The Law of Equifinality implies that there is no one right way to apply the Table of Spiritual Elements and the corresponding book. Below are some guidelines, however, that may help you along the way.
For some, it is possible that just looking at the table and reading the book will serve to spark interest in spiritual exploration and discussion, even if that means totally disagreeing with the concepts discussed. Disagreement spurs exploration and can actually strengthen the path leading to Awakening. Some will simply pick up on a single element and the reading of it will inspire the person to be more of that element: for example, more Accepting, less Judgmental, more Forgiving, etc. It is possible that singular growth in any one element may spark broad growth overall.
There are a couple of simple practices available along these lines. Conveniently, there are 52 elements, which could correspond with the 52 weeks in the year. As a practice, then, you could select one element from the 52 to focus upon for each week of the year. I would recommend choosing the elements as they appeal to you based on your Intuition.
One fun way to pick an element is to close your eyes and let your finger land on an element box in the Table. You can also do a web search for “Random Number Selection.” There are several web sites where you can simply plug in the parameters of any number between 1 and 52 and the site will pick a random number that will correspond to an element on which you can focus for that week.
Another simple application of the Table is to just review the elements on the Table and then get in the mindset of noticing the spiritual elements in your daily life. As you interact with others and the world around you, ask yourself the following questions:
- How am I noticing others “being in their element” while doing certain activities?
- How am I experiencing others embodying a particular element?
- What elements am I manifesting most in my life?
- What elements do I think I might need to cultivate more within me?
Not Getting Caught Up in the Rules
When we first use the Table, and we are attempting to embrace and fully espouse the Spiritual Elements, we may have to establish rules for ourselves. These might take the form of: I will be more grateful; I will not be judgmental, for example. These can mimic some of the famous Thou Shall and Thou Shall Nots of traditional religions.
Using such rules as guides may help us as work on the Table and our spiritual path towards some form of awakening. Where we want end up is in a place where we no longer need such rules. We simply are grateful all of the time. We simply are predominantly non-judgmental towards others. We are ultimately looking for personal transformation in our way of being and we are not reliant upon following a listing of rules to control our behavior. As attributed to St. Paul, “We are either justified by the rules or by the spirit.”
In a Judeo-Christian context, an un-Awakened person needs the Ten Commandments to follow as a set of external rules guiding their behavior. An Awakened soul, on the other hand, does not need them. Thoughts in contrast to those rules would simply not arise.
So what can we do? We “fake it ‘til we make it” and we do so with sincerity and clear intention. We engage any and all of the elements (as if they are rules to be followed in their own way) with the bigger picture for ourselves in mind. The bigger picture, of course, is that we want to make an internal shift of Awakening so that eventually those rules aren’t necessary. Along the way, we watch out for tendencies that will narrow our focus and have us “caught up on the rules.”
Also, if we get stuck on the rules, we can develop what I call a “Carrot & Stick” spiritual path. This would be a path governed by external rewards and punishments, with personal behavior tightly contained by a series of rules. On this pseudo-spiritual path, an internal shift cannot take place and an Awakening cannot occur, even though the person may be behaving appropriately “according to the rules.”
Work Through the Table
One can also take the more common book-reading approach of simply working through the table start-to-finish. In the simplest terms, being, embracing and doing what is on the Table (especially through the suggestions in the “Practice” sections) will bring you closer to awakening. Doing things that are not represented by the Table will take you further away.
Before “Working the Table” it may be helpful to know what not do and to know when you are veering off the path. To that end, it is good to consider the typical obstacles and landmines that might be in the way so you can avoid them and refocus on the positive as you journey with the elements.
Obstacles and Delusions on the Road Ahead
1) IGNORANCE: In the beginning, the main obstacle to understanding and working with the elements is ignorance. This includes not knowing that there is actually spiritual and consciousness-raising work you need to do, not being aware in any way of the spark of Divinity at your core, and accepting the socialization you have been subjected to as your ultimate reality. There is also the ignorance of arrogance— thinking, “All my work is done. I have everything all figured out.”
