A Sacred Balance: An Elemental Journey
I’ve been here before. Had this internal dialogue before. Been elementally imbalanced. Off kilter. It frustrates me to admit to being here again. But balance is not a thing we achieve, it’s something we practice. Life is a practice. Not something to be won or perfected. A sacred practice of pulsing between our own core Self and the ebb and flow of that which connects us all.
So, there’s no shame to imbalance. In fact, it’s just a gentle call to return home. We get to come home to ourselves over and over again. Each time is different. Each time we remember deeper, strip more away. We practice to remember and to celebrate. Imbalance is just another call to return home.
So, here I am.
The flames of my internal fire are dull. Water overflowing. I’m drowning in my own empathy, and with this comes an exhaustion and exasperation of these gifts. My water has dulled the roar of the fire. It still glows but it doesn’t burn bright. In effort to channel my overflowing pools in the absence of the fire which used to boil off excess, my earth element adds density, gets more grounded, makes a bigger bowl to tend to the extra flow. I’m physically and metaphorically heavier, stuck. Action feels impossible. My automatic reaction is one of disgust instead of appreciation to this steadfast element attempting to tame the tsunamis. Thus the cycle continues.
My fire gifts were powerful, are powerful. They were cultivated in childhood. Respected in my family, revered. Drive, ambition, desire to achieve. I was smart and I knew it. I graduated at the top of my class. I knew I could do anything I wanted. I was, and am a natural leader. Others respected my intellect. I inspire others, bring out the best in them. My fire was my individuality. My independence. I had a sense of what was right and wrong. It was simple. Straight forward. Work hard. Reap the rewards. Its in the flame of my inner fire that my intuition resides. My ability to know what to do next. But that confidence felt limited to the gifts of this element only. I knew I was smart, but I didn’t trust myself to love, to connect, to Be with others. I couldn’t extend the flames to the gifts of another element.
I’ve always had my water gifts. They just weren’t tended as a kid. More fuel was added to the fire and I literally worked my emotions away. Suppressed them. Set fire to the pools of tears that have always been within. While I spent most time avoiding my feelings, there were ways that it felt safe to be in my empathy. I was obsessed with animals as a kid. A safe way to be with somebody who wouldn’t judge. To connect. To just be. I didn’t know then that these honest creatures were watering a part of me that was left untended. I was parched. So thirsty to let these parts of myself flow. They knew what I needed. I knew what they needed to. No words necessary. It felt like this magical part of me that didn’t make sense in the confines of my life as I knew it. I was good with animals. I could feel their souls by looking them in the eyes. They could see mine. I worked best with creatures that others didn’t understand. I always ended up with the horses that everybody else didn’t like. The ones with personality who didn’t “behave.” They worked hard for me when they wouldn’t for others. The farm was a place I could learn to tend the fire and channel the empathy. These summers, with a group of misfit girls, opened me up to different parts of myself. My fire was utilized here in a different way. My perfectionism, determination and work ethic transferred to an entirely new arena. 5 teen age girls left to care for 40 horses. I learned to nurture. To care. But, I worked my butt off. I had this beautiful relationship with my earth element here too. Learned to work my body. Feel strong. Grounded. Steadfast. I was more emotional at the farm. But, my fire just burned brighter to keep the imbalance in check. This was a far cry from the intellectual world where I typically resided.
I remember sitting on the cliffs by the ocean on a family camping trip once. They all went ahead and I felt called to sit there amidst the waves. Crashing into the rocks the waves pulled at something in me. I sat here for hours until my family came back. Deeply connected to the ocean. A sense that the water in me was the same as this great force in front of me. That all the water on the earth was connected. That I was connected.
But these moments of flow were rare. And kindling kept getting added to the fire. I poured my whole self into school. As if marks were everything. They were really, until I went away. Guyana changed me. I learned more about myself in 8 weeks than I had in my entire educational career. Things shifted. Again, the pull of water changed the tides. Made me question my entire life path. There is more to life than achieving. I connected to people on a real level. I walked the earth, bathed in waterfalls and cooked on fires. I connected with the elements in the most natural, meant to be states. I asked questions there weren’t black and white answers to. I was asked questions I couldn’t answer and for once this felt right. Unknown didn’t need to be terrifying. It felt right to be there in the rainy season. Something felt wonderful about bathing in the tears of the universe. I got comfortable with wet. Drenched wasn’t so bad. It was cleansing.
