Elemental Universe

Everything in our known Universe is created from elemental earth, water, air and fire. Everything including you. Try the simple practices listed below to connect with each element and understand yourself and our Earth more deeply.

PathEarth: go outside and sit or lie on the earth. Feel how stable and solid it is. Soak up that stability. Notice how the dirt and stones of our Earth give your body something structured to lean into for support. Feel into that structure and stability, notice how it holds you. Breathe deeply in and out. Thank the dirt and stones of our earth for providing a stable structured container for your life.

Turn your attention inward. Breathe and focus on the the hard bony parts of your body for a moment or two. Feel into the way your bones provide the internal structure and stability that makes it possible for a watery creature like you to stand up and walk around. Without bones, you would slide across the ground like a slug, bound closely to the earth. Breathe in and thank your bones for providing structure and stability to your body.

Water: take a bath or shower and feel the sensations of the water on your skin.  Feel the soft, yielding, fluid qualities of water as it flows over your body. Notice how different water feels from earth. Breathe and imagine those fluid qualities permeating every inch of you, making you soft, yielding, flowing.

Breathe and focus on the pulsating flow of blood within your body. Imagine the ebb and flow of fluids entering and leaving each organ, each tissue. Allow the soft flow of water to permeate every corner of your being. Then imagine that you can radiate these soft, flowing qualities out into the world; radiating flow to those you love and to those you have conflict with. Then radiate those flowing qualities back to the waters of the earth, bringing the gift of elemental water full circle.

Dancing FlameFire: sit in the sun or in front of a burning fire; feel the heat on your skin. Relax and draw the heat of fire into the depths of your body; bask in the glow of fire within. Breathe in the warmth and imagine that you can direct elemental fire to wherever more warmth or spark or action is needed.

Breathe in and draw more fire into your heart, then radiate the warmth of fire and your inner radiance out into your world. Breathe in and out, drawing fire in and then radiating it out again and again and again.

Storm cloudAir: go outside and stand or sit where the wind can find you. Breathe in the winds of nature and focus on elemental air permeating every tissue, bringing oxygen to every cell of your body. Breathe in air and exhale with an ‘ahh’ or ‘ohh’ sound. Allow the wind of your breath to cleanse  and clear your mind, blowing through and carrying away negative or worrisome thoughts.

Breathe in and allow the wind of your breath to blow down your spine and out the tips of your fingers and toes. With each exhale, send love and gratitude out into the world for the gifts of elemental air.

A fifth element lies beyond the 4 elements which create the physical foundation for our Universe. This is the mysterious element of Space or Akash. This is where the magical spark of life emanates from in the first place. And this is where the energy of Soul resides. Below is a simple way to connect to Space.

Space: go outside and find a spot with an unobstructed view of sky. Gaze at the sky; breathe in its open clarity and expansiveness. Breathe in open sky and imagine yourself dissolving into sky with every out breath.

Breathe in sky and dissolve into open spaciousness again and again. Imagine you can be nothing but breath and space. Allow tensions to dissolve and flow out of your body with each breath. Allow thoughts and emotions to dissolve into spaciousness. Make more space for positive feelings, thoughts and experiences to flow into you.

Late Summer Harvest

The Golden Lions of Lugh

It is early August. Here in the northern hemisphere, we are in the midst of the hot, lazy “dog days” of summer. The expression “dog days” is believed to pre-date the Roman Empire. Our ancestors named this late summer season the dog days because at this time of year Sirius, the dog star, is closely aligned with the Sun in our sky.

The ancient Celtic people held the festival of Lughnasadh during the dog days of summer. It was their way of celebrating the start of the harvest season. Lughnasadh was typically held halfway between the Summer Solstice and Autumn Equinox. It was a time of gratitude for the bounty of the harvest season. In many villages the first sheaf of wheat was harvested and ceremoniously ground and baked into bread for the festival of Lughnasadh. Bonfires were lit to honor the fiery energies of the Sun. The first fruits of the Earth were harvested and shared.

Later in Britain, the festival of Lughnasadh became Lammas Day. The festival of Lammas was held on August 1st in honor of the wheat harvest. The word Lammas comes from the Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas  or  “loaf-mass.”  On the day of Lammas it was customary to bring a loaf of bread made from the new crop to church in celebration and gratitude for the harvest.

Lughnasadh and Lammas are both ritualized ways for the community to acknowledge and honor the food that grows when Father Sun unites with Mother Earth. Our ancestors lived closer to the Earth and the cycles of the seasons. They understood that all life on Earth depends on the magical union of sun, seed and earth. In these modern times, it is easy to forget that all of our food comes from the bounty of Mama Earth. Every morsel is a gift from the Sun and Earth, even if purchased wrapped in cellophane at the local grocery store!

All of our clothing and shelter are also gifts from this sunny planet, as well as the oxygen we breathe. We have come a long way from the times of subsistence farming, yet we are still the children of Mama Earth and Father Sun, completely dependent on their gifts for life. And pausing to acknowledge and honor the start of the harvest season can be a wonderful way to reconnect with the beauty and bounty of Mama Earth.

Take a few moments in early August to connect with Mama Earth and Papa Sun. Offer up a simple prayer of thanks to Earth and Sun for all that you have in your life. You can also create a simple harvest ritual of your own. Just focus on giving thanks for this year’s bounty.

Your personal “harvest” may include more than just the food you eat – what else has come to fruition for you this year?  Perhaps you have a new job or a new family member. Maybe you made progress on a project near and dear to your heart. Or perhaps you’ve found peace in a troubled part of your life.  Take a few moments to honor all the gifts that you have received this year.