2) THE MONKEY-MIND: When Humanity ate of the Tree of Knowledge, so the story goes, that was when we received our incredible brain— but, darn, if it doesn’t like to jump around a lot from thought to thought, worry to worry, projection to projection, like a monkey does from vine to vine! Our minds like constant distraction. Each jump can create emotions and, if we aren’t careful, soon we can find ourselves in a constant spin cycle. What we might not know yet (or are just beginning to discover) is that those thoughts that we have are not us. What we also may not know is that a calm mind is possible.
3) EGO: The ego is a lot about image and the concerns one has for how one appears to others. The ego wants to be liked. It is constantly seeking external validation via objects and the opinions of others. It may put others or its host down in its attempts to motivate you and/or to stay in control. It can hijack your best intentions. It is sensitive and extremely shortsighted. It rarely admits any wrongdoing.
4) CRAVINGS: Bodily instincts are fine, but if not kept in check through constant Awareness, they can get the best of us. If we add addictions and habits of self-medication into the equation, then we get an Ignorant, Egotistical, Horny, Monkey-Mind on Drugs. If you are one of these folks, you will have neither the time nor the presence of mind to do the work that the Table requires.
5) “FIGHT OR FLIGHT” SYSTEM: This system is built into our bodies as a matter of self-protection but can be overzealous in attendance to its duties. It can be left in the constant “ON” position, which can feel like you are on amphetamines. It can create constant anxiety within you. Then you have a Monkey on Speed. Not good. There is no learning from the Table in this state of mind. “Fight or Flight” can be triggered as we read through the elements. We might feel inadequate as we judge ourselves as not having progressed in relation to a certain element. We may wish to flee rather than do the work which may be implied.
6) CONTROL: When we are afraid and facing uncertainty, or when are concerned with what others think, we may get in the habit of constantly striving to control outcomes in order to avoid pain and maximize reward. This is a somewhat natural response to the stressors of life on a practical level, but the Universe “happens” in a manner that simply cannot be controlled. We must bend to it— or, better yet, with it. It is also best to simply focus on doing good for the sake of doing good instead of trying to maximize reward in this life or an afterlife.
7) SOCIALIZATION: Who would you be if you had been born into a different family? In a different place and time? What limiting beliefs have been set into place by your gender, race, culture and/or religion? What part of you transcends all of that? Our Truth may vary from what our social constructs and conventions dictate. Those who do not question convention will risk sacrificing fulfillment of their Truth.
The issues above are addressed by various elements in the Table. These factors, as unpleasant as they may be, are a part of our Humanity. When we are unconscious (not Awake), these issues can direct our lives away from Awakening. When we face them, we grow as spiritual beings, and our Divinity shines through us.
Overtly and Subtly Contrasting Forces
As stated before, each element faces contrasting forces. Sometimes there is a clear opposite for a specific element. Sometimes that opposite is less clear. The opposing force to Divinity is not evil necessarily but ignorance, defined as the simply act of not remembering that we are of the Divine. This is a critical oversight to be sure, but it is one based in ignorance, not malice. Hate is an obviously contrasting energy to Love. A less obvious contrasting force than hate might be possession, the desire to possess another in order to “love” them.
Being aware of contrasting forces is important in working the Table. The less obvious contrasting forces are of greater concern to me, as they can sometimes be the more insidious in terms of preventing engagement of an element. Subtle contrasting forces to be aware of include: Avoidance, Indifference, Stagnation, Complacency and Mediocrity. Practicality and Accommodation can also serve to oppose spiritual elements when allowed to be governing forces. They are talked about within the elements, where appropriate.
A Sample Walk-Through
A sample walkthrough of the Table reminds us that we are living in the Divine Model. The Divinity which lies within each of us is a key component and the apex of the Spiritual Table. The Kingdom is within, as they say, and we’re all created in God’s image. In contrast, it is not a Disease Model we are looking at, whereby we are solely broken, defective sinners. We are all Divine and the Table reflects this.
In working with a sample walkthrough of the Table, focus initially on the number 1 element of Divinity. Meditate on it so that it is never be forgotten. What we are trying to do is bring our Divinity up in just the right fashion in order to integrate it with our Humanity. In this way, Divinity has a controlling interest in our spiritual business and in the Trinity Element. When this is the case, we begin to awaken.
