The Four Elements of Life – Air, Fire, Water, Earth
In Flowing Balance
By Howard Teich, Ph.D.
A leader’s success depends on one’s effectiveness in inspiring and motivating others. In this video, Dr. Howard Teich reflects on emerging theories in neuroscience, presenting a golden opportunity for a different kind of leadership
Equilibrium is essential to the well being of groups, the people in them and their leaders. Establishing a state of balance enables every kind of creativity. Balance is not a static state, instead it is a continual process that requires awareness and constant adjustment. We use the term Flowing Balance (1) to describe this dynamic process.
(1) This term was coined by Norbert Weiner, when he was at MIT, in his formulation of the science of cybernetics
To understand how important balance is, just imagine someone who is off balance. Whenever someone is about to fall, this person will suddenly notice balance.
Yet, whether or not we are falling, equilibrium is always relevant. It is crucial to all our activities, physical or mental. The process of finding equilibrium may be less visible in consciousness, but it is just as important to thought as balance is to walking. This is especially true for creativity. When consciousness is in balance, creativity flourishes and a much larger large range of options, solutions and plans can be imagined. Thus, seeking balance provides a clear and effective way to solve a wide range of problems both personally and in the workplace.
The process we call Flowing Balance teaches both individuals and groups the process of finding equilibrium in consciousness. The first step in this process is to understand what we mean by balance. Though moderation and averages sometimes contribute to equilibrium, balance is far more complex. Because of this complexity, it can be achieved in many different ways. Think again of our figure. The human body is very flexible. We can achieve physical balance in many creative ways. A mountain climber, for example, does not always achieve balance symmetrically.
As is clear in physical activity, a very flexible and refined process of feeling, perception and thought guides us to balance. Like the figure above, we must use every part of ourselves, every muscle, every perception and sensation to achieve balance. All these aspects work together in harmony. Consciousness also has more than one aspect. All of us are capable of analytical as well as intuitional thought, sensual perception as well as precise calculation. Balanced thought requires that we use every part of our minds in harmony.
Countless cultures have recognized that all the diverse and multiple characteristics and aspects of human consciousness we can name fall roughly into two categories. For centuries, these two sides of human beings have been associated with the sun and the moon. According to this ancient system, analytical and linear thought and scientific assessments are solar, whereas intuition, emotional intelligence and artistic sensibility are lunar.
It can be clearly understood that balance is best achieved when a person or a group utilizes both solar and lunar perspectives. For example, in approaching any problem, even a mathematical one, using intuition as well as analysis can be surprisingly effective. In discussing the way problems are solved or insights are achieved, the distinguished scientist Humberto Maturana speaks of “the art and science of understanding.” Indeed, the way Einstein thought about the nature of the universe combined imagery and imagination (which are lunar) with linear thought (solar.)
As with physical balance, equilibrium of consciousness does not require the use of both aspects equally at all times. At any given moment, one may be emphasized over another. What is important is that both kinds of consciousness be acknowledged, developed and included in the process. In this way, they can work together harmoniously much like a pair of acrobats, who are not always doing the same thing but are nevertheless aware of each other and working cooperatively to create an integrated performance.
An effective leader encourages a group to utilize the full range of human potential. To do this, those who lead must learn to access this potential in them selves. For this reason, we have outlined several “learnings” designed to develop good leadership. Echoing the four elements, water, earth, fire and air, together these four segments form one system, called Flowing Balance, which provides a powerful way to achieve equilibrium while developing both sides of consciousness.
The first learning, mirroring, is based on reflection (a capacity which, since ancient times, has been associated with the reflective surface of water.) The ability to see and evaluate yourself and others clearly provides the starting point for every other learning. The second learning is about being connected to the earth and reality. Anchoring, or the capacity to remain realistic and embodied, gives solid ground to all endeavors. This provides the stability needed for Spontaneity or the agility and playfulness so crucial for the sparking of creative fire. Finally, what we call Blue Sky signifies large vision, the fine art of envisioning the whole as well as future possibilities. Using balance as a key to learning, the process outlined below is provided to help you develop these attributes.
The Learnings :