Simple ways to honor this year’s harvest:

  • Prepare a dinner feast for family or friends and give thanks.
  • Bake a loaf of bread in honor of the harvest season. Not a baker? Make corn bread or gingerbread.
  • Light a candle and offer a heartfelt prayer of gratitude. 
  • Build a bonfire and dance a prayer of gratitude around it.
  • Go outside and sit for awhile with Earth and Sun. Offer them a heartfelt thanks.

☼ ☼ ☼

“The thankful receiver bears a plentiful harvest”
~William Blake

Musing with the Moon

full-moon-horizon_9450_600x450

I bought a lunar calendar this year. It takes a bit of getting used to because it divides the year up into 13 moons instead of 12 months.  After years of looking at the year as the month of January followed by  February followed by March… it seems weird to track the year by moon cycles.  After all, I have been trained since Kindergarten to track what month it is!  But keeping track of which moon cycle we are in this year has opened my eyes to nature’s rhythms and cycles in a deeper way.  And it’s shown me yet another way of looking at my world that is filled with wisdom and truth.  And I have discovered that I can use and learn from both ways of looking at the world; I can follow the cycles of the moon and stars  AND I can honor 4th of July and celebrate Christmas on December 25th again this year. I do NOT have to choose and lock into only one way of looking at my world. Truth and wisdom can be found in many forms.

Tracking moon cycles has deepened my awareness of my own cycles.  I am female, which means my emotions ebb and flow and cycle like the moon. It is the way nature wired women to operate. Don’t believe me?  Well if you’re female, find a lunar calendar and start taking note of how your mood ebbs and flows during any given lunar cycle.  And if you’re male, track your wife or girlfriend’s moods.  Try it and you’ll see how lunar women truly are.  It is not just our menses that are tied to Mother Moon. And how cool is it to be intimately tied to Mother Moon.  I find it somehow comforting.

Every year on planet Earth contains 13 lunar cycles. That’s actually not just Native American folklore – it’s astronomy.  The length of our year is determined by how long it takes the Earth to go all the way around the Sun.  And Mother Moon cycles around the Earth 13 times in the time it takes the Earth to cycle around Father Sun, whether we believe in and honor pagan rituals or not.

For those of you who haven’t ever paid attention to the moon before, a new moon is the time every month when the moon is dark and cannot be seen in our night sky. A new moon lasts 2-3 nights and then a tiny sliver of the waxing (growing) moon shows herself again in the night sky. In many earth based traditions, each new moon marks the beginning of a cycle. Many ancient cultures who were more intimately tied to the natural cycles on Earth, believed that new moon energy marks the perfect time for renewal and / or beginning new projects.

Several years ago, I discovered a wonderful book that shares Native American wisdom and legends about each moon cycle on our Earth; it’s called  The 13 Original Clan Mothers  by Jamie Sams.  One Clan Mother or Grandmother is said to watch over us in each lunar cycle. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE the idea of Grandmothers guiding and watching over me (some would label me a female chauvinist). And I also adore the magical names that Sams uses to describe the energy of what each Grandmother focuses on.

1st Moon:   Talks with Relations
2nd Moon:  Wisdom Keeper
3rd Moon:  Weighs the Truth
4th Moon:  Looks for Woman
5th Moon:  Listening Woman
6th Moon:  Storyteller
7th Moon:  Loves All Things
8th Moon:  She Who Heals
9th Moon:  Setting Sun Woman
10th Moon:  Weaves the Web
11th Moon:  Walks Tall Woman
12th Moon:  Gives Praise
13th Moon:  Becomes Her Vision

Truth can take many forms. Every spiritual tradition contains gems and nuggets of truth and wisdom that are available to help me in this crazy, confusing cycle of days known as a lifetime.  If I decide that one teacher or one school of thought is the only source of truth for me, then I lock up and limit my world and my possibilities.

Finding and holding onto truth can be as elusive as trying to catch a fish as it flashes in the sun at the surface of a lake for just a brief instant. Wrapping words around the truth to explain it is a very tricky business;  no words ever completely catch the essence of a truth because truth is an energy, a sensation of lightness and expansion. My truth creates space and opens up a new view of the world to me.  Words never quite do justice to the energy that is truth.

When I search for truth, I can choose to put blinders on and follow only one teacher as though he or she holds all the keys that will unlock me and lead me to wisdom.  Many people prefer that way – it simplifies their search for truth and wisdom. But I can  refuse to wear blinders. I can choose to search out those flashes of truth from every teacher, every tradition, every corner of the Universe that catches my awareness and speaks to me. The second way takes more patience and goes against the norm, but I find it to be infinitely more rewarding.

☾  ☽

Originally published by Nancy Lankston in 2012
under the title “Moon Musings”

Practice Gratitude

Aspens In Fall

“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet
and the winds long to play with your hair.”

~Khalil Gibran

There is an earthy Celtic tradition that is simple, healing and fun. It involves speaking or singing your love and appreciation directly to the trees and flowers, birds and animals that you encounter in Nature.

For example, you might go out into your backyard and whisper to the pine trees. Tell them just how lovely their green branches are today. Or you might smile at the lavender bush and praise its scent. You could stop as you walk your dog, and thank the sky for the amazing cloud shapes that are floating over your head. And if you are feeling especially exuberant today, you could even sing your gratitude to the trees and flowers and sky.  Or offer a little poem to the flowers about their beauty and how it affects you.

This ancient Celtic practice provides a simple way to honor your relationship with Nature. Our human lives are interwoven with the natural world in a multitude of ways. But we often forget just how important Nature is to our lives.  This gratitude practice can help each of us to remember.