A Slow Start
In this hyperactive day and age, I am going to recommend a way of starting to work with the elements that begins with the element of Stillness. A basic aspect of Stillness is plain ol’ SLOWING THE HECK DOWN in everything we do. This slowing down is actually mandatory in order to really work with the rest of the elements. Greater efficiency and effectiveness in working with them is achieved by consistent application of the element of Stillness. At the same time, maintaining Stillness may be extremely difficult in a culture that is addicted to busy-ness, constant distraction and multi-tasking.
Once we can first obtain some modicum of Stillness, quieting our overactive Monkey Brains in an effort to focus on the task at hand, we can begin to notice our Breath. We become more conscious of our breathing and, in the spirit of Stillness, we can slow our breathing down. There are many breathing techniques available out there. One that I teach is called Deep Belly Breathing (DBB). With this technique, the breath is centered very low in the torso (versus a high-chest breath, which is actually a stress response). It is a breath we consciously pay attention to as we inhale through the nose and let the belly and ribcage expand. Then we exhale very slowly through the mouth. Repeat as many times as you need to, until you feel centered.
Deep Belly Breathing is how you might see a sleeping puppy or a baby breathing. The longer and slower the exhale, the better.
Do DBB whenever you want to and focus on it especially when you are reading about the element Breath. It can help you become more conscious of your breathing in general and it can help you slow it down and even enter into a state of internal Stillness at different times throughout the day. It will help you breath slow in meetings, be calmer in traffic and engage better in conversations. You may also decide to have actual times of sitting in Stillness while engaging in Deep Belly Breathing or any other slowed-down conscious breathing technique that works for you. Just sit there and breathe slowly for whatever period of time you can afford─ the longer the better.
I could say, “Just breathe diligently like this for a couple of years, with no expectations, and then you might experience some form of Awakening.” In the interest of practicality, I will recommend instead to practice breathing in this way until it becomes habit. When you can naturally stay out of the busy-busy, multi-tasking mode so demanded by society, are constantly aware of your breathing patterns, can slow the breath down when necessary and are taking time for total Stillness, then the other Outer Elements can be embraced fully to enhance your progress. Seek Stillness in Nature. Seek Stillness in Solitude. Seek Stillness and slower breathing in the Body through practices like Yoga. With your slow Breath, be more aware of each moment. Be aware of the Now.
With these basic building blocks in place, you are already starting to flirt with Meditation and engage in some very basic Mindfulness and Self Awareness activities, key elements on the Table. When you sit still and breathe, close your eyes and watch where your thoughts go. With no judgment towards your thoughts, just notice them and return your attention to your breathing; in through your nose, long, slow exhales through the mouth─ or whatever Breath into which you settle.
When you are out and about during the day, also start noticing your thoughts, feelings, Bodily sensations and surroundings in a Non-Judgmental way. Notice them, then turn your focus to your breathing until something demands action again. As you start to become more Mindful, you will find that Meditation will help cultivate both Stillness and Mindfulness, and vice versa. In general, for me, times of sitting Meditation represent practice and training for greater Mindfulness throughout the rest of my day.
Oops! My Wounds Are Showing
When you begin to reflect upon your life or, through Breathing and being in Stillness and when you begin to practice Meditation and Mindfulness as well, you will start to notice patterns of thoughts, concerns, worries, other emotions and bodily sensations that will arise. This is normal and is part of the process of obtaining greater Self-Awareness.
You may notice a lot of good patterns and healthy thoughts and behaviors. In general, however, I suggest you look out especially for those patterns which might constitute a block to your spiritual path, i.e. patterns that you recognize as unhealthy— that are unpleasant, and that you wish to change. There many such patterns (see Obstacles and Delusions above), and they are indications of wounds towards which the element of Healing should be applied. Wounds that need Healing will tend to exasperate and encourage the common obstacles and delusions mentioned above. Here they may manifest as:
- Need for Validation by Others
- Negative Self Talk
- Egotistical Self Talk
- Fear of Abandonment
- Fear of Failure
- Fear of Intimacy
- Desire to Control
- Disproportionate Anger
- Lack of Concern for Others
- Neglect of Self
- Constant Judgment of Others
- Social Anxiety
- Feelings of Never Being Good Enough
- Guilt and Shame
You will also see references in many of the elements to what I call “The Almost-Universal, Most Likely Unconscious Wound of False Inherent Inadequacy.” This is a common shame-based imprint which often manifests itself as a result of childhood experience and is played out by many of the tendencies mentioned above.
