Well-Being//

At the Root of It: Exploring the Earth Element

Of the five elements that are believed to form the world, this is one that can cause you to be flighty when it is scanty or weigh you down when found in abundance.

Photo by Gabriel Jimenez/ Unsplash
Photo by Gabriel Jimenez/ Unsplash

The five elements — Prithvi (Earth), Jal/ Apah/ Neer (Water), Agni/ Tejas (Fire), Vayu (Air) and Akasa (Ether) form the rudimentary components of all life. When these five elements are in balance, life thrives and operates on an optimal level — there is success, wellness, contentment and a happy rhythm to it. When life ends, the gross physical body of this ‘being’ fragments into the same five elements.  

Known as the panchtattva or the panchmahabhootas, a lot can be learnt about oneself, restoration of balance and optimising life from them. There is a lot that can go right or wrong with balance or imbalance of an element. Each element has core messages for human beings, reflected through its own nature and qualities — and if these are understood and worked upon, a lot of progress can be made with relatively little effort. 

This article largely focuses on the earth element, the element that makes us feel secure, warm, rooted, confident, nurturing and nourishing beings. It is the first teacher through which we learn trust. Here are some real life examples to underline the importance of this element: 

Sitara (name changed) is an accomplished woman and has done her MBA in Operations Management and works with a globally renowned manufacturing giant. Though she has a family, she is unable to feel connected (in a way that usually other mothers do) with her child who is eight now. She feels that her identity and success in the world is completely tied to her professional role and performance. Consequently she is competitive, puts in long hours, travels often and has a reputation of being a no-nonsense person. Of course, there are guilt trips about not spending enough time with the child, but by honest admission, she doesn’t know what to do with a child even if there is time.

Percy is a young man of 33, who grew up in the shadows of an overachieving older brother. He is used to being the happy, chubby in-house clown, who has found acceptance finally in being ‘fun-loving’ (he is fine being the butt of jokes, or so others around him believe)! Call it neglect or comparison, Percy has found comfort in food — it doesn’t criticise him and gives him some satisfaction. But now, Percy’s weight as well as fluctuating moods have become a problem. He’s been in an ugly office situation, something that wasn’t anticipated by the family members as to them he’s the genial son.

Sitara’s example is one of too little earth — she doesn’t want her feet tied down. She would be the first one to take flight or feel nervous and agitated in an atmosphere of comfort and calm (in other words, a lack of crisis). She is unable to nurture another being or identify emotionally with anyone else for the same reason. 

The steadfastness and rootedness, a sense of security in being who you are is an essential gift of the earth element. From the earth springs life. It is the substratum of existence. For success in the material world, to gain and prosper in this physical life, one must be rooted and from that place of knowing, trust and confidence amazing growth is possible. 

Percy, on the other hand, has more earth element than he needs. The weight he has put on, impedes his movement, literally and figuratively. An unwelcome indolence has crept into his life over time and caused him to get jammed into one place — a place of ‘stuckness’, where he is neither able to ask for help, nor move towards a source of help. Instead of new thoughts and seeking new learning, his mind is a stew of the pain that was and sweet sinful treats/ or the next pleasurable experience he can look forward to. What was supposed to have grown as a personality with gravitas, ideas with heft and depth, has merely manifested in its lower principle as unhealthy body weight and a dented self-image. His frustration is now manifesting as behaviour issues.

The earth element is powerful — this and much more. Its imbalance at one end of the spectrum can cause a person to be dull, slow to grasp and learn, too identified with material gains; to being insecure, easily influenced and swayed by others, and in extreme cases, even disinterested in continuing with life.  

Awareness of one’s physical form by doing mirror exercise, walking barefoot on grass, taking a mud treatment or even opting for a soothing massage can be tremendously healing and can help balance the earth element.

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    People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

    - Marcus Aurelius

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