The elements represent the fundamental dynamics of creative activity and material composition. This course draws on the Tibetan system of elements – space, air/wind, fire, water and earth – as it relates to embodiment, movement, and creative arts practice. Class time will include guided movement practice based in Body-Mind Centering®, prompts for writing, drawing, and/or movement exploration in your own space, and discussion with a focus on application to your own projects.
Zoom class Tuesdays 10-11:30am AEST
21 July – 25 August (6-week series)
$45/$80/$120 fee options – Book now on TryBooking
Please contact me if you need to make other arrangements
This is a 6-week course and the classes build on each other. Classes will be recorded in case you have to miss the live sessions. On registration you’ll receive the class zoom link and an invitation to a Slack channel for sharing resources, questions and conversations.
I first came across the elements through studying embryology as part of my PhD research. I was deep into the possibilities of embryology – the body’s creation story – through the somatic approach of Body-Mind Centering®. Then I opened a book on Tibetan embryology and read something that seemed so simple at first, in comparison with the crazy detail of western embryology I was grappling with, summed up here: as the body is developing in the womb, ‘earth provides support, water provides cohesion, fire causes maturing, wind causes development, and consciousness, or the element of space, provides spaciousness to form the body’ (Labdrön & Harding 2003). I decided to investigate further, and ended up creating a kind of ‘practice dialogue’ between these two perspectives. (I even published a paper about it, which I’m happy to send you if you like.)
A western approach to anatomy & physiology has a tendency to compartmentalize, to present each body part or each system as its own thing. This can be a really helpful way to learn. It’s one way of seeing things and understanding our nature. And it can present the body as something fixed and pin-down-able, forgetting a couple of important things: 1. we are always in a process of becoming, and 2. this becoming is always in relation to everything else in our environment, and, when you come right down to it, the universe.
Considering our anatomy & physiology through the view of the activity of the elements provides a different kind of experience, one more focused on the forces at play inside the systems and forms rather than the forms themselves. Because of this focus on dynamic activity, it’s also an interesting way to connect somatic practice with creative practice; the same dynamics that constitute a body/mind can be explored in constituting other things, the things we make and observe in our daily lives.
For example, the fire element represents heat, our inner heat – the reason the breath you exhale is warmer than the breath you inhale – and also the process of drawing in fuel and burning it to create energy for the system. Just like a campfire creates light and heat energy from wood and oxygen, the tiny mitochondria inside our cells create our functional energy from sugars and oxygen. What we take in is consumed, transformed, combusted. While we are alive, we generate heat. Likewise, all the things and events we create draw in their fuel, materials and resources as part of their becoming, emerging as something new.
The water element represents the principles of coherence, and adaptability. The hanging-together forces that allow a raindrop to form without dispersing, that created pathways of blood flow before we had a heart, and that underlies our ability to respond fluidly to any situation. The earth element symbolizes form and structure – those things that let us identify a particular object or relate to each other as embodied humans. And the air element (also called wind) is all about movement – whether along pathways or unbounded – physical movement as well as communication, imagination, activation, attention…. All within the unlimited potential of space.
Another cool thing about this perspective is that all of the elements are also always increasing and decreasing in relation to each other. We don’t remain at the same density all the time. Things arise from the background of space, play around for a while, and return to space. Creativity and change are constant.