According to Ayurvedic cosmology, everything seen and unseen in the Universe is comprised of some combination of the five great elements: earth, water, fire, air, and ether.
The elements themselves can be broken down into “gunas”, or qualities, all of which are in listed pairs.
Some of them are:
Using Ayurvedic philosophy, we can describe everything in our world as a combination of these qualities. In fact, we already do—a “cool” relationship, a “dull” job, a “hot” topic. These descriptions can point us right back to the primary elements involved:
- Earth is primarily cold, dry, and heavy.
- Water is cold, heavy, and wet.
- Fire is hot, light, and dry.
- Air is cold, light, dry, and hard.
- Ether is cold, light, dry, and soft.
This philosophy of how we are made up (a creation philosophy, essentially) includes the planets, stars, trees, animals, dirt, rivers, and plants. It includes our physical bodies, our lifestyles, our food, and our relationships. It also includes our emotions.
Applied to the emotions, we can see that sadness, which might be described as wet and heavy, points to an imbalance of earth and water. Anger is hot and bright, which aligns it with the element of fire. Fear and anxiety are often light, ungrounded, and cold, which connect them to the elements of air and ether.
These emotional imbalances are often temporary. Like bruises, they tend to heal themselves over time, with little to no help from us.
Other times, the emotions might need a little guidance to move along their way, so we can return to our natural state of peace and equanimity. This is the primary goal of Ayurveda, which uses the theory “healing through opposites” as its primary treatment method to brings us back into, and maintain, health (“Svastha”, in Sanskrit).
In practice, this looks like this:
- Getting out for a walk in the woods to calm our fears and anxieties.
- A cool, flower-scented bath to soothe our anger.
- Classical music to uplift our sadness.
But occasionally, even applying this wisdom, emotions can get stuck. It seems that no matter what we do, we can’t seem to return to balance. The sadness won’t lift, the anger won’t release, the fear won’t shake. This is because it’s no longer just one or two elements out of balance, but all of them: there’s fear behind the anger, which is clouding the insecurity, which is masking the loneliness. Now, it becomes increasingly difficult to know how to bring ourselves back into balance using a straightforward opposite theory.
This is when we must use an energy that can effectively balance all of the elements at once: Curiosity.
The reason curiosity is the best to balance all the elements, and therefore any “stuck” emotion, is also rooted in Ayurvedic cosmology:
The energy of curiosity is grounded, like earth.
Curiosity must begin by looking directly at what is. Curiosity is not escapism; it starts from where we are. As such, it is grounded, and can therefore soothe fearful thoughts, calm the energy of fire, and provide needed boundaries to anything that might be overflowing.
The energy of curiosity flows, like water.
“Stuck” emotions are like quicksand. When this happens, we need movement, and curiosity offers that lifeline. Curiosity can carry us from one place to the next, until we suddenly find ourselves on the banks of another, healthier, state of mind.
There is passion behind curiosity, like fire.
Curiosity awakens the heart, and allows for illumination and investigation.
What’s behind the emotions? What’s available for healing or transformation that wasn’t before? Maybe there is a great purpose to all these feelings, if only we look a little closer.
Curiosity fuels itself in the world of ideas, like air.
The questions that arise from curiosity might find us learning something new, or gaining some new insight into ourselves or our world. Often behind fear lies the question, “what if.” But “what if” is also the central question behind curiosity. Simply shifting the energy behind the question from fear to curiosity can change our mindset from one that is increasingly trapped and limited in scope to one that is unwinding into possibility.
And, like ether, curiosity springs from possibility.
And lest we get stuck ruminating only on other people’s ideas and solutions, curiosity also contains the element of ether. Curiosity carries us into the world where ideas and creativity begin, so we can create our own solutions, right out of the ether.
Curiosity is the cure-all for whatever ails us, and even the cure-all for what might in the future. Curiosity keep us vigorous, youthful, flexible, and, of course, Ayurvedically balanced!
So, whether you apply curiosity to pull ourselves out of an emotional nosedive, or we tap it just because of its power for restoring balance anytime and anywhere, curiosity is the key.
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