Power in the Wind
Text: Jocelyn de Kwant
Contributed by Francis van Schaik
The wind roars, blows, whispers, shapes and animates. He is invisible and yet we can find him in everything. What happens when we listen to the wind?
“The wind has just as much effect on our lives as the sun. It is one of the primal forces that shape our lives, just like water, earth and fire,” says Maja Kooistra, physical geographer, soil scientist, druid and shaman. Ever since she was a child she has been fascinated by the wind and what it has to say. During her travels as a physical geographer, she learned from indigenous peoples about how they deal with the elements. In the book ‘Wind’ she wrote down the most important thing she learned about the wind, both scientifically and spiritually. Maja: “In the West we mainly look at the wind in relation to the weather. But the wind is part of so many processes. If we ignore those processes, how everything interacts, we miss the cohesion. And also the sheu and the magic of it.”
Simply put, wind is moving air. Fueled by differences in air pressure, air flows from high to low pressure areas, past trees and houses, rotating from east to west, from north to south. The wind is just as much that gentle breeze in the evening sun as the violent storm that sends waves crashing onto the shore and the thermals that soar birds of prey far above the mountains. Maja: “But what we sometimes forget is that we are also in the middle of that wind, we are constantly surrounded by it. Getting to know that power better is an enrichment.”
Force of nature
In the history of mankind, the wind has always been much more than the movement of air. You can see that in the language. The Greek word animos for wind and the Latin anima, mean both soul and inspiration. The words chi and prana are also related to or used for the wind. According to many peoples, the wind is our direct connection to life force. Not surprising, wind is literally the supply of oxygen, our life source. Maja: “Fresh supply of oxygen by the wind gives strength and vitality. Just think how drowsy you feel when you’re in a stuffy room. And how fresh we feel on the beach.”
Pronunciations in the Dutch language also refer to this connection. There can be ‘a breath of fresh air’, not to mention the traditional Dutch use of ‘get a breath of fresh air’. A lyrical article even appeared in the American newspaper The Washington Post about the Dutch custom of going to the beach on a windy day ‘to clear your head’. The newspaper quotes several researchers in the field of eco-psychology. Being outside in nature actually works like a kind of reset button for your brain. Because the wind is such an obvious tangible element, an unmissable force of nature, it is ideal for eco-therapy. The wind helps ground us in the environment in which humans evolved, Utah University Professor David Strayer said in the Washington Post article.
there and you can still taste the salty sea air. If it came from the south via land, it is drier and warmer. What do you smell? Do you smell the trees where the wind passed, do you smell the flowers? Without realizing it, you are always surrounded by dust that plants and animals give to the wind to attract and repel each other.
Every season and every landscape has its own scent palette. In spring and summer, the air is filled with floral scents. In the fall you can smell the dying of dead leaves, an earthy smell that makes us humans happy. But many of the substances that move around us we do not smell at all and still affect us. For example, under trees you breathe in substances that strengthen your immune system, in the soil there is a bacterium that promotes serotonin production in your brain. As breath coach and ice swimmer Wim Hof once aptly said in an interview: ‘We have a physical body, but it is like a radio: it receives and transmits signals. And the carrier is the wind. The wind is able to change our biochemistry in the depths of our body for the better. How do we arrange that? By breathing, by letting the wind enter our body. That is the basis of health.’
The wind within you
Through your breath you have direct contact with the wind, from your first breath to the last. When we are tense we breathe quickly and shallowly, when we are relaxed we breathe slowly and deeply. Breath is actually the wind within yourself, a wind that you can influence yourself. It is no coincidence that in Eastern philosophy prana is both the word for breath of life and the name of one of the five wind gods. During Maja’s travels and during the research for the book ‘Wind’ she found rituals all over the world that have to do with breath and wind. “Among the people I encountered were medicine men and women, earth priests and shamans. They all spoke of the wind as an entity and force. Wind that influences the mind and spirit, and the breath that connects us to it.”
Our pre-Christian ancestors also made the link between air and clarity of thought. Still today, at gatherings of pagans, the cardinal directions are marked and invoked to gain support, insight and wisdom. But you don’t have to be spiritual to feel that ‘just getting some fresh air’ can give you a new perspective on things, that feeling is quite universal. Maja: “Basically, the wind surrounds and animates us throughout our lives: we live in it and through it. Through the wind we are inextricably linked to all life around us.”
Meditate with the wind
Consciously experiencing the wind is an important part of forest bathing: relaxing in nature. An exercise by forest bath instructor Eefje Ludwig:
Find a place where your body wants to be and close your eyes. Breathe in and out a few times and feel the air move within you. Feel the life force of the air flowing in and out of you. Then tune in to the sky, the wind around your body. You are submerged in the air, like a fish in water. Observe how the wind touches you on your bare skin. On the skin of your forehead. On your crown. In the back of your neck, on the tip of your nose. Spread your fingers and feel the air between them. Feel the movement of the wind that surrounds you. Then focus on your hearing. Listen to the wind… Does it change its melody? How do the sounds change when you move your head from side to side? Listen to the wind as long as it feels right to you.”