Air Element in Yoga & You: Tornado or Gentle Breeze?

I recall in my late 20’s, experiencing so much confusion that I was literally walking around in circles. I was in my ‘creativity’ room and so anxious about my life, that I did not know what to do with myself. Similar to how self-soothing can appear as curled up and ‘rocking’, my anxiety response was to pace. Hardly Creative! There were piles of stuff on the floor, but I managed to find a pathway to endlessly pace around. The chaos of my room and the interminable pacing reflected my crazy mind; chaos reigned as endless thoughts jibbed and jabbed from my unconscious: doubt, confusion… What was I doing? Where was I going? Why? Was I on the wrong path? It was relentless and crippling.

My thinking patterns ruled my experience during that time; this is the realm of Air. The subtle energy of thoughts is so very powerful in its ability to create and destroy worlds; more than most people realize. My thoughts were jumbled – analogous to squirrel-y winds; murky – like polluted air and, the spiraling, … akin to a tornado, on a path of destruction and unknowable as to where/what/who would suffer. I’m thankful that at that time, I was the only victim. 

As I recall the experience, I recognize none of my challenges was related to survival fears; I had a good job with decent money, comfortable accommodations and a community of friends. It was an existential conundrum created by my mind; my thinking patterns and this un-tethered mind was driving me crazy.  

Usually engaging in physical activity, getting out into nature, or making art, all aligned me back into my center. But grounding through my body, being in nature, nor engaging creatively, was helping. I know now that I was leaving one way of life, embarking into a time of big changes; my soul was calling me forth during this time (of my first Saturn return – that can be another story). If I knew then, what I do now, I could have proceeded through that time of change with grace and ease.

To summarize, The Air Element within me was WAAAYYYY out of balance.

Air is the realm of the Mind; fleeting mental movements, thoughts emerging from sub and unconscious spaces, reflecting conflicts between social-cultural conditioning, inner responses to life experiences and personal desires. I also believe that heavenly energies and past lives influence the push and pulls upon the mind. But for now, I want to focus on how we regulate, manage and uplift the Mind to its greatest potential.

What I didn’t realize way back then, is that I was lacking a way to cleanse and organize the mental realm; I like to call it ‘mental flossing’. If you floss regularly, you know how vital that little daily habit is to your oral hygiene; it feels icky to not floss – all those billions of bacteria growing second by second, on those bitty food particles, taking over your mouth, and destroying teeth, gums and breath!

Well the equivalent happens in the mind; if we don’t address the toxic, excessive thoughts permeating consciousness and life experience, thoughts become toxic. So what is the best tool to discard those icky bits? Meditation. I hope you are not groaning and saying ‘But I tried meditation and I can’t stop my mind’. Impossible! My answer would be: ah, you just have not found a form of meditation that allows you to rest your mind – keep experimenting. It also helps most people to prepare the physical and emotional bodies; grounding and balancing these realms are addressed in Yoga through postures and breathing. But how do we hone the Mind realm and what are the benefits? 

The 8 fold path of Yoga recognizes a clear, wise mind as essential for integrated health and for the greater purpose: to evolve consciousness; so much so that 3 of the 8 steps are devoted to aspects of ‘Meditation’: Pratyhara, Dharana, and Dyana.   In Pratyhara, we train our awareness to go inside, drawing the senses of vision, sound, tactility, smell and kinesthetic experience, inwards. This can be done through guided meditation, through specific breathing practices (like Bee/Bhramari), and Yoga Nidra practice. The latter is particularly good as a gateway to creating relaxation, and exploring levels of awareness through detaching from sensory experience, developing focus through breath observation and disconnect from psychological states. During the process, one develops the witness within. The latter two aspects, developing Focus and growing the Inner Witness, are essentially, Dharana and Dhyana. They are progressive states to an ever deepening experience focused inward attention, that ultimately unifies the self with the universe.

The Benefits? Once you engage in relaxing the mind, develop inner focus and ability to concentrate inwards for longer and consistently; the mind becomes clear, and relaxed. You are more able to stay in the expansive perspective as life throws you curve balls; you negotiate the pitfalls and steep turns with more grace and ease than you could have heretofore imagined. Ultimately, your wise mind, knows what the best choices are, and can smile at the importune moments that in earlier self would have freaked out over. I’m not saying life is always a bowl of luscious, organic, juicy, tree-ripened peaches; but I am saying that the Inner Smile can always be present, because the mind now supports your highest potential, instead of hijacking it. As mind clears, and insight develops, your perception becomes clear, spacious and melds with your compassionate heart. You don’t forget your trials and tribulations, but you understand how they contribute to your ability to be empathetic, as you acknowledge that no ones escapes hardship, and we humans all desire love and understanding. We are all wounded; our choice is to fall prey to our challenges or rise above them, transforming the coal into a diamond.

My personal journey included my chaotic mind hurting others as well as myself; sharp words, projections of blame happened… this is to be human. But I know that our beliefs can create the New Reality unfolding in the Age of Aquarius, which we have recently entered. You can assist the process of unfolding a loving, kind and compassionate humanity. Meditation is key; so don’t give up. It took me many years to understand the process and benefits, which, over the years changed and deepened. This is why I continue to explore ways/methodologies to share meditation with others.  

To know the mind, from a space beyond the mind is the Key to Freedom and Liberation. The mind can be a gentle breeze that wafts away the external influences that can imprison our souls from their true expression. A tornado or gentle breeze…what do you choose?

If you like the accompanying image and want to see the entire piece and series: Elemental Wisdom, click through to my art website: DebbieMathewArt.com.

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