Element Study - Akasha
In my classes this month, I am focusing on the tattwas, or elemental essences that make up the entire universe. These elements are Ether, Air, Fire, Water and Earth. Each element relates to a chakra (energetic center), yantra (geometric pattern), mantra (sound vibration), and so much more! I will share well-rounded, practical investigations of each element, and how they relate to our subtle body, emotions, and day-to-day experiences.
Being in human form, we have direct access to the elements through the physical body. This was the way the ancient tantrik yogis came to understand the universe, by looking deeply into the microcosm of the body on a very subtle level. They discovered methods to regulate prana (vital life force) and connect to planetary alignments that influence us. In understanding and accessing the elements, we can adjust our practice to balance them internally and harmonize the flow of our energy with the natural world.
We begin our journey with Akasha, Ether or Space, the element from which all other elements are manifested. Imagine the luminous darkness of the universe. According to tantrik philosophy, Shakti, sometimes depicted as the goddess, is the cosmic manifestation of the kinetic energy that shapes our universe. Space is the container that gives us perspective, the lens through which this creation is viewed (sometime called Shiva). Perception is what determines our size in the world; not just our physical bodies, but also the magnitude of our emotions, relationships, struggles and aspirations. When we meditate upon limitless space, we obtain the unwavering awareness of ourselves as a very small, yet integral part of an infinite universe.
Akasha relates to the throat chakra, and the sense of sound. When the vocal chords produce sound, vibration travels through space in order to be perceived. Akasha is seen in practices like chanting or sound baths. The throat chakra is known as the 'great gate of liberation'. Situated between the head and the heart, it is the center through which we express the unique voice of our soul. We also experience akasha through the breath; not in the actual air, which is the next element, but in the spaciousness that it creates. A deep breath literally creates space in the body, and also can give us a moment of pause in the stream of our thoughts.
In the Tibetan Mandala of the Five Wisdom Dakinis, space is associated with the Buddha Dakini. The dakinis allow us to see limiting patterns and teach us how to transform them into wisdom. The limiting pattern of Buddha Dakini is ignorance, or spaciness. This can show up if one has a pattern of wanting to escape in tense situations, or a tendency towards depression. The transformed state is all-encompassing wisdom, where we are fully present and awakened and not "spacing out" in any moment. It is important to note that each element is not inherently good or bad. There are many ways they reveal themselves to us, as they are an organic and intrinsic part of our entire being and cosmos!
Please feel free to connect with me over a session if you would like to learn more about exploring the elements through traditional meditation practices here.
Practice: Lie somewhere comfortable in savasana and close your eyes. Start to see the body as nothing but dark space. Imagine the body empty of bones, organs, blood, etc. Using the mind, begin to investigate the space element in the body. Go into each limb, the head, the torso, the pelvis and explore. What do you notice? How does this make you feel? Take some time to rest in the open, limitless space of your being.