There are days when a gentle wind beckons, inviting me out into the mountainous forests that surround my house in the Denver foothills, to admire the purple and yellow wildflowers. On such days the air is fresh, full of exquisite scents. The forest is full of life. The skies are dotted with a hawk or eagle soaring effortlessly through the air. On these days it seems that all is simply as it should be, flowing in harmony.
But there are other days. On those days the smoke from forest fires is so dense, we’re forced to stay indoors with the windows closed and an air filter humming. Or the news of the rising seas, plastic-clogged waterways or disappearing species becomes overwhelming. As the balance of the natural world becomes increasingly fragile and climate change sets in, it’s time to pause for a moment of reflection.
We were gifted with the warmth of the sun, refreshing rains, an earth that effortlessly sprouts new shoots, plants and animals who sustain us. Our colorful natural playground is adorned with mountains to spark a sense of awe and uplift our spirits, gentle valleys with meandering streams for respite, large trees for shade and shelter. For thousands of generations the seasons helped mark the passage of time and kept us in harmony with the ebb and flow of life around us.
Yet in just a few generations we have unconsciously begun to chip away at the complex beauty of the natural world. We’ve stepped out synch with the cycles of the seasons. We’ve inundated the planet with unnatural chemicals and plastics, choking and poisoning our rivers and oceans and the life that depends on them. We’ve filled the air with so much climate-warming carbon and methane that fires now blaze in Siberia and Alaska, while floods wash over Europe and Asia.
Can we blame it all on corruption and corporate profits? Or just a widespread willingness to sacrifice the greater good for modern conveniences that make our lives a little easier?
I believe it goes even deeper, to the very core of our relationship with the natural world. The seeds of this great unravelling can likely be traced back to the time that humans began to believe that nature is ours to exploit rather than to care for. And perhaps this came from their belief that the Divine exists only in the heavens, not here on earth.
Therefore the rivers, boulders, forests, oceans and animals were no longer seen as sacred expressions of the Creator to be revered and instead became expendable resources for humans to use at will. And when this small group of people succeeded in colonizing much of the planet, their infectious beliefs spread – overriding millennia of traditions of reverence for the sacred mysteries of nature.
The river lost her magical presence as a beautiful goddess of love, bringing new life to everything she touched. Fire ceased to be a guardian and warrior who kept the world moving, and a catalyst for transformation. Lightning was no longer respected as one of the most powerful forces on earth. The harvest celebrations ceased, sun and moon cycles were ignored, and the healing leaves that lay hidden in the woods were forgotten.
What Can We Do Now?
To save our planet I really believe we must rekindle our relationship with the natural world. We can love and support the rivers, plains, forests, meadows and sandy beaches, through our actions and care. And we can reawaken sacred ways of relating to the divine energies, the powerful life force, that flows through each of these natural wonders. We can rediscover the ways that Fire, Earth, Water and Air run through our own lives and how essential they are to our own health and vitality.
Many of the world’s pre-colonial cultures recognized the divine forces that permeated the natural world. They prayed at shrines and sacred spots, appealing to the elemental forces for support. They offered their gratitude and recognition to keep our exchange of resources in balance. People understood that our existence is not separate from these forces of nature but rather intimately intertwined with them.
Fire, Earth, Water and Air are a part of us, each representing a different aspect of our self. When we carry them in harmony we feel balanced. When the Elements within are out of balance we can feel the effects of the fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and tornados in both our inner and outer lives.
This reflection is an invitation to revive your own reverence for Fire, Earth, Water and Air and all that they represent. You can do this first through awareness – observing their presence in your physical life and how they manifest in nature. Then begin to build a more balanced relationship through offerings of gratitude. Or gather your friends for a fire ceremony, forest bathing walk, despacho or river cleansing. There are many ways we can consciously revive our relationship to the sacred elements, and forge a more balanced path for the generations to come.
We have developed a series of short meditations with the four elements as a starting point. These meditations can help you begin to explore how the elements relate to your inner world and how to work with their energies for greater balance and connection.