By Melissa Moore
The noun resource turned into a verb; to resource got its meaningful significance through the field of neurodiversity. To live a life of basic sanity, one must continually resource oneself. In the dictionary, Resourcing means providing money, workers, skills, etc., to a particular project or venture; however, in Karuna Training, we practice the art of resourcing ourselves when hit with complex challenges. Whether our challenges are physical, relational, or energetic – like working with fatigue, difficult emotions, or an ongoing illness; one way of resourcing ourselves is the capacity to draw on the natural elemental energies which make up our world.
Resourcing through the elements means drawings energy and inspiration from water, air, earth, fire, and space, which are the makeup of our world. To draw on the elements as a resource assumes an established and conscious relationship with the elements. Once we begin to work with the elements this way, it is like having access to a wisdom tap of inspiration available 24/7.
It’s common to take the elements for granted, like small children who never consider the context of their worlds and never stop considering who and what supports their existence. Yet, nothing in life doesn’t arise out of and dissolve back into space. Every person, place, and form is intricately subsistent on interacting with the elements: water, earth, fire, and wind. The Chinese elemental system makes room for wood and metal elements; however, in Karuna Training, we draw on the Tibetan Mandala of the Five Buddha Families, which aligns wood and metal with the element of earth.
Chögyam Trungpa once said, “If we understood the nature of the elements, we would understand everything there is to know about karma.” Karma, in the Buddhist teachings, is the law of cause and effect. Karma understands that all people, things, and occurrences are interdependently co-arising, meaning we are inseparably linked to everything else. The makeup of everything is elemental and subject to the Universe’s physical laws.
Communing with the elements and their energetic makeup is a primary practice of Contemplative Psychology. Learning to exchange with elemental energies is how to resource ourselves in everyday life. We draw vital energy, power, inspiration, and wisdom through fundamental awareness of the elements and how they interact with one another. In Karuna, we take the elements as our teachers. What this practice looks like varies; for example, when we bring ourselves fully present to experience the energy of a developing rainstorm, we can attune to the magic of a thunderclap. Doing so may serve to invigorate us, just ask any child; thunderstorms can help to cleanse us of occupying worries and cares. The storm can wash away our common concerns and attune us to the awe the world has to offer.
An old Chinese proverb states, “Life begins the day you start a garden”! I can attest to that truth when I finally had the time and space to start gardening in my 63rd year of life (aided by a worldwide pandemic). My garden has become a cliche of a life-altering and deep resource of fulfillment that I never knew I was missing. The daily exchange with earth, water, wind, and sun in my kitchen garden has bound me to my home and family in wholesome daily rituals.
Even though I’ve been teaching about exchanging with the elements for a very long time, it turns out that resourcing ourselves with the elements is literal! So we need to get our hands dirty.
I come from a long line of Missouri farmers. Both my parents escaped the family farms early on, vowing to never turn back. I grew up in apartments in Los Angeles and later in the burbs in the 1960s and 70s, where the back to the earth movement had yet to resonate. Each lawn was perfectly manicured. I’ve spent my life supporting my partner as the resident gardener; while simultaneously racking up a huge carbon footprint commuting hours to keep a permaculture lifestyle.
Gardening isn’t the only way to resource ourselves elementally; other activities include but are not limited to: bird watching, mushrooming, rock climbing, hiking, sky diving, and possibly even hunting; although I have an aversion to the killing aspect. These and many other outdoor activities are all opportunities to contemplate our inseparability from the elements. In Karuna, we consider the elements deeply, one by one, considering their impacts on our being physically, emotionally, and mentally.
Space the primordially birthing ground and the graveyard of all existence; everything arises out of and dissolves back to space.
Water is essential to life and health, the fluidity and reflective aspects of life’s complexity.
Earth the ground, and sustenance of all our existence, from which all nurturance is spanned.
Fire allows for digestion, integration, insight, and even transmutation of confusion into wisdom.
Wind is the circulatory instigation of all action and movement in the world, without which would be stagnancy.
The five elements are the make-up of our existence, and each element has correlative energy with which communion can be exchanged. In Karuna, we create rituals to call in the elemental powers, learn to commune, and draw on the energetic elemental wisdom in everyday life. At first, this calling-in ritual can feel awkward; we have long ago delegated our spiritual prowess to priests, shamans, and other authorities we have deemed more fit to communicate with the invisible forces. However, humans have known how to communicate with these magical energies for much longer than they have forgotten.
Moreover, by communing with element energies, we become sensitive and attuned to our fire-like nature of flitting from one thing to the next absent-mindedly. Or to the turbulent water-like way we thrash through our daily tasks, or the windy existence of our daily schedules. We can take the elements as our teachers, ever-present and accessible to us when we learn to raise our gaze and exercise our permeable natures.
Elementally resourcing ourselves is a contemplative practice that allows us to draw on the wisdom of the world, from which we are not separate.