Being mindful, we can notice our wounds and patterns in a Non-Judgmental way. . When you contemplate your own wounds in a Non-Judgmental way, your self-talk may go something like this: “Hmmmm…..This is interesting information about how I am behaving and where my mind goes in this situation and others like it.” If you receive insights such as this in a straight-forward fashion, you are lucky. In most cases, it may take more detective work over a longer period of time to see your internal patterns and their underlying causes. The process of uncovering and Healing these patterns (and corresponding wounds) is a large part of what The Periodic Table of Spiritual Elements is all about.
Healing deserves time and attention. It may come in stages. We need breaks from our Healing processes and we need to sprinkle in copious amounts of playful Joy and Light accordingly (as we can sometimes have a tendency to dwell on our wounds too much, and that can be a real downer).
I also suggest, in the spirit of Humility, not to assume your Healing work is ever completely done. Constant practice of Mindfulness and Self-Awareness will help you to gauge your Healing work and its effects. You will feel Lighter and in an energy of greater Joy as your Healing work takes effect. In the meantime, Humility, Courage and Self-Nurturance are elements that may be needed as you seek out help from others as necessary and appropriate. Others are indeed out there who are in Service to help you with Healing and many do so with great Empathy. Wisdom, Reason, Gratitude, and Surrender may be required by you in order to receive this help.
Mystery Over Mastery
One last philosophical discussion might be helpful before starting work on the Table itself. I call the concept Mystery Over Mastery. This idea calls for us to accept the mystery of life, which is a yin energy, in contrast to always striving to master life and/or make awakening happen, which is very much a yang approach to living. As creatures prone to the predilections of the rational mind and ego, we often find ourselves treating life as “a problem to be solved” and even the experience of Awakening as merely another goal to be attained. This all is a very yang way of looking at these matters.
When we are in the energy of Mystery, however, we are more accepting of the Universe and our own lives as miracles that don’t have to be figured out all of the time— or even ever! We simply accept and Love the Mystery of it all, as well as our place in it. Awakening is not forced when we are “in the Mystery.” Rather, it is surrendered into once we do our work and circumstances are conducive to it occurring.
Another way of looking at it is that Mystery is heart-based while Mastery is more mind-based. Mystery relates to our Divinity. Mastery relates to our Humanity. While Mastery seeks perfection, Mystery recognizes our inherent value just as we are.
As an analogy, physical yoga practice has helped many, including myself, work on many of the spiritual elements. In yoga, we can be tempted to want to master a pose and pull it off perfectly, i.e. to “make it happen.” In attempting the pose in this way, we may hurt ourselves physically, or leave the pose feeling inadequate if unsuccessful in it or feel an ego-based sense of accomplishment if we “get it right.”
With Mystery Over Mastery, we practice being the pose as best we can. We are aware, we surrender into it and we simply let gravity take effect. Our mind is clear and our heart is open. The pose may not be textbook perfect, but we don’t get hurt or feel inadequate about it. While aware of technique and safety, we are expressing the pose with an energy of “allowing it to happen.” This is a yin energy. It is a manifestation of what yoga is all about in the bigger sense, which is all about Communion.
In working through the elements, you may come to see how an Acceptance of Mystery can serve to remove barriers to Communion with Divinity while operating in Mastery can serve to unintentionally shore up such barriers.
For me, Mystery Over Mastery is related to one famous biblical phrase “…And the meek shall inherent the Earth.” I interpret “meek’ here as humble and allowing. This saying also relates to a great quote from one of my favorite American poets, Charles Bukowski, who, when asked how he could be so prolific with his creativity, sagely answered, “Don’t try.” This advice again fosters an implication of allowance instead of striving towards achievement and attempting to force something to happen.
