We would not get far without Air, from our first breath as a newborn baby to the last breath of our Earthly life, Air sustains our physical existence.
The physical bodies of all beings alive on this Earth are animated by the presence of Air. There is no life without Air, it is the animating factor for Life.
Air energises, improving our physical health, increasing our brain power and concentration and boosting our immune system.
Pure, light Air, breathed from the top of a mountain, takes one soaring up into Space. Air elevates us, we say, “I am walking on air, on cloud nine.” We are elevated in this way by controlled breathing.
Air is cerebral, it brings us into contact with our mental faculties, helps us focus on the intellect and rational thought. On a Spiritual level, Air is Wisdom, connecting us to Truth through the Mind. It regulates our Inner Spirit with clear, calming Mind energy by focussing our passions and desires with the clarity of the intellect.
Air is always present in Life, it is in Water, it is required for Fire to exist. Air is mobile – it is constantly replacing itself. It does not hold energy for long, as Water does, so it remains pure.
Wind brings movement and cleansing, blowing away the cobwebs, sweeping away the dust. So does incense, which is used in the process of activating the energy of Air in ceremony. Burning sage or frankincense or other incenses is a way of cleansing and consecrating with the moving element of Air and scent, focussed by the Will for a particular purpose.
Sound is closely related to Air, it travels in Air as waves. When we beat the drum, chant or sing, we are sending waves through Air. Such wave patterns are found at places like Newgrange where the wave energy appears as an image carved into the stones. This may be a representation of Sound and Air.
Air is strongly associated with flight and birds, and thus, with Shamans. Shamans ‘fly’ in their journeys, and some are said to turn into birds.
Working with Air
A candle contains all four elements, Earth for the candle itself, Water for the pool of wax at the base of the wick, Fire for the flame and Air for the flickering movement of the flame.
Using a candle, you can bring yourself into the presence of the four Over-lighting Beings of all of the elements. Do this by mindfully lighting a candle and inviting the Elemental presences into your space.
Dedicate the candle to Divine White Light, or another positive energy or being before you light it, and do the same thing with incense. This is important to ensure we do not attract any unwanted energies or beings, because these negative and unwanted energies cannot interfere if the things we are working with are dedicated to a postive force such as the Goddess or Divine White Light.
Shamans identify with birds because of the flight of their journeys. We also experience flight in dreams and these flying dreams connect us to the element Air. Learn to fly in your Shamanic Journey.
Sometimes this is easy and happens naturally, after all, the same boundaries and rules of the physical are not present in the Other-worlds, and we find we can be in places instantly by just thinking ourselves there. Sometimes in a journey, we find ourself high up on a cliff or mountain, with nowhere to go but into flight. Sometimes we have to make a leap of faith in this way.
Having a Bird as your animal helper/guide/totem is a very good way to learn to fly, sometimes we have to follow where they lead, and the only way is to fly with them.
If you have a Bird animal guide, then flight and connecting to the element of Air will be easier for you. Birds are represented in the Four Branches through two of the most powerful characters. Lleu Llaw Gyffes transforms into a magnificent Eagle and takes flight at the moment of his ‘death’ and ‘rebirth’. Bran is closely associated with the Raven through his name, which means ‘Raven’, which, like Lleu, implies that the Bird and the Being are the same.
This means they are Totem animals, and Totem is Tribe, Family, Kin, the same as brother/sister. Thus, the Eagle and Raven are essentially One with the essence of who Bran and Lleu are.
To find out who your Totem animal is, you can do a journey with the intention to meet your Totem or tribal animal. This is not the same as an animal guide or helper. The Totem animal is always your Totem whereas animal helpers may or may not be with you always. You only have one Totem animal, but you may have more than one animal helper.
To be 'on top of the mountain' expands our spiritual energy and breathing Air elevates us.
Another way to understand this is as a symbol for spending time alone when we focus on higher thoughts and energies, this is being 'on top of the mountain'. But when we retreat into a solitary space to meditate we are separated from our fellow humans, and do not have opportunities to express Love energy, which is necessary for our Spiritual growth. Love energy is expressed through our work and all the things we do for others by our actions.
