top of page

As Without, So Within

Accepting our nature

As I walked in the woods this morning, I found myself quietly singing the first lines of the poem by Christina Rossetti: “In the bleak mid-winter, frosty winds made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone…” Those words exactly summed up how the elements were expressing themselves. The wind was frosty and sharp, taking my breath away; the earth was unyielding and hard as iron, and the blackbirds would struggle to find a worm today; the water in puddles had turned to stone and I could not break the ice on the pond. The frogspawn that I had celebrated only a few days ago was frozen solid. And the sun refused to shine

And yet, in that rigidity, in that solidity there was also a sense of calm: in the realm of Gaia here on the North Devon coast, she was neither in a state of receptivity, nor of activity. She felt detached, withdrawn, almost mindful. Gaia was meditating, taking a deep in-breath and all was frozen in time.

It set me thinking about our own elemental manifestations. I like water to be flowing, fluid and dynamic, I like fire to be crackling, warm and energetic, I like air to be gentle, caressing and transformative, I like earth to be receptive, yielding and supportive – and I want to express these traits myself. If I express any other aspect of these elements, I get very judgemental about myself. If I become a bit withdrawn and unyielding, I will berate myself for it; if I get stuck and rigid in a certain situation, I don’t allow myself to be stuck and learn the lessons of being stuck, I castigate myself for it and try my hardest to return to a state of flow. But Gaia freezes, blows her top, becomes hard and unyielding and stony-faced, without any judgement, just a deep gnosis that this too shall pass and there’s nothing to do except surrender and observe and deepen into the experience.

And what’s more, without these changing aspects of the elements, our ecosystems (both internal and external) would not be healthy or fully-functioning. If water stayed as a liquid and did not evaporate, there would be no rain or breath; if the winds did not blow a gale in the spring and dry out the earth, seeds would rot in the ground, just as we need to breathe life into the seeds of our own ideas; if the sun shone constantly without the blessing of clouds the earth would shrivel, just as we would shrivel if we did not have the cool of night time in which to rest; and if the earth did not yield and receive the rain, crops would not grow, just as if we do not yield and accept, our relationships will not flourish.

Later that morning I look out of my window and see that the hellebores, my favourite winter flowers, have collapsed completely in the frost. By three o’clock in the afternoon, they have recovered and are standing upright in the low winter sunshine. They probably weren’t giving themselves a hard time for collapsing – more likely, they were in the moment responding to the ebb and flow of the Gaian energy that sustains them, without fail.

Perhaps we can do that too? Perhaps we can enjoy – or at least observe without judgement – our times of rigidity, collapse, unyielding detachedness, knowing that this too shall pass and that all is in a state of energetic ebb and flow. Like the tides of the ocean and the phases of the moon, our own elemental experiences transform cyclically. We are not always gentle, fluid and warm, but we often are. Gaia teaches us self-acceptance – just as the hellebore accepts itself – and perhaps we can take some solace from the fact that we are nested in her embrace and what she experiences, we experience. ‘As within, so without, As above, so below’. What a magnificent and mysterious realm we inhabit. Our innocent narcissism sometimes masks the full view, but if we look outside of ourselves there are so many clues to help us decipher what the current state of energy-in-motion or e-motion is.

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page