I came home to devastation. The dam holding in the waters had given way. Pregnant with a new way of living my waters had broken and I was labouring a part of myself I didn’t know what to do with. I had never felt this low. This displaced. This entire world I had already learned to conquer no longer seemed important. I was nobody. Had nothing. I didn’t understand who I was or what I was good at anymore. I felt like my intelligence had betrayed me. My fire started to turn against me. Desperately trying to shame and tame the rapids, my perfectionism turned inwards and my long standing discomfort with my figure turned into a raging eating disorder.
My fire and water were at war, the casualty was my earth, my physical body. My container kept changing shape, trying to balance the war. When she grew bigger to ground the massive, unconstitutional upward pull my fire burned brighter with hatred. I tried to burn the earth away, but she was waterlogged, too soaked from trying channel the raging waters of my emotional upheaval. Nothing worked, everything was in flux. I could no longer starve myself, the fire of determination wasn’t strong enough. I began purging everything I hated in myself. I thought I was getting rid of the parts of me I didn’t want. I thought I could literally flush the pain down the toilet. Not feel. Be numb. It all hurt too much. But, I was just stock piling the emotions for later. I would tease my body with food which I then threw up. My digestive fire dwindled. Dulled. I realized my emotional digestive fire never really existed. This year was my most confusing as I struggled to find my place in a world that didn’t feel like home. So, I got out. I graduated with an undergrad in biomedical science, still with honours, and went to Africa.
Malawi is a country in elemental imbalance. Everything is burning. Almost no trees. The bush is on fire. Everyone makes and sells coal. Trees that are only in the early years of their lives are used as kindling. Everywhere you look there was smoke or flames. The smell of burning garbage still takes me back there. A country of dirt, flames and some of the most beautiful people I have ever met. I was so out of my element here at first. I didn’t know how to be with people without words. I have never felt so alone, so anxious. But my anxiety gave way, into a beautiful deep connection with the people and the land. Malawi brought out my water in a different way. I could not be a perfectionist there. There was magic in being out of my comfort zone. I couldn’t be good at everything. I needed help. I learned to make fun of myself. To be with people without shared language. I learned to speak new languages. Most importantly, I learned to sit with my sorrow. The people of Malawi know tragedy, and while they too were trying to burn it away, it was inescapable. They didn’t run from it. Couldn’t run from it. They connected with Earth in such a different way. Used it to channel the sorrow. Revered its role as our mother. That from which we came. But, water too was precious. Scarce. I was there for the first rain after a long, hard, dry season. I have never seen such joy. I cried. My own water flowing as one with the mother.
At the end of this journey I climbed Mt. Kenya. A beautiful sacred site. Full of magic. Grounded in a sense of earth magic, I literally became the sky. At one with air and space. Since Guyana I had been craving the mountains. A place where my earth can reach the sky. Connect with this upward, spacious, free flowing elemental bliss while still remaining true to my roots. Close to the gods. Connected to the Earth who birthed us. I stood on top of Mt. Kenya, the roof of Africa feeling True. Honest. Authentic. I climbed her for me. Everything felt in balance.
But, it felt like a temporary balance. I had bumped into my self worth. Slid into an integrated self for a time being. What came home with me, though was a new found sense of appreciation for my watery gifts of compassion and empathy. An understanding that it is okay to feel, to sit with sorrow. But, I didn’t know how to do this at home. I didn’t trust any of my parts upon return home. I had been burned. Drowned. At home it was harder not to fall into old patterns.
Like the plains of Malawi my fires had burned unattended for years. Literally denying me of the natural gifts of the earth. Drying out the rivers which nourished me, connected me. I had been burned. I tried to fight the fire with fire. It’s all I knew. I turned on my internal flames and blamed them for everything. I hated my perfectionism. I questioned my ambition. What was I fighting for anyways? Flames were smothered. You can’t fight fire with fire. It doesn’t work. The early stages of recovering from my eating disorder was about living up to new expectations of health. I had shifted the focus of my perfectionism. The new goal was self acceptance and I was dedicated to changing myself to make this possible. Fire with fire. Doesn’t work. Criticizing the inner critic is just an eye for an eye. There’s no healing in that.
I’m the kid who got burned because they liked to play with fire and hadn’t yet learned to respect it, and like a burn victim I then became sensitive to the heat of the flames, afraid of it’s capacity for destruction. But if you look up fear in the dictionary somewhere in the list of possible definitions it says reverential awe. I’ve always been afraid of, in awe of my inner flame.
Once burned the skin is so much more vulnerable to infection. When my dad left everything changed. My mother’s sorrow and tragedy consumed me, infected me. Everything became septic. I didn’t have the self will to separate. I didn’t have the courage to let her struggle. My empathy overwhelmed me. I could no longer manage my mom with my own fire. She had been burned as well. It would hurt her too much. I cried tears for her, washed her sorrow with mine. I felt her everything.
