Earth, Air, Fire, and Water

Four elements.

Our lives change all the time. In the shamanic world, the big changes are often seen as initiations. I think the little changes can be initiations, too. How we handle changes is the biggest part of how we feel about our lives and ourselves.

This discussion is about change in physical reality. So I want to look at how we change when we take on the essences of earth, air, fire, or water.

Earth. Change is inevitable. When we try to stand solidly, when we are rock, change crushes us into dust. Or we crack like the earth splitting in an earthquake.

Air. Change can separate us. When we are air, when we float away from change, we lose connection with all the things around us. We no longer touch with things that we care about.

Fire. Change makes us scared and angry. When we are fire, when we rage against the change, we try to destroy whatever is changing us. We burn ourselves as well, and it hurts.

Water. Change takes us to new places and times. (The Quechua word for a place and time is pacha. I’ll be using that word in the rest of this discussion.) When we are water, when we allow ourselves to adapt to our surroundings, we move as the tides. We flow to the new pacha with fluidity.

Often this kind of thinking is the end of the discussion. Well, there’s usually a wrap-up sentence that says, “So be like water and flow with the change.”

But this is me, Tom, and I think there’s more to our reality than that simple answer. Moving on…

Water is a wondrous substance. In some pachas it’s cold and solid as ice. So we need some fire to get us melted and moveable.

Water when it is a flood carries all sorts of debris with it and destroys everything in its path. We need to contain the flow of the water with levees and sometimes dams. We build those from earth.

Sometimes the water is tainted with poisons. If we carry the poisons with us, the new pacha will be no better than the old one. We can distill ourselves by turning the water to air, letting the poisons drift away, and then return to ourselves by raining down in the new pacha.

We need all of the elements — earth, air, fire and water — to move easily from one pacha to another.

And there’s more…

Not all changes are good. We are humans and our souls have sovereignty. We don’t have to give in to a change. Let’s look at what we may be able to do against changes that are not for our highest and best good or the highest and best good of others.

In the face of an evil change, we can decide to stand solid as the earth. If we are stronger, the energy behind the change will run out while we are still standing. We have to be certain, though, and have no cracks in our armor, no Achilles’ heel. And it’s nearly certain that we will come out of the contest at least a bit battered and broken.

In the face of an evil change, we can be the air and let the change flow into and out of us without touching our essence, like a bullet on its way to another target. We have to present absolutely nothing for the change to touch. Even so, the friction will heat us a little and the noise will make us shake.

In the face of an evil change, we can be fire and burn the change and those who are behind it. We burn, they burn, and whoever has the most fuel survives. When we win, we are still much diminished.

In the face of an evil change, we can be water. Water is versatile. Water can flood the agents of change and wash them away as a tidal wave washes everything before it. But the tidal wave caries the debris of the evil change with it. Water can dissolve the agents of change. But this is an evil change and the water now has the poisons of the change within it. When we win, we are no longer clean.

So, two final thoughts…

When we fight against an evil change, whether we win or lose, we are not finished. Broken earth becomes the dust of the air and floats to a new place. Air is heated and shaken too much when it is too solid. When that happens, air can stop the change by taking on the nature of earth. Fire that burns out leaves ashes behind that water can turn into back into clay. Tainted water is cleaned by turning into air as it is distilled by fire. Fighting an evil change instead of accepting it is an initiation, too.

And when we face a change — an initiation — that will lead to the highest and best good of all, let it happen. Let your anger be the fire that lets you move to the new pacha. Don’t be frozen in fear. Let your boundaries — your I-Am — be the earth that guides your flow to the new pacha. Don’t change aimlessly or destructively. Let go of what you no longer need to hold. Turn it into air and let it drift away. And then be like the water, calmly and cleanly flowing into your new pacha, fluidly keeping your connections with all that is around you.


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