The air element, omnipresent and essential, serves as a profound metaphor for Spirit in our lives.
Delving into the mysteries of nature, the air element emerges as a powerful symbol of Spirit, omnipresence, and transformation.
The five elements of nature —earth element, water element, fire element, air element, and space element (or ether) are the basic building blocks of all creation. Everything in nature, including our bodies and minds, is formed of the elements.
The elements are progressively dense as they manifest.
Even though all five elements are always present in nature (in varying degrees), the subtle, pervasive quality of the air element is more readily perceived as omnipresent.
As air cannot be seen (unless it carries the influence of another element such as smoke from fire or mist from water), we usually identify it by witnessing its effect. We experience air with the inhalation and exhalation of our breath, discern it as the swaying of trees and fluttering of leaves, and associate it with the ocean tides or clouds moving across the sky. Because of this omnipresent but unseen influence, the air is associated with Spirit. Our lives depend on the unseen presence of air. The air element is related to the skin and our capacity to touch and feel. The action power related to air is connected to our hands and our ability to grasp and let go.
"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear the sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit."
Everything in nature (including our body and mind) is imbued with Spirit and formed of the same five basic elements of earth, water, fire, air, ether, or space. Each of the elements can inspire us. We can find healing, strength, and resilience through making a conscious connection with nature.
Here are three things to consider about air element, and our relationship to it.
1. It’s everywhere. We don’t see it.
2. We depend on it. We’re usually not aware of it—unless we can’t access it, then we are very aware of it.
3. Air is a driver of all that moves. It is a change agent, and it can purify and uplift. We have barely begun to learn how to cooperate with it.
Air is a ready-made metaphor for Spirit. It’s everywhere. We depend on it. It makes things change.
Air is all-pervasive. It is essential, and we rely on it. It touches everything and moves with freedom. It is existence without form.
We literally can’t live without air, but we often forget it is even there. Observing, noticing, and feeling it can be a prayer door to divine remembrance.
John 3.8 “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear the sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”
We can feel it and notice its influence if we look and consider what it touches and moves. The breeze blowing through the trees makes the leaves rustle, the wind moves the ocean waves, and the air guitar makes its silent music! We can feel the breath in our lungs.
It is the same way with Spirit, with God. We can’t see God, the source and support of our life, but we can intuit, discern, and feel that Reality. And we can come to know it directly.
As we notice what air makes possible, we begin to see how it supports healing and what it can teach us about openness and clarity. This subtle, pervasive, and essential support for life teaches us how to connect with, and honor, our connection to Spirit.
In times of trouble, we might call out: God, where are you? Or ask how God could let things happen. But the question is really: Where are we? Where am I? Am I here, present with this breath, this existence, this moment? Or am I caught up in thoughts—worries, concerns, plans, desires, or memories? Given the tendency for our attention to wander, how do we arrive?
There is an Ojibwe saying that gives us a clue: Sometimes I go about pitying myself when all the while I am being carried across the sky by a great wind.
Arriving is simple: Breathe a conscious breath. Connect with Spirit that is the breath of our breath, the breath inside the breath. We wait and rejoice at a baby’s first breath. They have arrived! We wait and grieve at our loved one’s last breath. They have departed! In-between, in the fullness of our life, let us be more attentive to the power of the breath.
Still breath is the doorway to the transcendental (birthless-deathless). Moving breath is the doorway to manifestation (embodiment). Spirit is omnipresent. Grace is omnipresent. All we need do is raise our sails, become conscious of it, and turn to it.
Air element moves all the other elements. It is a catalyst for change and transformation — like Spirit. We can use our awareness of air and breath to change our minds and change our consciousness. We can slow down and consciously connect to our essence with awareness of our breath. We can let the mind sink into the heart. Just be present.
Thich Nhat Hanh, the beloved Buddhist master of mindfulness, wrote: Feelings come and go like clouds in the sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.
The air element is located in the heart center of the subtle body—the principal abode of the Lord of love.
Air quality can help us lift ourselves up. It can help us change and move out of being “stuck” by consciously letting go of clinging or resistance to change. Our ability to touch and feel is the sensory connection of air in the body, and our ability to grasp and let go is its associated actions. How can air help us learn to let go?
Sometimes we can’t receive an answer to our prayer because we are not open to it. We come to prayer knowing what we want the answer to be, and if that is not forthcoming, we say our prayer is not answered.
Air has a purifying effect. We “air out” things that have grown stale—like opening a window or putting clothes out to dry. We get unstuck by opening our hearts and minds to the movement of Spirit in our life. We can ask: What would be like fresh air? Let go and see what arises. We discover that when we let go of clinging, we let go of suffering.
Healing power and presence is here now with us, through us. We can intend to be a healing presence. Claim that power, become conscious of it, like the breath of God breathing you, breathing all that is.
Eagle Poem by Joy Harjo
To pray you open your whole self
To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon
To one whole voice that is you.
And know there is more
That you can’t see, can’t hear;
Can’t know except in moments
Steadily growing, and in languages
That aren’t always sound but other
Circles of motion.
Like eagle that Sunday morning
Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky
In wind, swept our hearts clean
With sacred wings.
We see you, see ourselves and know
That we must take the utmost care
And kindness in all things.
Breathe in, knowing we are made of
All this, and breathe, knowing
We are truly blessed because we
Were born, and die soon within a
True circle of motion,
Like eagle rounding out the morning
We pray that it will be done
In beauty. 
© 2023 Ellen Grace O’Brian