My parents don’t speak to each other. My sun and moon are at war. How am I supposed to find balance when my parents couldn’t make it work. It’s lonely to walk a path that your ancestors couldn’t figure out. But it doesn’t feel good to stay stuck cleaning up a mess that isn’t yours. My hands don’t need to be bound by the shackles of my parents. Somehow I lit enough of a fire to get out. To leave my mother in her own misery. To abandon her to drown in my own sorrows for once. I cried for a year. Embraced by a roommate who allowed my sadness. Sharing my pain, my pain for the first time in my life. She was drowning in her own sorrow as well. We weren’t the healthiest pair. But it’s what I need at the time.
The first time in Costa Rica I reignited my fire. I realized it still burned. My self respect was alive and kicking. My belly burning with self will. I spent a year trying to re-evaluate the war I had waged with my ambition and intellect. Putting out the fire had smothered my confidence. Suddenly I felt alive again. Things weren’t in perfect balance, but I was no longer flailing. I spent a year honouring the flame within me. Adding kindling to the fire. Remembering my gift of intuition. Making peace with a part of me that I had learned to resent. For months after Costa Rica people commented on my new found sense of empowerment. While this can wax and wane I know now that the flame can never go out. I simply close my eyes, place my hand over my solar plexus and can feel it’s pulse. I just need to remember when I forget. The energy of fire can be harnessed for creation rather than destruction. We can master the fire of passion, use it to transform.
That New Years Eve, in the comfort of my kula I remembered the wisdom of my womb. A sign that the year coming was a year for the water in me. Moving down the chakra ladder into the womb of swadhisthana. I realized I had been ignoring my femininity all together. Certain aspects of my femininity made me uncomfortable. My figure had always made me uncomfortable. I realized that I had never really embraced what were some of my most powerful traits. My creativity, my sensuality, my sexuality, my empathy. All of a sudden the tides completely changed and I was diving into this unknown pool of emotion. Feeling for the first time. Empathizing with others on an entirely new level because I could feel myself. I got more sensitive, I got more receptive. I owned my beauty. I listened to the whispers of my womb. But, I did so again at the expense of my fire. I blamed it in a way for my struggles. This was unfair.
I spent a glorious two weeks in Costa Rica diving into my watery juiciness. Bathing in her glory. Overflowing, thick, fluid and heated by the flames of my will. This is where my compassion resides. My empathy, my capacity to relate and to feel. My emotions started crashing through the walls which had confined them. Tsunamis of pleasure. No only could I feel, I could embrace pleasure. I didn’t know how to share it yet, and I’m still learning this, but I gave myself permission to be in a state of bliss. The jungle was this perfect combination of earth and water. Everything dripping wet, seductive, sweetly scented.
It’s an interesting dilemma, trying to balance what seem like opposing forces. Transformative and assertive versus going with the flow. Advocating for change in the face of injustice versus empathizing and taking in the feelings of others to protect and nurture. My water element is the source of my creativity, sexuality and empathy. I never feel as good as when I’m tapped in here and moving from this centre of my being. But, if I can warm the pool of creativity with the fire of my own will, the feeling becomes exponentially more powerful. My intuition comes from my gut, my core, my fire. Intuition coupled with empathy and creation makes me fabulous at my job. This is how I connect with people. Working together, these elements give me strength, power and the ability to seduce in spades. I’m just starting to embrace these strengths. In truth, they used to scare the shit out of me. I was afraid of my own power. Afraid of my own sexuality. I think I was afraid I couldn’t rein that power in once I lose myself in it. But, who says it needs to be reined in? What she really needs is a chance to let loose and play!
So, here I am. Needing to rekindle the fire. Ignite the flame. Honour this sacred imbalance as a call to come home. Into myself. Into balance. Into integration. Stir up the inner heat so I can bathe in my watery pools with pleasure instead of trying to quench the thirst of the world with my own resources. Pour my trust into my fiery intuition. Stand in my own power again.
My earth holds me, supports me. She is steadfast, constant. A rock that had my back when I didn’t have my own. My water houses the Goddess within me. She is the source of my femininity. My creativity, my flow, my empathy. Receptive and powerfully sweet, she sustains me when I run myself dry. My fire burns with the flames of self-will. The home of my intuition and intellect. My source, a vast reservoir of self knowledge and transformative energy. An eternal flame which forever glows, even when I run out of fuel.