one. Once you begin to understand the infinite intelligence that you carry around in the cells of your physical, emotional and spiritual body, it’s hard to ever look at yourself in the same way again.
In this wonderful body of yours every cell of physical matter carries with it, and is affected by every thought, emotion, attitude, and assumption that you form in your mind. Visceral responses take place in your body as a result of emotional reactions or thoughts in your mind. Yes, all your cells are very intelligently ‘connected’. Consider for a moment - you feel sad and your body produces tears; a situation at work becomes inflamed and stressful and your body responds by developing ulcers, you watch an inspirational video clip and you get goose bumps. The strength of the visceral response your body has to the daily events in your life is simply amazing.
Recent scientific studies tested out this ‘connection’ in the cells of the body and found some mind-boggling results. The US army and the Institute of HeartMath carried out experiments in which they separated samples of DNA from the DNA donors (some DNA samples were removed as far as 350 miles from the donors). They then got the donor to experience various emotions by watching a series of video images. The researchers observed both the responses of the donors and the DNA electrically and through microscopes and found that the reactions of the DNA coincided with that of the donors, at exactly the same time as when the donor experienced emotions: the double helix spiral of the DNA contracted exactly at the same time as when the donor experienced negative emotions such as anger, sadness or fear, and some DNA codes even switched off. When the emotions in the donor were positive, the DNA strands relaxed and lengthened. Other experiments found that the pH balance of water changed when someone focused their attention and emotions on it – even if the person was just in the vicinity of the water. Japanese scientists found that expressing negative emotions into water created distorted water crystals, whereas expressing loving emotions, created beautiful symmetric water crystals. This implies that the cells in our own bodies are also connected to energetic cells outside of our body – we have even more power – we influence not only what goes on inside us – we influence and impact what we focus on around us!
Given that the body consists of 70% water and contains thousands of miles of DNA – research clearly suggests that both might be affected by what we think and how we feel. We’re all familiar with multiple research studies proving the placebo effect – again drawing attention to the mind and it’s power in creating what is observed - our perceived reality. The field of psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) has firmly established a scientific link the between stress and almost every other major disease – including allergies, arthritis, autoimmune disorders, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, infertility, irritable bowel syndrome, peptic ulcers, and strokes. Now remember that stress is our own response to our environment. It comes about because of what we think and feel about our external circumstances….our body responds with major diseases.
So in short - our cells, our bodies and our DNA are significantly affected and altered – possibly even shut down by our thoughts, feelings and emotions. Because we choose our thoughts and emotions, what we choose to think and feel determines the health of our physical body. When we think negative thoughts, feel consistently unhappy, sad, alone, deprived, exhausted and stressed – our body responds by getting ill. Our body is communicating with us – telling us that something has to change.
Knowing that you create your own illness or dis-ease can be a scary concept, but it can also be very empowering. If it is true that we can make ourselves sick with negative emotions, stress, and unhelpful thought patterns, it is also true that we can prevent illness and heal ourselves with positivity, love and kindness. Awesome! Power back to US!!
Your body is always communicating with you about your general state of health and wellness and this includes emotional health. Symptoms, therefore, are not just irritants to get rid of with paracetamol or antibiotics or surgery or chemotherapy. They are messages that you need to understand. When you get sick, ask yourself: “what is out of balance which may body needs to draw my attention to”. Modern medicine does wonders in curing diseases – but healing comes only when you have addressed the symptom as well as the source. Your body created the illness as a helpful message to you - the more serious the illness, the more urgent the message.
You can see the value of being able to understand your body’s messages right? Here is how to develop your connection with your body and becoming super sensitive to those helpful messages being communicated to you.
1. Listen to your body. Your body gives you very early warning of situations, people, circumstances that evoke stress or tension in you. Notice how your body reacts in certain situations – when you get a sense of contraction in your stomach, in your throat, when you feel your breathing becomes tense or laboured other than because of physical exertion, you may start off by just noticing discomfort. Notice tension in your jaw, your hands, your back and shoulders. What exactly is it that evokes this response in your body? What can you do to alleviate the tension? Can you soften and beautify your response to it or do you need to walk away from this for good?
