The Five Spiritual Elements in Tibetan Shamanism

What this is – Hello and welcome to the “The Shaman Podcast”

Speaker –        Mark A. Ashford

                        I am a Usui Tibetan Reiki Master and Teacher for IARP

                        I am a Registered Teacher and Practitioner for Canadian Reiki Association

                        Tibetan Shaman

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So, let’s get to the subject of this Podcast…

Today, we are talking about Five Spiritual Elements in Tibetan Shamanism

The five elements in Tibetan Shamanism are space, air, fire, water and earth. In Tibetan philosophy, these elements are symbols of the fundamental forces that compose all phenomenal appearance. These elements create an organized system and are also central to Tibetan Buddhism.

Tibetan prayer flags are bright and beautiful, but their colours aren’t just for show. Each hue signifies an element — and the flags are always arranged in a specific order, from left to right: blue, white, red, green, yellow. Blue represents the sky, white represents the air, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. All five colours together signify balance.[1]

Tibetan Shamanism: ElementsColours
Space / SkyBlue
AirWhite
FireRed
WaterGreen
EarthYellow

A person is a blend of these elements, and to be truly healthy, the energies in these elements need to be balanced within the person.

These five elements – space, air, fire, water, and earth – are symbolic of the fundamental forces that are integral to all phenomena. As the body is developing in the womb, earth provides support, water provides cohesion, fire causes maturing, wind and air cause development, and consciousness, the element of space, provides spaciousness to form the body.

In Tibetan Buddhism and in Tibetan culture, life is seen through these five elements, which continually increase and decrease in relation to one another. This view forms the basis of medicine, astrology, the calendar, and psychology, and it underlies Tibetan traditions of shamanism, tantra, and Dzogchen.

Earth

The earth element is the densest expression in form, the most materially present, and is related to qualities of stability, hardness and heaviness. 

To meditate and connect with Earth find a place where you can be quiet and sit. 

For myself. This is a favourite bench close to a large lake. The lake will speak to the element of water which comes later. In the warm weather I will be wearing sandals and I will take them off and allow my feet to rest on the ground.

Clear your mind of all worries and try to shut out or simply ignore people and even animals around you. Connect and draw from the earth energy under your feet. I found that even in the cooler fall weather, the ground was “warm” to my bare feet. I also found that pains I had felt in my feet and lower legs went away and stayed away.

This connection to the earth is also known as a grounding exercise. You are grounding yourself and your psyche to something solid, the earth element. 

If you are unable to find a suitable place to connect with earth, if you have plant pots in which plants are growing, rest your finger tips or your hands on the earth and concentrate on how it feels. 

Earth element is stable. Always stable. If you are annoyed or angry at something or someone, focus on the stability of earth element to reduce and eliminate your anger.

Water

In my earth exercise I sat next to a large body of water, without knowing it, I was completing the water exercise at the same time.

While I was fortunate to be close to a large lake, the water in your bath, your shower, or the water you drink. All will help you feel and understand the water element.

Water, even a glass of water has enormous power and potential. It may be cool; it may be warm. It is deep, and peaceful until agitated by a spoon stirring your glass.

Water is the beginning of cohesive form; it is fluid and takes on the shape of any vessel it is in. Place drops of water close to each other on a flat surface, a little movement and the drops will come together and effortlessly combine. 

There is no struggle, one drop does not negotiate with another as to whether they should combine or not. Two drops simply become one. 

Your body is mostly water, connect with the element water, especially that in your own body. If you are in your bath or under your shower, feel how comforting and relaxing it is. If you swim, it will hold you up.

If you are angry or frustrated. Slow down and relax. Let the element of water remove your tensions and take them away. It is comforting, and like earth, it brings stability to you. Be like the water in the container, quiet and passive, allowing the situation to flow over you.

Fire

The place where I sit, the place that shows off the consistency and strength of earth and water also happens to be a very sunny place. I can sit there, close my eyes, feel the earth and listen to the water while the warmth of the sun beams down on me.

In winter, sit before a fire place with a fire burning, if you can. If you cannot burn fuel, a stove, a heater, even your oven while you are cooking is giving off fiery heat – careful not to burn yourself!

Concentrate on the feeling of heat on your face, arms, legs etc. bring the feeling of heat into your body, through the blood, it flows around the muscles, sinews, ligaments and organs.

In your psyche, fire helps your grow by ripening and maturing your thoughts and feelings. It burns negatives and negativity. Fire speaks to creativity and energetic achievement. Typing on a computer speaks to fire! It brings reality and new interesting things into being.

Fire is also related to digestion and nourishment the result of which creates the fuel to help your muscles move and stay strong.

If you feel dull, uninspired, listless or unmotivated. Think of the energy of the fire element and bring it into your body, into your limbs and your intention. 

Air

Air is flow, movement strength and force. A strong wind that really has no substance can blow over a strong tall tree as well as a building if it is not built well or insecure.

Again, by the lake where I experience earth, water, and fire, I can also feel wind on my face. It is moving unseen and unheard from the water to the land and yet I feel and sense it. 

Think of anger, discomfort, fear, unhappiness, even minor illness such as a headache. Negative thoughts and fears. Those thoughts and fears will make you unhappy, feel down or depressed. Let the wind blow those away and leave your psyche clean and clear, and refreshed.

Air drives sailboats and planes fly on it, and in it. So, do birds and the scent of flowers and seeds seeking a new home in the earth in which to grow. 

Air is freedom, flexibility, ease. Let it lift your spirits with the energy and freedom it offers.

Think of air and its ease and internalise it, when you are in a situation that is constricting, limiting, think of air and let it blow those things away and lift your mood and your intention.

Space

Space is above our heads, we can look up on a clear night and see the stars, the moon, and the space between the stars. Let yourself be open to the wonder you are seeing and relax. Let the infinity of the space you are looking at come into your being and give you a sense of limitlessness.

Space – opens any tight, constricted places inside of you and dissolves away worries. The more and more you integrate with space, the more you are open to opportunities and the bigger your horizons become, you feel less limited or confined.

When you concentrate on space your mind is clearer, less cluttered and more energetic. You have less tension; you feel less disrupted. You can sit back and see the big picture and at the same time, seize the opportunities coming to you because you have more space to accommodate them.

Imbalance of elements

Imbalance can manifest itself in the physical dimension. A person with too much earth might be fat or overweight. They may feel devoid of energy and be lazy, dull or depressed. 

They maybe forgetful, slow, or have very little progression in their personal or spiritual development.

The imbalance of the elements from the Dzogchen perspective is subtler. A person may lack stability in meditation, lack awareness of their connection to the base, lack concentration, lack understanding of sunyata.

Maybe a person is very unbalanced in a sense of the elements in Dzogchen, but he or she might not notice it because there’s nothing particularly wrong physically or psychologically.

If you often feel confused or encounter problems, it may be a lack of stabilizing earth. A lack of creativity means you are lacking fire. A lack of openness if you feel as if life is stopping you from speaking up is a lack of space. Someone who is inflexible lacks air. 

What next?

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[1] “Prayer Flag.”

Mark is a Registered Reiki Teacher and Practitioner

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Mark is a Usui Tibetan Reiki Master Teacher

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