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Saturday, 6 August 2016

Deva of Air - Breathe, You Are Alive

Deva of Air, Devas of Creation, Conway
Will they ever come to me again, 
The long dances,
On through the dark till the dim stars wane?
Shall I feel the dew on my throat
And stream of wind in my hair?

-- Euripedes, The Bacchae (qtd in The Devas of Creation: Working with the Energies of the Universe, Conway)

It's the last day of Devas of Creation week, and very glad I am to see something less gloomy today. We have Deva of Air, one of the Elemental cards in this deck. (There is also Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit). These, according to Conway in the companion book, are the building blocks of matter.

In this card, we see the upward movement of Air, as it morphs into a humanoid shape --the better to relate to, my dear! A female figure wends its way upward, having woven her spell and escaped all who wished to keep her down by consuming her.

'The deva points out that a couple of hours of real air will revive us, blow away the cobwebs, and allow us to think more clearly. Go out, run up a hill, fly a kite, find the 'long, long dances' and remember how good life can be,' writes Cilla Conway in the companion book.

This card is about liberation from cares.

How can the element of Air liberate us from cares?

In Thich Nhat Hanh's book 'Breathe, You Are Alive: The Sutra on the Full Awareness of Breathing,' the Four Foundations of Mindfulness are discussed --

1. The body ('Form').  The practice of mindful breathing brings awareness to the body. We can then reconcile ourselves to our body, and allow healing to take place.

2. Our feelings. The practice of mindful breathing brings awareness of our feelings, and it is only through awareness that we can recognise them, reconcile ourselves to them, calm them, transform them, and heal them.

3. Mental formations. This concept is rather complex. In a nutshell, a mental formation is a  conditioned response to an object of experience. One might say it is a response based on our perceptions, a reaction to a trigger. This is where Buddhism sounds a lot like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. You see clearly the pattern of your mental formations in response to some trigger. You can recognise the conditions that brought the mental formation to you (this practice is called Vipasana).

4. Perception. When the mental formation is recognised, then the perception can be challenged. Most suffering comes from wrong perception. If we look at the true nature of reality, we are released from suffering based on wrong perceptions. Form, feelings and mental formations are all the objects of our perceptions.

How is this so? I perceive my body as a whole, when in fact it is an aggregate of many parts and cannot function without the system in place. At a deeper level, I perceive my body as solid, when in fact it is made up mostly of liquid. Even deeper, I perceive my body as material when in fact it is made up of atoms containing mostly empty space.

I perceive my emotions as real and singular, when in fact they are a physical response to complex stimuli.

I perceive my mental formations as logical and right, when in fact they are skewed by my perceptions of the way things are or ought to be.

All of this insight comes of focusing on the breath. Or it can. And that's how the Deva of Air can deliver us from care.

This is a little more thorough than engaging in the distraction of running up a hill or flying a kite, but those techniques also have their place.

What can you do today to help you rise above forms, feelings, mental formations and perceptions that try to tether you to suffering?

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