2. Look after your body. Refuel with the goodness from nature to keep it healthy, firing, active, and alert. Your body is your health watchdog – but if it’s constantly bogged down trying to deal with the dirty fuel you choose to fill it up on, it will have difficulty communicating about more subtle issues. Love your beautiful body and nourish it with both the kind of food and the positive attitude you would feed the people you love most. Remember – just as your mind/thoughts impact the cells in your body, so too do the cells in your body influence your mind. You have a better chance at positively engaging your thoughts and attitudes if your body is firing on all cylinders.
3. Choose to create positive thoughts and responses to the outside world. It really is that simple…. it may not be easy, but it’s that simple. You’re only a victim of your circumstances when you don’t choose to respond to from a positive perspective.
4. Yoga and meditation are surefire ways of learning to connect to and love your body in a deep and profound way. It also relieves stress, improves focus and awareness (so you can pick up on those subtle messages) and teaches you about yourself and how you respond to triggers in your life. Give it a try and reap the rewards that millions around the world do already.
Whatever your course of action is, let there be some course! Start now, today, pay attention to what your body is telling you. Your health depends on it.
I started practicing yoga for the first time on my Wii Balance Board with Wii Fit Plus. I was getting over the brutal ending of my five-year relationship and my Wii console offered me some desperately needed escape from endless thinking and analyzing. I soon figured out that the Yoga practices on Wii Fit Plus helped quiet my mind even more than skateboarding or basketball, and soon I wanted more…urgently. My brother joked at the time and said I was like an addict – ‘chasing the white light’. He was right in some ways – I was chasing the white light – the Divine white Light that Yoga would bring into my life.
Fast forward a few years and yoga is now such an integral part of my life I don’t know how I ever survived without it. These are the lessons yoga continue to teach me every day:
1. Every day is an opportunity for a new beginning: My yoga practice is different every day. Poses that are hard on one day are manageable or even easy on another. I just have to accept what is happening on the mat for me today. I appreciate what I have on each given day…and know I can start again tomorrow.
2. The Value of the Pause: A friend once described me as a ‘quick thinking - fast talking’. Having a million-miles-an hour-mind has its perks, but when that chatter becomes destructive, it’s hard to stop the snowball effect. Yoga taught me to pause and be still. I appreciate nothing more than those golden moments when I am moving, fluidly, in a dreamlike state, aware only of the flow of my own breath. Finally, my mind gives it a rest and I become free from its bondage.
3. Expression of my Soul: Savasana has become an amazing opportunity for an encounter with my true self. Seated meditation is still a challenge for me but in savasana I connect with my soul. I don’t think, but things come to me. Insights into myself and I am left in awe of what is in my heart.
4. Fear Paralyzes: Challenging postures taught me that my fears and doubts paralyze me. When I doubt, I fall out and when I’m scared to fall, fail, or get hurt – I just don’t do anything. It’s my strategy in life too. So now I fall, I get hurt and I get up….because it’s so important to DO something – and when it doesn’t work out the way I planned – it’s never as significant as I thought it would be.
5. Release and Let Go: In a posture, when you hold on, you tighten up, constrict and contract, and there’s little room for moving forward. Sounds a bit like life – surprise surprise! Letting go of what you don’t NEED is essential to move forward. The tension is self-inflicted – I just need to become aware of it…and then release it.
6. Love Thy Body: The way yoga has me seeing my body, is that we’re a team. All my organs, cells, glands, and me – we have a little support group going on. I look after them, they look after me. We chat and listen and I learn so much from all of them because this body knows endlessly more than I could ever fathom. We heal each other, every day.
7. Acceptance: My practice teaches me to be at peace with what is, even if it’s not exactly how I had envisioned it. I will be on a mission to conquer one of my nemesis postures, without progress to get excited about, when suddenly, without warning, I will get into another posture for the first time. Just like that. For every pose that has eluded me, yoga has given me another just as lovely instead.
8. My Endless Potential: I have expanded my body in yoga in ways that had me realize how much more there is to me. It’s a journey during which I am expanding my body, my potential and my understanding of the limitlessness of being human.
9. Physical Body Improvements: I am no spring chicken but I’m in better physical shape I have ever been. I am strong and I am healthy. No diet, no starvation, no extremes – just me and my ‘support group’ doing the work as a team!
10. Happiness: Yoga has made me happy. I get a sense of intense joy when I roll out my purple mat and get into that first downward facing dog. I come home – centered and peaceful…and happy. I am being with what is. I am.
Dear Yoga – Thank You