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From Discomfort to Disease, Understanding the Elements Within Us

Updated: Mar 18

Greetings from Thailand!! I've just spent the last five weeks deepening my knowledge of our somatic connection through tantra, sen, and Thai five element theory. Elements were a big framework for discussion about our mind body connection, I'd like to share a little about that with you as a first blog of the season.

We are made of ether, wind, fire, water and earth. And we begin to shape these most solid of elements with the most subtle ones. Our consciousness, the ether, our connection to energy at its source is our must subtle element. What is your relationship to this concept of oneness, what does it mean for you? How do you sense life within yourself as the same as life within another human, the grass, a tree and so on? If your sense of self is interconnected to the world around you, above you, below you then the feeling of wholeness, stability, love does not stem from the individual experience but rather is a larger feeling of interconnection that provides at it's most subtle the feelings of being held by the universe.

Wind is out experience of all movement, our thoughts, our words, our busy-ness. As we allow thoughts and emotions into the body we can see how they act as wind, whirling the mind in multiple directions, shifting us between extremes of emotion. What would it feel like if you could watch your emotions come in and leave without your inner stillness being disturbed? When emotions cause discomfort within the the stillness of the mind, when they begin to take up residence they move into the the body as fire and water, anger, tears, digestive issues, headaches, inflammation. Though this may seem an over simplification it really is instead, intuitive. We have been taught to distrust our own inner guidance, our intuition and have relied on our intellect to tell us what the world says is the right answer. What if I told you we all already inherently know how to achieve wellbeing but it is the discipline and practice of it that make it difficult?

As our emotions begin to take hold they erode our being-ness whether they are so called happiness emotions or the more difficult emotions of rage, anger, disappointment, mistrust, loneliness, lack of self confidence and so on. These thoughts and emotions if not allowed to flow through the body, if not worked with in practices of meditation, breath work, diet, awareness, and the like, they begin to accumulate and become more solid, affecting the earth of our bodies. It is only then that we are summoned to attention, but the cycle to get to the physical disturbance of the body has been going on for so much longer having begun with these subtler of elements.

The answer is to become each moment more and more aware of the subtle shifts of discomfort and not to discredit them, imagining that pushing them down will have no collateral effect. Acknowledge when you are tired and take rest, acknowledge when you are experiencing stress and find a counter activity or practice that dissipates this feeling. Begin here. When traumatic experiences occur, give room to the mind and body to fully process them and offer healing movement, tears, release to help them move through the body, through the mind, through and out.

Acknowledge patterns of thinking or behaving that are not serving you, question your beliefs, keeping a beginner's mind. At the beginning these things will begin to reveal places where you may need to see more clearly, where attention needs to be paid. One buddhist teaching that resonates for me is that of our garden. We can look at our lives, our bodies and minds as a garden where we choose to sew seeds of kindness, joy, calm, love, compassion.We can also see where there are difficult emotions and offer no attention in their direction, no water to grow these seeds. In saying this I am not saying to allow bad behavior or acceptance of abusive behavior, but instead with discernment create good boundaries, weeding the garden is a good visualization for this, and then placing your attention on sewing seeds of joy. As you inhabit this practice you are beginning to address the more subtle elements of ether and wind and this makes it difficult for the fire and water elements in the body to be affected. There is a simple mediation I often turn to by one of my favorite teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, and it is to simply breathe in the watering of seeds of joy, exhaling watching the seeds of suffering wither. With each in breath watching seeds of joy sprout and bloom and with each out breath allowing seeds of suffering to wither, decompose, turn to mulch to better grow seeds of joy within. Suffering does exist in life, it never goes away, it is instead the fertile ground through with joy becomes possible to bloom again.

It is even with solid practices of awareness, meditation, breath, diet and movement that we still may need to deal with disease in the body, maybe genetic, maybe environmental or other reasons. If we continue to understand the power of the subtler elements on the body, understanding our changing our view of suffering through mediations like the garden meditation and paying more attention to presence and awareness we can deal with disease with grace and loving kindness. Radical acceptance is a term we often use with regards to life rolling in like a steam roller even with the most disciplined of awareness. Simply because we create these disciplines does not mean that life stops waves from crashing on our shores, it does however mean that at its deepest point the sea within us stays un moved while the waves continue their onslaught at the surface.

Take the garden meditation practice to begin your journey of attention to subtlety, nuance, consciousness and the winds within.

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