destination: consciousness

Juniper Glass takes a roadtrip through the Kundalini system & discovers how the elements relate to the inner journey.

illustrations by Sherwin Tjia

We are setting off up the St. Lawrence seaway, leaving Montréal and following the southern shore to the region called Bas St-Laurent. I open the map of Québec to trace the route along Highway 132 to our destination, a beachfront cabin near the village of Cacouna. Today, the gentle curves of this great long waterway remind me of a spine. In the very centre of the body, the backbone holds it all together, creating unity, allowing movement and uprightness. In yoga, the spine represents evolution and the cakras are located there, like regions you pass through along the way. Each cakra has its charms and challenges, and its element.

The city has been good to me, but I feel unbalanced after a long year focused on work. I love my job and the feeling of making a contribution to society, but I am tired of taking care of business. I want to find a different rhythm, to reach high in the sky and get down with the earth. I grew up beside ocean and wild beaches, and when this urban land-locked life starts to feel like too much, I crave a large water body. At Montréal, the St. Lawrence is not much more than a deep river surrounding the island city. It grows as it moves toward the Atlantic, gradually becoming sea.

All the same, I don’t want to live this dichotomy of city / country or workaday / vacation. My training in yoga has taught me that binaries and grass-is-greener thinking are simply not true. Truth is in the subtle connections between our inner and outer worlds. Yes, I want to live life closer to the earth and the water (and the fire, air and ether, for that matter). These are the five mahabhutas, the great elements in yoga philosophy. The elements have long been experienced by yogis as living symbols within human minds and therefore a reflection tool on the spiritual path.

“[Hu]man is microcosm. All things seen in the universe – mountains, rivers, elements – exist in the body also,” Swami Sivananda says in Kundalini Yoga. This means I can get closer to the elements on my vacation, through inner experience as well as through my senses.

day one: earth

It is high vacation season in Québec. Our tiny car is surrounded by RVs and family automobiles, many pulling motorcycles, jet skis, even second cars. Our speed and this collective exodus are overwhelming. I think of all the energy and pollution we consume and produce, and our society’s favourite means of holidaying appears deeply unsustainable.

An hour into the journey, one hip starts to ache. Farmland and warehouses fly past at 120 kilometres an hour as I try unsuccessfully to adjust myself. The pain makes itself at home, spreading across my lower back. The earth cakra, located at the base of the spine, relates to sustenance and choice. The symbol for this level of consciousness contains a square with many arrows extending from it. Earth is where we come from, and it also contains the possibilities for where we choose to go: Given this life, this day, how will I use the energy that sustains me?

    Juniper Glass is a yoga practitioner and fundraiser for a girls’ empowerment organization ( Her articles have appeared in Utne, ascent, and the book Inspired Lives. She enjoys receiving comments:

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