The element of Space is called namkha in Tibetan. It is symbolized by the shape of a circle and the color white. The unique vibration of this element is the sound ‘AH’. It is associated with the center. In general, Space allows for the many varied manifestations of the other elements without interfering or being damaged in any way.
Environmentally, the sky allows the manifestation of many types of weather, planets, stars, animals, etc. Everything that exists, exists within Space. Everything that has ever happened, that is happening right now, or that will happen in the future, happens within the element of Space. Among the five elements, Space is the strongest because it is indestructible. Although anything can happen in Space, nothing diminishes or damages it in any way.
Within our bodies, the element of Space is associated with our awareness. It is also associated with the heart. When the element of Space is balanced within us, we are aware of ourselves and our surroundings without losing ourselves or being overwhelmed by events or experiences. Even in the midst of difficult circumstances, we do not lose ourselves or feel constricted with worry. We are open to experience without being vulnerable to it.
However, if the element of Space is in excess, we are literally ‘spacey’. Rather than being grounded in Space, we drift from one thing to another without connecting to anything. We lose track of ourselves and our purpose. We become lost in Space and easily distracted.
If the Space element is deficient, we feel as if we are being suffocated by life. We feel as though there are too many demands, too many obligations, too much ‘out there’ and not enough of ‘us’. We begin to say to ourselves and to others, “I need some space!” We have lost contact with the Space within ourselves.
In order to bring the element of Space back into balance, there are specific yogic exercises within the Yungdrung Bön tradition which use the focus of the mind together with the breath and movement of the physical body to balance and strengthen each of the elements within us. To learn more about these yogic exercises see Healing with Form, Energy and Light by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche.
As the other four elements are brought into balance, the Space element naturally becomes balanced as well. Allowing Space for experiences rather than struggling with them develops the relationship with the indestructible quality of the element of Space.
In the more advanced teachings of Yungdrung Bön, Space is the most important element. Recognizing and becoming familiar with the pure, luminous, boundless Space of the mind is the practice of wisdom. This Space is the basis for all things that arise, including all of the phenomena of the other four elements. Many people are uncomfortable with too much Space. This is clear by the seemingly endless things that we use to distract and entertain ourselves. However, we can develop more comfort and familiarity with the Space element by minimizing these distractions and developing our capacity to relax into the stillness of our body, the silence of not talking, and the spaciousness of our mind that has taken a break from worry and emotional upset. This kind of taking a break from constant movement and thought is the best medicine for physical, emotional and spiritual well being.