Part I - How the elements make up nature

by Sandra Radja

Understanding Ayurveda is best tackled by envisioning a theory of building blocks - one thing builds on another.  Just as you think about your situation of where you are in life; it look the big bang of birth to place you in a particular environment and time to give you the experiences to get you where you are today.  It moulded the way you look and what you believe. In order to change your perception of the world you need to experience it. It is easier to understand a point of view if you have a reference point to base it on.

And that's where we will begin.  In order for you to understand a different way of thinking I need to help you relate it to things you already know.  We begin by understanding that we describe everything we see as qualities. And once we get into the habit of describing things as qualities, then we can form relationships with those things, according to the qualities we observe in ourselves.

The weather was hot, the jasmine in the parkland was sweet, the river we swam in was cool and moist, the rocks we felt were smooth, the lookout was expansive.  His sense of humour is dry, her wit is sharp, those teenagers are cool.  He was gross and heavy, she seemed light on her feet.  There is sharp pain, dull pain and referred (subtle) pain.  Hair can be thick, fine, dry. Bowel movements can be loose and burning, dry, small and hard, dense and slow moving.

Thinking in this way, we can use the same qualities to describe the elements. The elements are space (ether), air, fire, water and earth.  In Ayurveda we consider nature (and us included) as being made up of these building blocks.  The closer we see ourselves aligned with nature, the easier it is to heal. And the best part is your version of how the element feels will be unique so there is no wrong or right, just the practise of observation. Let's break down each element that shows you how to think in a this way. Do you see yourself or anyone you know in the following?

SPACE

It is that which contains all else.  It allows the other elements to exist and function.  It is expansive and subtle and cold.  It allows thoughts to process and food to digest.  It clears heaviness and lightens the mood.  It can be unlimited and liberating.  It holds possibility. It is subtle and you only realise the space you need when you don't have it.  Too little can feel suffocating and too much can feel lonely.   It is the bigger picture.  It allows impulses to move and energy to flow.  It is sensitive and has an acute sense of hearing.  It is music.  

It is the connector. We are all one.

AIR

It moves you.  It takes you places.  It excites and inspires and causes nervous breakdowns.  It is gaseous and kinetic energy.  You talk and walk and dance and breathe and poop and your heart beat keeps you alive.  It moves information in and information out.  It thinks quick and understands quick and forgets quick.  It runs and runs and goes from A to B in a hurry.  It is change. It's the weather, time and emotions.  It is joyful and light on it's feet.  It can feel constipating, dry and cold and rough.

It helps move us through time.  We can evolve.

Photo credit: Pololalcolo via Compfight cc

Photo credit: Pololalcolo via Compfight cc

FIRE

It is the idea of transformation.  It is understanding and comprehension and "bright" ideas.  It burns through a fever to remove the toxins in the body.  It clears away fogginess and stickiness through the warmth of circulation.   It takes in information and breaks it down.  It will argue and debate. It makes decisions and takes action.  It is a visionary and "sees" the truth.  It likes to lead and show the way. It is competition.  It is hot, it is passionate, it sex via heat and chemistry and incites followers to war if invigorated to believe in the cause.   It penetrates.  It's words hurt if delivered without water.  It is sharp and intelligent and to the point.  It clears the land in bush fires for new growth.  It is the sun and it's ability to grow and destroy.

We learn and process our lessons. We eat to survive.

WATER

It cools, soothes and calms the heat in the body.  It quenches our thirst and feeds the plants.  It's smooth talking and soft and sensual.  It's yin and the moon.  It's emotional.  It keeps the tongue moist so it can taste food. It's juicy and young and glossy eyed and silky hair.  It's flow and gentle and gets it's own way by it's persistence and stamina.  It's dense in humidity and heavy to move.  It's fresh and clean feeling and replenishes the nerves. Wind can stir it in the oceans and waterfalls, stagnant water can manifest leeches and sewerage.  It is graceful and elegant and mediates intense transformation.  It is love.

We can move and transform with lubrication. 

EARTH

Reliable and firm and supportive.  It is the ground beneath our feet.  It moves slowly and seems inert.  It holds us whilst we look to horizons with security.  It feels cold to touch and only moves with passion or excitement, fire or wind. It is home, in many forms.  It is mass and material.  It can work long hours and sleep less and feel alive.  It has great muscle tone and thick fingers and toes.  It is strong and can go without eating all day.  It can sit, and sit, and sit.  It can get stiff and stubborn and likes to hoard.   It likes stuff and possessions. It is no nonsense, salt of the earth. It is humble and sensible and gets the day to day done.  

It is the structure to be here to experience.  It appears real.