Let’s take a bit of time and reflect on something awesome. Nature and its elements are truly awe-inspiring. The five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space are manifested outside us in our environment, as well as within us in our senses, organs, tissues and nutrition. Characteristics of these elements are already embedded within us and have an impact our mental state. Each element is unique in nature and yet connected beautifully with each other. Understanding the essence of these five elements through awareness and regular contemplation, can awaken hidden potential within us to attain greater well-being, health, knowledge, and happiness. This is essential for the ultimate objective of striving for Equipoise – which embodies balance in life!
Air is eternally dynamic, flexible and always in motion. Wind picks up the sweet fragrance of flowers as well as the foul smell of garbage, which lingers for a while before dispersing. Air has this magnificent quality of detachment – just as neither fragrance nor foul smell is able to cling on to it for very long. Attachment makes things heavier, be it in the physical context of files in a computer or in the emotional context of enmeshed over-dependent human relationships. Detachment, on the other hand, is free from any kind of restraint. It signifies non-possessive warmth and is very distinct from aloofness. We can love someone unconditionally without being possessive. Attachment makes us dependent, clingy and binds us to someone or something, hence increasing the emotional burden. We can activate this quality of Air within us by loving without conditions and any possessiveness. This allows people and things to love and enjoy without restraint. Unleashing the power of letting go of what we like, as well as what we dislike, can enable us to manage our worries, fears and stress. Air inspires us to be present in the here and now, without the constraining clinginess. It helps us lighten the emotional burden. So let’s aspire to be like the air and the wind – dynamic and prevalent yet unattached and free.
Earth symbolizes qualities like patience, forgiveness and forbearance. Patience is the virtue of staying calm and grounded in challenging circumstances. Though patience can be bitter at times, but its reward is always sweet. Striving for instant gratification does not guarantee long term satisfaction. We see this quality of patience in the earth as she bears the harshness of summer patiently waiting for autumn to bring some respite, and bears the harshness of winter as she awaits the temperate spring. Earth inspires us against restlessness about the future and encourages calmness under challenges. Earth also inspires us to endure and forgive. Inspite of our constant use and occasional abuse, she forgives and holds us in her bosom. By being humble and forgiving we can strengthen ourselves against the feeling of emotional hurt. Forgiving others frees us from the burden of holding on to emotions such as anger or pain. Forgiveness is the quality of letting go of transient reactions and emotions. This frees us from carrying the weight of unpleasant memories that can otherwise perpetually haunt us. When we forgive, we set ourselves free from the prison of despair, hurt, pain and anger. This freedom enables us to experience the gift of the present moment. By awakening this quality of endurance and forgiveness within us, we too can constantly heal ourselves - just like the earth heals itself from natural and manmade calamities.
Fire as an element symbolizes passion and power. The flame of fire always moves upward. However, in our personality, heat is often associated with negativity, such as burning with jealousy or hot temper. Though fire has the intrinsic power to reduce anything to ashes, it also gives us lifesaving light and warmth. Fire can be productive and purifying. It has the power of transforming raw vegetables to delicious food and purifying ore to gold. Awakening the purifying characteristic of fire within us allows us to burn our negativities and to rise upwards like a flame to reach our full potential. Action fueled by such passion and positivity can drive us to achieve to push away darkness and negativity from our lives. Activating this fire within us can bring passion and vitality to transform our lives.
Space as an element has the amazing quality of being infinite and limitless. Like space our mind too is vast and limitless. Space accepts and accommodates everything without being judgmental. We can be accommodative like to open our minds and hearts to people, ideas and possibilities. Being accommodative doesn’t mean we approve of and accept everything. It is the notion of allowing and recognising that other ideas to exist. We can train our minds to accommodate both positive and negative thoughts. Internalizing this quality of space allows conflicting thoughts to coexist within us. Committing ourselves to focus on actions that are fuelled predominantly by the positive thoughts can facilitate positive changes in our lives. We can aspire to be like space and widen the scope of our pursuits and use our unlimited potential to have a flourishing life.
Water symbolizes eternal flow. It embodies the qualities of nurturing and purifying. Water is recognized as a ubiquitous cleansing agent. We can activate this quality of water within us through the power of constant introspection to clean our hearts and minds. By setting aside time to reflect on our speech, judgments, reactions, emotions and thoughts, we can assess their worthiness in the specific context of our life. This self-reflection will alert us for triggers which can provoke negative emotions and reactions. Focusing on positive and rational thoughts allows us to purge emotional residues – feelings of hurt, anger, guilt, shame and fear. These can clutter our minds, dampen our mood and weigh down our spirits. Daily introspection can cleanse us to feel lighter and create space for more worthy positive emotions which are essential ingredients for our well-being and happiness. Water has this amazing quality of refreshing things. Introspection has the same effect on us. It brings out the freshness in our experiences and our relationships to enhance happiness and add meaning to life.
Harmony within Nature: The sun continuously gives emits light and heat. The earth is perfectly balanced within the solar system to capture just the right amount of energy to sustain life on earth. Plants absorb this light to produce their flowers and fruits. While being a source of nutrition for animals, the interdependency allows the plants to procreate. Animals, in turn, extract the essence from this food source and the waste is returned to earth, providing essential ingredients for plants to flourish. Forests preserve the earth from erosion and are a tempering barrier to the power unleashed when nature occasionally goes out of control. This harmony observed amongst the elements of nature and the forces within, is a thing of beauty for us to behold. Like the elements of nature, we have to radiate empathy and compassion for self and others by giving in so many wonderful ways. As in nature, it always comes back to us in a form that is useful for us. Even simple acts, such as a smile, an appreciation, a praise, an encouragement, showing of empathy, giving time and undivided attention can contribute to harmony for self and those around us.
Attaining equipoise by assimilating the essence of nature: Nature is constantly changing around us. Day turns into night, summer gives way to winter, a child is grows into an adult. The only constant in nature and life, is change itself. The moon is a wonderful illustration portraying constant change. Our body and mind also goes through this process of change. We tend to forget or ignore this inevitable change around us. We want to cling on to that which is good in the present, ignoring the inevitability of change. We don’t want our bodies to change with age. We don’t want to see our children grow up and leave home. We find it difficult to accept transformation in our relationships with family and friends.
The more we resist this inevitable change, the more prone we are to disappointment, emotional turmoil and shock. More than the change itself, it is our reaction to that change which creates the imbalance in our emotions. If we can train our mind to accept continuous change and tune our awareness to the core values that matter the most, we can avoid getting perturbed by things on the periphery. We can then awaken the quality of equipoise that is naturally present in nature around us. Equipoise is the quality of remaining unchanged, unaltered, unaffected through happiness or sadness, praise or condemnation, bliss or sorrow, loneliness or companionship and the highs or lows of life.
Equipoise allows us to navigate life mindfully with an equanimous outlook. We can become the master of our mind, rather than being a slave to it!