Many years ago on New Year’s Eve, I was musing about the year to come, and while I don’t make resolutions, I do like to use the new year to re-align and articulate what’s important for me in the coming year.
Always on the list is self-care. For me self-care is wholistic – mind, body, and spirit. Randomly under the heading of spiritual self-care, I wrote – remember to engage the elements: earth, air, water, fire. This instruction just fell off the end of my pen onto the page. At the time I thought, of course, these basic elements will nourish my spirit, my life force energy. Now many years later it’s second nature to do this.
So, this year sitting with traditional healers, locally called the curanderas, I was touched to hear how often they talked about the health benefits and the necessity of connecting with the earth and, in particular, through communion with the four elements. Many of their ceremonies and rituals are based on the use of fire, water, earth, and air.
How to connect with the four elements
Yes, it can be so simple. Fire: light a candle and invite in the light. Water: after a stressful day stand in the shower and consciously let the day be washed away or better yet, take a dip in the Gatineau River at the end of the day. Air: ride a bike down a pathway and let the wind blow free any entanglements.
But I think perhaps the earth is the most essential element. We live in a very head orientated society. Forgetting about the body is easy. But our bodies are made of the earth – the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, and the fire that’s our aliveness and passions.
It’s a scary sign of the times. We are dependent on the earth for our survival, yet like our bodies, it’s so easy to overlook its existence completely. Our environmental crisis speaks to this reality.
Feel the presence of the earth
Part of the reason I love being in Mexico is that I feel the presence of the earth more. In Oaxaca City, at any moment I look up, and the imposing mountains greet my eye. Now that I’ve spent time in those mountains, when I see them I get a visceral hit of memory - my feet on the ground; walking the trails, the smell of morning air, of wood fire clinging in the atmosphere, the plants that over the years have become my friends, my companions.
I am coming back to Canada soon, and it will be spring, and I will plant and tend the garden. I’ll get my hands in the dirt. I will walk barefoot in the country and lay on the ground to connect and absorb the strengthening energy of the earth. I will pay attention to where my food comes from, and all the connections with plants, animals and farmers, who provide that food.
Maybe the most important spiritual self-care I can do is to express gratefulness for all the earth provides for me – sustenance, beauty, companionship, energy, and support. It is remembering the reciprocal relationship with the ground that sustains me. Gratitude connects me with the reality that I am supported, I am cared for, I am held, I have enough, there is enough – there is truly nothing to fear. All this is available when I connect with the earth as it is.
This is one simple but very big awareness I carry home with me from my time in Mexico. It’s obvious. I know these truths but appreciate the recent imprint as a reminder.
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“I had signed up for the workshop with a vague idea of validating whether or not beekeeping was something I wanted to get back into, so wanted the real experience and ‘instruction’ around hive life. But I also wanted to spend time in the imaginative life of beekeeping – so the poetry, and your story of bees as a significant part of your healing journey was really important. Sensing into your relationship with them - the calm, the respect, the love – was an important part of witnessing how a relationship with bees teaches those very things. I loved how the different activities dove-tailed so well into one another. The ‘energy meditation’ of approaching the hive taught me well about respect for boundaries, and the deep purposefulness of their lives. We can co-exist beautifully as long as I ‘let them bee.’ “