As kids, my brother and I loved swimming in pools. Growing up in Kuwait where the summers are so hot you can burst into flames, the water was a physical and mental reprieve from long endless months of dry heat where you sweat even just standing still in the shade. My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so instead of jetting off to cooler destinations like Europe or the States like our friends did, we stayed home a lot. Water was our saviour element.
But as I got older and read too many astrology articles for my own good, I thought about the other elements I never paid attention to. In addition to water, how do earth, air and fire play into my life?
Because I spent so much time in pools with my brother, I learned to love the water. As an adult, I cherish taking lengthy showers after an arduous day; I love going to the Scandinavian spas here in Canada where you soak in a hot jacuzzi, jump into freezing water for five seconds, and warming up close to a fire. I love the invigorating blast of liquid makeup remover that hits my face when I take off my makeup at the end of a party. And I love cool water running down my throat after a long night of drinking, needing to quench my thirst after too many shots of vodka. So yes, I love H2O.
Many people self-identify as water babies; the surfer who hits the waves in the mornings, the water-skiers who go on weekend trips to the lake, or anyone who likes the beach (for the record, I have a love-hate relationship with beaches). For a little while, I lumped myself in this group.
But as time progressed and I took more notice of my body, I saw that water dried out my skin. I had eczema after all. Too much of it and it tightened my pores and I felt bound, almost stuck in my own body, not being able to move because it would crack whatever epidermis I had left right before my skin literally broke into pieces; both painful and uncomfortable. I had to cut the long hot showers into brief cool ones.
I love the water, but maybe it doesn’t love me so much *cue dramatic music*.
Last year I went on a mini-vacation with a friend in Haliburton. Of all the physical activities on offer, the most appealing was para-sailing. You could say it was a hybrid water/air sport, but I thought of it as flying. We decided to try it.
The ride was fun and lasted about fifteen minutes. While up in the air, everything got quiet. Just like when someone feels quiet when they’re underwater, there was something about being suspended that gave me flowing peace. It dawned on me that I liked being in the air more than the water.
Para-sailing made me think about other experiences I had in the air. Ok, being in an airplane with a tonne of people wasn’t exactly like flying on top of a lake above a beautiful, green forest, but when I was on a plane I felt…mobile. I felt like I could land in one place, stay there for a bit, and then literally take off to my next destination.
Being in the air made me think of weightlessness. I’ve lived in quite a few places in my life and never thought of anywhere as permanent unless I was bound due to circumstances beyond my control. The phrase native nomad comes to mind: go somewhere, stay for a while by learning the ways of my hosts and then explore another place. If I dig deeper, it could be related to not being able to travel when I was younger, creating a pendulum effect of needing to exit when I sensed a chapter was over or God forbid, started to feel trapped.
Air is what I grasp for when I get an asthma attack. If you’re asthmatic, you know when your lungs clog up, it feels like breathing through a straw, and clear windpipes are what you’d need to survive. It’s a lifeline.
Air liberates me.
With earth (and by this, I mean the ground, the soil) I feel stability and security planted on the ground. There is comfort and a deep knowing of what’s to come. But I can’t stay in groundedness for too long because I start to feel trapped (see above on my nomadic tendencies). The most telling activities with earth are when I used to go hiking and running – a lot. I still love climbing hills and pounding through city streets, but I noticed I started taking the same trails over and over again, which perpetuated the side of me I always struggle with–being resistant to change.
I don’t like the weight of sand which is why I don’t like walking on the beach. Each step I took felt like quicksand. It’s a great workout for my legs, but I often felt tired, and bound after even just a ten-minute walk. While I’m curious about mud baths at spas, the idea of stiffening parts of my body for wellness purposes feels binding.
Earth is a practical, functional element for me.
I was never much for camping. I like dry heat, but humidity–moist heat–is bad for my lungs so I’m mindful of whether to venture into the woods in the summer. When I am in the office or at home my body naturally gets very hot (I think it’s hormonal), and I have to take off my shoes to release heat. I’m sure it’s some type of internal inflammation with all the medical conditions I have, and it puts me in extreme forms of discomfort.
But there are good things about heat for me. It helps expand, like when my pores enlarge during a steamy facial and releases the toxins stuck in m body. It rebalances my body temperature after a cold plunge in the pool, reaching a point of equilibrium. When I feel my hands and feet are icy cold I exercise. After a brutal HIIT workout, the engulfing, cozy blood flow makes me feel I’m in my element (so to speak) again.
With fire (heat), I need to straddle its’ volatile nature with my body’s limitations when interacting with it.
Elements as Tools to be Present
The elements are important tools you can use to feel yourself in your body; they’re a great way to pull you out of whatever is going on in your head. I get lost in my own thoughts so often, being a daydreamer who sometimes sits on her couch for hours staring into space. And I love being in my head; it’s one of my safest places. But I can’t stay there too long, because I start to run away with my thoughts and create (usually false) stories in my head about anything my mind latches on to. In some cases it leads to procrastination. If you’re writing fiction sure–it’s a great place for characters to appear or plot lines to form. But if you have anxiety or trauma, it’s easy to overthink and become unhappy.
I know it’s ok to like all the elements. In my life, I’ve enjoyed so many experiences that transcend from an invigorating cold waterfall in the British Columbia interior to feeling the Middle-Eastern sun on my face when sand-duning, to the weightlessness of ziplining, to feeling the endorphins of crawling through an obstacle course in mud during a race.
As an Aquarian, I discovered I was an air sign. Contrary to popular belief, because depictions of an Aquarian are that of a water bearer (i.e. someone who figuratively holds the entire weight of the world), we are always mistaken for a water sign. But in fact, we’re an air sign. I’m not an astrologer, nor do I follow its philosophies by the book, but I did peek into some of the literature as a loose guide. While I don’t really believe we are our astrology, there are certain components of it worth keeping in mind.
By paying attention to my intuition and inquisition, I learned a lot about what I gravitated toward through my history, my tendencies and my body. Water, fire and earth complement my life, but air is probably my core element with its desired mutable and weightless attributes, supporting my love for worldly adventure.
What is your favourite element? Do you like the grounding yet fluid tendencies of water? Are you partial to feeling passion and want to emulate that by trying a fire dancing class? Are you someone who likes to fly and feel the possibilities that the malleability of air can bring to your life? Or do you want to build roots, gather with your family on a kitchen island and dig your hands into a cold batch of chocolate-chip cookie dough?
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