We move in and out of balance, we fall in and out of connection with others and ourselves. And that’s OK, since life is a constant process of ebb and flow. But to assist the shift back into balance we all need a practice that will nourish and support our soul, the deepest part of ourselves.

In the modern world we can pick and mix from a smorgasbord of spiritual paths and practices that can lead us back. But the array of choice can be too confusing, too glib, too clichéd. So we often stay where we are, possibly lost without a map, perhaps cold and hungry, not sure how or why or whether to take the first step.

When we align too closely with the dictates and constraints of culture, when we live in brightly lit, consensual, literal reality, we lose something valuable; we lose access to our wild, natural self.

To access our deepest self we need a nature-based map of wholeness. This is because modern culture is thin and brittle, and not enamoured of depth. The way of nature is an old, well-worn path, made smooth by many ancient feet. The basis for this map is the four elements; earth, air, fire, and water, in their physical and metaphoric sense.

There are many four-fold maps for understanding the human soul. The most comprehensive and inspiring nature-based map of the human psyche that I have encountered is from Bill Plotkin.

What follows is a short description of the four elements, so you can work out what is going on in your own life by asking some questions: Which element is strongest in my life, which is weakest? Which element encouragingly speaks to me? Which do I avoid?

Air – is the element of new beginnings, light, mind and intellect, ascent, expansion, and connection to spirit. Air is life, the breath of the living earth, constantly moving.

Fire – is the element of growth, energy, playfulness and spontaneity, of raw emotion. It is a place where we can move into a state of wonder. Fire can be healing (or it can burn), as our lives get tempered in the fire of life.

Water – is the element of descent, movement, emotions, flow, and the power of dreams and imagination. In water, we dive deep into the energies of the unconscious, as ego gives way to soul and shadow. Water knows its destination, and moves with grace and power to get to where it is going.

Earth – is the element of stillness. It is where we learn endurance and courage. It also represents community, teaching, responsibility and eldership.

An authentic life depends on movement. Any choice we make can in time become a prison so if we understand where and how we are positioned in relation to each of the elements we can choose when and how to move. We can recharge the water of life if it has become stagnant. We can become winged and fly to new horizons or to safety. We can move into stillness and the warm dark soil by connecting to earth. We can bask in the sun and allow a charge to enter our life. The elements weave a spell of magic around each other.

Our deep instinctual self understands the moves required to bring balance in our life. And sometimes the move is to stay exactly where we already are so we can fully experience that place!