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Boundaries and their relation to the five pillars of life, earth, fire, water, air and ether. Siannon makes a point of stress as a distinguishing teller to check our unique balance of these ratios and when they are off, how to bring the harmony.
The Ayurveda of Boundaries
Ayurveda is the ancient Indian science of life and boundaries are what defines us as individuals and collectives. In this article we'll explore the relation between the 5 elements that constitute ourselves and how to negotiate what we identify with, when it comes into conflict with other people's definitions, and quite often into violation with one another's meaning of what is ok and what is not ok. In this article I will highlight the subject of stress and how ayurveda can help balance and integrate our needs in times of excessive cortisol and adrenalin release.
First off, being in the fight or flight mode retracts from our immune system. It does this by moving our energy towards our arms and legs in a state of defence. If a woman is faced with a man that refuses to take no for answer in sexual conduct, do you think her body is going to prioritise her personal boundary or her organs in need of repair? It will go to that whichever keeps her most safe. When we live in a precarious situations, survival mode or tension, our health is jeopardised, and this we can see worldwide, poor states of health and happiness and widespread fear and anxiety. When we have firm, malleable and autonomous boundaries we are better able to access what we need to feel complete and further thrive in our environments. By working with the five elements that each aspect of our personal nature can be assigned, we can learn to incorporate their unique values into our overall well-being, regulate stress and direct energy to where we prefer. Here is a breakdown of each of their qualities.
This is the most fundamental element as it can be associated with the area at the base of our spine and also the metaphorical roots that are our ancestors. The genes of every member of our lineage is encoded in our DNA, so when we ask 'why is this happening to me?!' in whatever circumstance, we need not be so hard on ourselves, it could be a genetical blueprint inherited for us to figure out how to heal, not because of anything we've had happen to us in our own lifetimes. When we are lacking earth we may feel like we have our head in the clouds, not fully accepting reality, and perhaps too flimsy about having our preferences respected. When we have what we need of earth we feel safe, secure and stable. A simple hug can bring our energy back to our core and demonstrate the love we need in times of high stress. Eating wholesome foods which make us feel grounded such as root vegetables can also take the mental and emotional tension away and redirect energy towards the physical. Take need in your likes, dislikes, thoughts and feelings, because the more you know yourself, the easier it is for others to define themselves in relation.
This is the element of transformation, creation and passion, and is generally associated with the abdominal area. When fire is in balance we are able to find solutions to problems by digesting information easily and lead ourselves into the future we feel confident and courageous about. When our internal flame runs low we may find ourselves apathetically following others, lacking commitment and focus. We may even be able to hear and feel the excessive air in our joints and suffer indigestion, mental and emotional ailments further manifesting physically. There is a time and a place for fiery anger when somebody has overstepped our laid out boundaries, if that emotion is channelled effectively we can literally burn away whatever thoughts, words and actions in our life we do not want and replenish ourselves with those that we do. If we authentically communicate our observations, feelings, needs and requests, we are much more likely to have our limits adhered to and our passions ignited.
Water is the element of purification, flow, force and gentleness. When we forgive another person or ourselves, we let go of the things that we do not identify with and reaffirm the things we do. Water is an element of reflection, adaptation and emotions, especially sadness. As humans we have a need for closeness, it can be useful to think back on the first 7 formative years of our lives with our primary caregivers when we depended on them for our food and water and hadn't any boundaries of the 'self' set. We adapted to our parents ways that may not have been our own in order to gain their love and approval, we can tell that we did this by looking at ways we think, speak and act that go against our internal happiness pointing compass. a simple bath or shower can help wash away the negative. Letting go means to recognise and actively change detrimental beliefs and habits, allowing new better feeling emotions, thoughts and sensations to strengthen, this is a practise in honouring our own boundaries.
Air is the element of thought, speech, open and closed mindedness. When we are free thinking our egos are flexible instead of rigid, and can more fluidly consider the needs and wants of our 'enemies' as well as ourselves. A skill in learning how to incorporate air is the ability to hold space and empathise for one another's best interests. This does not mean taking another's word or our own internal thoughts as immediate truth, but rather creating safe space to relax, be vulnerable by taking off our armour and authentically expressing what's lying on us, and with trust to have that received, validated and interacted with kindly. When air is in balance we are in tune with our intellect, intuition, imagination and intentions. We breath deeply and feel progression. Out of balance, we do not speak up wisely and our closed minds will not bend in the wind but will break by their limitations.
Also known as space, ether is the essence that is the unique combination of all of our elements and everything in between. It is associated with belonging and connection, 2 other human needs that any other pack animal has. If we forgo ether we do not see ourselves in the bigger picture, and by not participating in it, we do not give rise to our own and hence the universe's expansion, we get ill and without attention, we die. Feeling unsupported, isolated, useless and disconnected are all symptoms of a deficiency in ether. But by getting closer as deeply as possible to our true essence, recognising ourselves as infinite conscious energy, as new age as it sounds, we can re-establish our purposes and existence as wholly worthwhile. It is interesting to play with the idea that our souls are part of a vast energy field and our spirits are currents in that stream, unseparated and interdependent. Acknowledging this, that everything is related, and that we have free will to choose our destiny will bring empowered integrated harmony.
Traditionally, ayurveda catogorises people into 3 'doshas' or constitutions, vata, pitta and kapha which are expressions of dominant elements. I've linked 2 questionnaires that can help you discover which best resonates with you, and what to embrace or to avoid to be your best self, stress regulated and boundaries clear
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