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Stuck with an Element?

Help is at hand!

Everybody gets stuck sometime.

You will likely find a particular element in which you feel like you “don’t get” or alternatively that you just “get stuck”.  This is an important realization and working through the area that you can’t get into, or that you can’t let go of, can often provide the key to the rest of the process, as well as to your own transformation.  The most common difficulties are of two types:  firstly, you can have difficulty moving into an element after feeling like you successfully and completely engaged with the previous one, as if you just “don’t get” the new element.  You try to ask the questions but feel like you have no idea about what you are looking for or what an appropriate response might look like.  Secondly, you can have difficulty getting out of an element to move into the next one, as if you “got stuck” in the element and can’t move beyond it, even though you may “get”  the next element.  When you “get stuck” in an element you may find that you feel very comfortable asking the questions associated with that level, and that you have plenty of responses to those questions, but just feel like you can’t leave the element when the time comes to try the next one. 

Earth Symbol

If you “don’t get” Earth and have trouble engaging with it, or feel like you are noticing too few details, try to consult a resource that can give you help identifying different elements of your phenomenon.  Such resources may include Wikipedia, encyclopedias, or other expert sources – even just asking your friends or family about the phenomenon can help.  Alternatively, or additionally, it may help to leave the phenomenon for the day and come back to it fresh.  Try to look at your phenomenon from a new angle, literally and metaphorically.  It may also be helpful to work with the Water element, as familiarity with the process level of your phenomenon will naturally suggest new places to look for facts.


If you “get stuck” in Earth, you may feel like every experience is an Earth experience, or that all that exists are details.  This can make you feel like there are an infinite number of facts to notice, and might lead you to feel overwhelmed, trapped, or like you cannot continue with the process because it is too suffocating.  If this occurs, you may want to alternate your focus on the questions of the Fire and Water elements.  The Fire element will help you remember why you are doing this in the first place, why the phenomenon interests you, and of your enthusiasm for reaching a transformative understanding; the Water element will help loosen any anxiety around the solid facts of the Earth element, and will show you both that there is an underlying flow that keeps things connected and moving, and that things don’t have to stay the way they are.

Water Symbol

If you “don’t get” Water, you may feel apprehensive about the inevitability of change. You may feel like you are pulling up your anchor and to set yourself adrift on a wide sea, with no land in sight, and that as a consequence you have no clear indication about where to go or in what direction you should place your effort, because every direction looks the same. You may feel like there are infinite avenues to explore, and too many aspects that are shifting, forming connections or dissolving connections to make sense of anything.

In this case, returning to Earth and reviewing the facts of the situation helps summon a mood in your soul that there is something you can rely upon, something objective and solid that gives you a firm foundation to proceed. Try to take one aspect of your phenomenon and then imagine it changed just slightly, like it took a single step to the left or right. Then try to imagine the potential repercussions of this for the rest of the facts – do they change too? If so, how?

If your phenomenon allows it, you do not have to imagine this sequence, but can actually manipulate your phenomenon like an experiment: keeping all but one variable constant, shift that variable slightly and see what happens. Paying attention to only one shift at a time can be a good place to begin dipping your toe into the Water realm. Following the resulting domino trail when one fact shifts leads you under the surface entirely, but gives you clarity around how you got there, allowing you to feel more at home.


If you “get stuck” in Water, you may feel like everything connects to everything else, but that the patterns are so entrenched that you lose the forest for the trees. You may also feel like you have more or less completely understood the gesture(s) of your phenomenon, and that there isn’t really much left to explore, like it’s the “same ol’ thing day after day”, or like what you are dealing with is just another cog in the wheels of a big machine – “things are changing all-right, changing the same way as before”. In this case, you can propel yourself out of the ‘mud’ by taking any fact about your phenomenon and imagining the consequences for the whole if that fact suddenly became its opposite.

Working with the Air element in this way can shake of the momentum of repetitious cycles and open up new vistas. You may also benefit from another person’s perspective on the matter, particularly if they do not agree with your present view. Simply try to imagine what would have to be the case if the other person’s perspective was accurate.

Air Symbol

If you “don’t get” Air, you might find it difficult to see alternate points of view. The connected flow of meaning in the Water realm might make great sense to you – so much so that alternatives just seem theoretical, even not worth pursuing. Entering the Air may seem like trying to grab onto an abyss, where there isn’t anything obvious to hold on to. When trying to engage with it you might find your mind filled with disconnected, seemingly random thoughts. Your feelings might become amplified and may tend towards what may appear to your rational mind as excess. We have a tendency to experience one meaning at a time – Air requires that we be able to simultaneously experience multiple meanings. Because of this, there can be a great temptation when trying to deal with the Air level of a phenomenon to give up entirely, or to have the feeling like you cannot tolerate continued confusion and lack of knowing.

