Dearest monks, artists, and pilgrims,
Happy Easter and Feast of the Resurrection! I am delighted to share that my assistant Melinda, whom you may know from our online programs and yoga practices, is leading a mini-retreat on Saturday, April 23rd themed around yoga and the elements. Read on for her reflection on Easter and the 5 great elements.
When I asked my eight year old son if he knew what Easter was about he said, “God coming back.” After nearly two years away from church and Sunday School I thought this was pretty on the mark. We briefly talked about love never leaving and the miracle of Jesus’s resurrection before he lost interest.
One thing I appreciate about Easter is the way it is a continuation of the Incarnation celebrated at Christmas. Without incarnation there can be no resurrection. And without resurrection incarnation seems a little finite. Astonishing in its generosity, but finite.
We see this miraculous cycle of incarnation and resurrection in the wheel of the year and the interaction of the elements that form the building blocks of our world. In the yoga tradition there are 5 great elements – or Mahabhutas.
- Earth – the element of physical being and sustenance
- Fire – the element of energy and transformation
- Water – the element of flowing and yielding
- Air – the element of breath and communication
- Space – the subtle element of vastness in which all the other elements exist
As in the Celtic tradition, engaging with these elements invites us into a deeper connection with the matrix of creation. When we recognize that the elements do not simply exist in the “natural world” beyond our humanity, we enter into an enriching relationship with creation and the Creator. There’s a sense of mutuality and aliveness to our collective lived experience.
From a yoga perspective, the Mahabhutas are part of the way creation is danced into being. This cosmic dance is not a one and done deal; incarnation is not finite. It’s an unending, moment to moment dance of love and bliss. It’s the Divine manifesting creative delight.
When we pay attention, this dance of delight is revealed in a myriad of ways including the interplay of elements in the cycle of seasons both liturgical and literal. In Lent – which happens in late winter-to-early spring in the Northern Hemisphere – we experience the subtlety of air inviting us to breathe and turn inward to attune oneself to the subtle movements of spirit.
At Easter, air breathes new life as the earth is reborn. Water flows, flowers bloom, and light returns. We celebrate resurrection, the rebirth of the spirit, and the promise that death is not the final word. God comes back because God never left. The elements shimmer in new ways.
In yoga practice we are invited to play with the elements in their physical and thematic actions.
During our mini-retreat on April 23rd we will explore the Mahabhutas through contemplation, meditation, breath work, and asana (the postures or shapes we make with the body). No yoga experience is necessary and all bodies are welcome.
Melinda will also be leading a yoga nidra on Thursday, April 21st themed around Earth Day and the elements. Yoga nidra – or “yogic sleep” – is a restorative practice done entirely in Savasana. (Lying down under cozy blankets.) Please consider joining her for either or both of these yoga practices to enrich and broaden your engagement with the elements.
With great and growing love,
Christine Valters Paintner, PhD, REACE
PS I am doing quite well with my recovery from surgery two and a half weeks ago now. Read my full update here >>
Image paid license by Canva