The Element of Earth
In yogic terms, when we say “earth,” we not only refer to the planet but also to the most fundamental element in the making of our physical selves and of everything for that matter. Our physical self is essentially a combination of Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Akasha. Earth is the most basic and stable of the five elements. When it comes to the energy system and chakras, the Earth element is associated with the Muladhara. It is the basis that all the other elements build on, and of our physicality. Though the element of Earth is part of physical matter around us too, it is best we start to perceive and understand it from the basis of our lives, because most people only really experience their own body and mind. Knowing and experiencing the element of Earth from within is part of the yogic process.
Whenever you eat food, you swallow a part of the earth. Essentially, we take in a part of the planet to sustain the body. Consequently, how we treat the planet is how we treat our own bodies. Conversely, in a way, how we treat the body is how we treat the planet. It is all the more important to look at what role the element of Earth plays in our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. If the element of Earth does not cooperate, you are not getting anywhere. If the body does not cooperate, whatever aspirations you may have, you do not get very far. Unless you are completely detached from the physical, it will determine just about everything in your life.
How to establish a connection with the earth? All creatures have set levels of perception – they experience life in a certain way. Animals are very connected to the earth because they do not have the intellect and awareness that human beings have. When it comes to humans, their psychological space dominates over their existential presence. In a way, an earthworm experientially knows the connection to the earth, but it cannot consciously realize it. If you pull it out of the earth, it wants to go straight back into the earth. If you pull a fish out of the water, it wants to go straight back into the water. This is not only essential for survival but also just because of the familiarity of habitat. In that sense, they know the connection. But they are not capable of being aware of it when they are in the earth or the water, respectively.
Most human beings are in the same state. Nature has evolved us to a different level of intelligence and awareness, but we are refusing to accept the promotion. Obviously, you cannot live without Air, Water, or Earth. If someone tries to take any one of them away from you, you will desperately want to get it back. In that sense, you know the connection as an earthworm or a fish knows it. It is time you know it as only human beings are capable of knowing it. There are ways and methods to do that – unless you are too engaged in a world of your own. Most people are living in their own world, which means they are living in a psychological space, not really on the earth. They get down to the earth only when they get buried or cremated. Their psychological space is much more important to them than the reality in which they exist. In other words, their own thoughts and emotions are working against them, because their intelligence has not been trained to be used in such a way that it enhances the way they experience life.
The whole focus of modern education and cultures is on how to use and exploit our physical environment – every creature and every substance. Nothing is being offered to enhance the way we experience life using our intellectual dominance and awareness. We have learnt to use everything around us, but wellbeing has not happened. If you try to enhance your physical situations, only those are getting enhanced, not you and your experience of life. When you breathe, there is not a certain quantity of air that is yours or mine. Without a constant exchange with your surroundings, you cannot live. An earthworm knows this. But most human beings do not even have that level of awareness. Our intelligence and awareness have turned against us because we have not bothered to create a stable enough basis for ourselves. This is why the Earth element is so important, and that your Muladhara is stable.
A simple way to connect with the earth and stabilize the Muladhara is to walk barefoot. The time between pradosham, which is always two days before a new moon day, and new moon is particularly conducive for this experience. On these days, the moon’s gravity creates a certain level of inertia, and your body and its energies are much more connected with the earth than on other days, because it is pulling you in that direction. By contrast, on full moon days, it is pulling you up, in the opposite direction. That is why there are different yogic practices for full moon days, new moon days, Shivaratri, and pradosham.
If not every day, at least for these three days from pradosham to Amavasya or new moon day – if not outside, at least in the house – see if you can walk barefoot and sit on the floor, particularly cross-legged. Both bring a deep energy connection and create the experience of being a part of the earth. Lying down will not give you that kind of conscious experience. One thing is we know what kind of meditation will happen when you lie down. Apart from that, how the energies function when you lie down does not support a conscious experience. There are various other practices in this culture to connect to the earth experientially. On certain days of the year, people eat a little bit of earth, generally from a termite hill or the like, to experience this connection. A practice to bring the elements into your experience on a daily basis is the Bhuta Shuddhi that we teach.
It would be best if you can be conscious of every breath you take. When you breathe air, be conscious that you are breathing a certain aspect of this planet. When you eat something, be conscious that you are eating a part of this planet. When you drink water, be conscious that you are drinking a part of this planet. You should intellectually understand and be conscious of the connection, but that alone will not bring an experiential connection. A true experiential connection means that you experience the earth as much a part of you as you experience your little finger as a part of yourself.
Walk barefoot, sit cross-legged on the ground, do the Bhuta Shuddhi practice. Whether you eat, breathe, or drink something, be aware that you are taking in a part of this planet. Whatever you do – make it as conscious as possible. It will make a world of difference in how you experience life.
The Soil that you walk upon
The Soil that you treat as Dirt
Is the Magical material
that turns into leaf, flower
and fruit. All that you
know as life was at one time
held in the eternal pregnancy
of the Sacred Soil. Mother
to some and Dirt to some other.
But the Sacred Source of all
The life encasing cage
of the body is but the Soil.
Under farmer’s Till, potter’s
Wheel, above all the Divine Will
It turns into Magical Mill