This is both natural and useful, and indicates that you are doing the work. If you can’t engage with the Air element, try to imagine some sequence you identified at the Water level in your mind’s eye. Now see if you can push the sequence forward just slightly to a new stage that you have not yet observed or imagined, making sure that the feeling of the movement of your sequence is maintained. Now reverse the sequence in your mind and play it backwards. When you reach the beginning, push the sequence backwards to a previous stage that you haven’t yet observed or imagined, again while maintaining continuity. Run this sequence forwards and backwards, trying to expand the range just a little each time. You can do this multiple times, where in each instance you take the phenomenon in a different direction on its forward and backward ends.This lets you use the principles of the Water element to expand naturally into the Air element.

Working with Air can be difficult, and you may need to work with letting go of any particular feeling or interpretation you have about your phenomenon (generally established in the Earth and Water elements). You can help mitigate any biases you bring to the phenomenon by creating a space in which you consciously explore the complete range of possibilities associated with the content of your thoughts and feelings when doing the Earth, Water, and Air exercises.

To do this, after working normally with an element of your choice, review your experience and pick out the most apparent or important thought and feeling that occurred to you in regards to your phenomenon. Then consciously imagine what it would be like if each one was taken to its extreme, as if they had a volume knob that went past 10 and all the way to 11. What would this feel like? What would the content of your thought about your phenomenon consist of when exaggerated like this? Now try to explore what would happen if the volume knob was turned down, past zero until it reaches 11 again from the reverse side.

If this exercise is too difficult, then simply notice your mood as you engage with the other elements, and see if you can imagine what it would feel like to be in a completely opposite mood. For more help, you can even try reversing other aspects of how you perform the exercise: if you usually sit, try lying or standing. Try doing the exercise outside, or even simply face the opposite direction. You can even try doing the exercise 12 hours later/earlier, at the complementary time of day. Oscillating between these polarities every other day will definitely put you in an air state.


If you “get stuck” in Air, you may feel like anything goes, and that it is impossible to tell between what is true or false about your phenomenon. You may delight in the infinite possibilities but feel at a loss when you try to see how everything is connected on a higher level. You may become frustrated and feel like you aren’t ‘getting anywhere’, even while feeling like you are on the border of some realization.This is a time to cultivate patience.

It can be useful here to consciously place the exercises aside for a while to let them rest in your unconscious. If you have a creative hobby, practice that instead, particularly if it gives you a sense of accomplishment and enthusiasm. When you come back to the exercises, try to do so with fresh eyes and the feeling of allowing but not requiring completely new experiences to be possible.

Try to let go of your expectations – you may need to consciously allow yourself to experience the possibility of ‘failure’. This is beneficial, as long as you do the exercise anyway.

Fire Symbol

If you “don’t get” Fire, you may feel that when you are working with the Fire element you feel like a failure, or that you will “never get it”. You may feel like something important is passing you by, like you are somehow blind to something that should be obvious. As a result of this you may feel like there is no bigger picture, no insight to be had beyond what is already apparent to you.

There can be a number of reasons why your work may not seem to yield a connection to the Fire level. In any case, a common symptom that shows up before the Fire level becomes apparent is frustration, as if there were a friction process occurring deep in the soul. This is actually an indication that you are moving in the right direction! It is the conscious application of your will to the exercises that is pushing a part of yourself up against the unknown, and the abrasion this causes results in a fiery frustration, potentially even anger – at the exercises, the phenomenon, or yourself for feeling incapable of ‘getting it’.

This is the moment in which the will must become even more present – but not in a forceful way. Rather, you must learn how to surrender your will to a higher part of yourself – the part of yourself that can Witness your life without judgment. This higher surrender, or we could say conscious suffering – cleans out the part of yourself that acts like a screen between you and the Fire level of the phenomenon.


It is very difficult to “get stuck” in Fire when working with the cycle in the way indicated in this document. The nature of the Fire element generally restricts one’s ability to willfully ‘hold on’ to a given state. However, if you find that you seem to see deep meanings in every aspect of your phenomenon, or if the bulk of your thoughts about your phenomenon are accompanied with the feeling of grand importance, you may need to balance your approach.

Alternatively, you may feel so passionate about your phenomenon that you feel full of the need for some kind of action but cannot get a clear sense for where to focus your efforts. You may even lose your ability to identify obvious features of your phenomenon because everything becomes more than it seems.

In any case, return to the Earth element and seek to become intimately familiar with the facts and details associated with your phenomenon. Grounding yourself in the Earth element will keep you focused and attentive to the actual phenomenon. This will either substantiate your intuitions or will show you where you need to let go of a particular way of viewing your phenomenon in order to incorporate more of its Earth aspects in a coherent way.


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