When we express Love energy to others, you could say we 'descend to the valleys' to be amongst others where we can be of service. But by doing this, we pick up unwanted energies from the places we go and the people we come into contact with, invisible spiritual contagions that are a fact of daily life. After some time, we need to go back ‘up the mountain’ to elevate and cleanse ourself again, seeking purity and peace.
Being ‘up the mountain’ is achieved by meditation, shamanic journeying, breathing practices, prayer, contemplation. Being ‘in the valleys’ is our everyday worldly life where we interact with others and express Love through our actions and seek to give our best to others. We live well when we are varying our time between the two ‘places’.
When we are ‘up the mountain’ we breathe with controlled breath. Just as the pure mountain Air goes straight to our head, so does focussed breathing.
What are the most important things we do? Breathing, eating and drinking, for they keep us alive from day to day. Should we not give these activities our fullest attention, for by our focus, we can increase their benefits in our life?
Breathing is a body process that is usually done without thought or concentration, an automatic function like digestion, but unlike digestion, it is one we can over-ride and control. Controlled breathing enables us to breathe mindfully and to maximise the effectiveness of our breathing.
When we breathe in, it is good to keep the in-breath of Air in our body for a moment before we exhale, rather than being wasteful. There are many breathing techniques, and you may know a good one, but here is one that effectively energises the body and calms the mind.
Breathe in gradually, easily, gently and evenly over a steady count of three seconds.
Hold the breath over a count of four seconds.
Breathe out gradually, easily, gently and evenly over a count of five seconds.
If you find that a bit of a challenge, decrease the count, perhaps to 3-3-4, but keep the out-breath the longest. When you can, increase the count as you feel comfortable.
To make your breathing really effective, make sure you are breathing from the abdomen, as a baby breathes. You can check if you are doing this by curling your fingers gently under the last rib of your rib cage, at the base of your ribs directly below your armpit, whilst placing your other hand on your chest. Now take a big deep breath, and at the moment that you first breathe in, ask yourself where do you feel the most movement, on your chest, or on your side under your rib?
You may need to do this a couple of times to be sure. If you feel the first movement on your side, you are breathing healthily from the abdomen, for that is where the diaphragm meets your body.
If you are not breathing from the abdomen, practice using the above technique whilst lying on your back with your hand or a weighty book on your tummy, making the tummy rise when you breathe in and fall when you breathe out. After a while, you will have re-trained your body, and won't need to keep doing it this way any more.
Breathe mindfully and consciously every day, little and often during the day, aware of the energy of Air penetrating your entire being at every moment. Be thankful to Air for all the energy and Life given to you. If you find yourself sluggish or slowed down, use breathing to energise you.
Air is brought present into ceremony as incense and smoke. Smoke made from incense and from sage is cleansing. It picks up and removes unwanted energies and takes them away. Use it to cleanse yourself and any objects or places.
The atmosphere consists of positive and negative ions. The positive ones are not so good and negative ones are good. Research has shown that when smudging with sage, the smoke attaches to the unwanted positive ions and takes them with it out of the room. Always have a window or door open for the smoke to escape when you smudge.
Use Air, through controlled breathing, to regulate your inner Fire, that is, your passions, desires, temper, any heightened emotions.
Air, through breathing, enables us to regulate our ‘Fire’, by ‘cooling’ it down when required. Use breathing when your emotions or passions are aroused too much, such as with anger or desire. Just take a few big deep breaths or use the breathing technique.
Have an Air day, go for a walk when there is a good bit of wind. Feel the wind take away all your troubles and burdens, feel it refresh and energise you. Then go home and smudge yourself with sage smoke. Don't forget the bottoms of your feet. Then sit or lie down for some controlled breathing, drumming and a Shamanic journey.
Too much Air leads to being too analytical, too literal, head over heart. Too little leads to being ruled by passions, heart over head. That is why we must vary our life by living amongst others and giving of our energies sometimes, and then retreating in isolation to re-fuel ourselves with some solitude and spiritual contemplation.
With controlled breathing (Air), we purify and consecrate our current manifest body (Earth), as a receptacle to hold both our Soul (Water) and the energy of Spirit (Fire) within us.