Tapping into Divinity or the process of Awakening cannot be forced or made to happen. We fold into it, humbly. And when we do, we accept the Mystery and ironically slip into a deferential Mastery of life. We inherit the Earth, or heaven upon it, as might be implied.
With this whole Table, I am recommending an approach of Mystery Over Mastery. Simply allow the elements to come to you in their own time.
A Few Elements Revealed
There are a couple other Table elements that I think are important to keep in mind from the get-go and, of course, these are individually discussed in their respective chapters.
As touched upon above, Breath is a key Active Element and a starting point for so much. As mentioned above, focusing on the Breath helps us to slow down our monkey-minds and puts us in direct relationship with our Bodies. When we feel stressed, in chaos or separate from God, focusing on our Breath in a conscious manner will generally serve to calm us and connect us to the Divine once again.
I have also found Equanimity to be a key element for me. Equanimity is a calm inner peace in both heart and mind. Equanimity conveys emotional intelligence and an ongoing sense of Mindfulness. When one feels the element of Equanimity, external happenings are less likely to affect that person’s overall sense of well-being. Equanimity is hard to achieve but Healing work can banish any personal demons that may disrupt inner Peace, allowing for greater Equanimity to flow in. When Equanimity is achieved, it acts as a gateway and a clean slate for so much more to bubble up and be activated in our lives, including Intuition, Bliss, Love, Truth and Divinity itself. In retrospect, to me this element represents an extremely important milestone in my life and has remained an element that I am constantly reminded of.
Truth is also an important element to take note of. Truth as an element covers a lot of ground. First and foremost, however, your Truth is about who you are in terms of what your mission is here on Earth at this time and in this Body. What were you born to do? How will you serve others? Somewhere in the process of working with the Table, your Truth will present itself. If you are lucky, it will show itself to you early on. One obstacle to Truth is the need to unravel years of social conditioning which often shape who we think we are and what we think we should do with our lives. Cultural and gender expectations are placed upon us that may conflict with our Truth as well.
“Doing something practical with your life” is a common push of social conditioning. We are pushed by family and friends to get a job with benefits and a nice 401k plan. This experience may align with our Truth or it may not. The key chore here is discerning (by using the element of Wisdom) between social conditioning and what your Truth really is. Without this discernment, it is difficult to achieve Equanimity.
Here, I might offer another specific element from the Active category: Surrender. Surrender is a very specific application of Faith, Acceptance and Humility that happens in the moment. It is the letting go of trying to control the outcomes of each moment or activity. It is trusting in your Divine nature and in the understanding that you will be okay in the moment and in the next. It represents an open mind to Divine will, as in the saying: “Thy will be done.” When you engage Surrender, you are saying, “Let Life Happen. I Trust God.”
This is an important understanding to have as we jump around the Table, exploring and working with different elements. Surrender, although it sounds passive, is actually an Active Element; there will be times when you will simply have to catch yourself resisting what is happening and flip the on switch to Surrender, deferring to God in the moment.
I would engage the element of Light, and a certain aspect of it, in working with the other elements as well. One aspect of Light is Lightness. The element of Light can implore you to “Be Like a Feather” and to “lighten up.” So often, when engaged in spiritual work, our brow is furrowed and we become perplexed and frustrated. The element of Light tells us to unfurrow that brow. It tells us to relax and that it is okay to be perplexed for a little while. Cut yourself some slack; it’s all gonna be okay!
Finally, the element of Love is activated by working with the elements. The ability to Love, and the ability to be open to receive Love, is one of the best abilities to have in life. Always.
Summary: You Are the Alchemist
My best advice is to use the Table in any way that works for you. Trust your gut (Intuition) in how you work the table. Start slow. In the spirit of Simplicity, spend time engaging in the spiritual elements in all their positive attributes and realize that engaging the elements in any conscious way is likely to take you in the direction of spiritual awakening. Working with the elements will inevitably guide you on the path of discovering your true Divine nature and of being fully human.
This table and this book are about personal alchemy with the Divine─ and you are the Alchemist!
“I want to be with those who know secret things, or else alone.” -Rainer Maria Rilke