My own Four Elements in Russia

Our IVI camping trip around Ladoga Lake was called the Four Elements, and it lasted ten days; we got there from St. Petersburg by minibus. Altogether there were sixteen of us on this trip: eight Russians (two of whom were not in IVI), a family of four from France, my daughter and I from IVI Germany, a man from Holland and our Russian guide.

Russia

Water

For our trip, water was the most visible element. It gave us our means of transport, by rowing boat; it quenched our thirst; it let us clean ourselves; it allowed us to cook. It was all around us, spreading even beyond the horizon, and just a few times it came from the sky to remind us of its presence!

This same water flows in our bodies too, and helps our harmonisations to work. We used the bottom boards from our rowing boats to make harmonisation tables, and exchanged every day, with great care in the late evening because of the mosquitoes!

Earth

The earth is the foundation of everything physical around us, and underlies even the water. When we were not travelling over the water, then we were living on the shore again.

It was the earth that we were helping with our vibrations. I have always loved doing vibrations outdoors – especially in a wood. On this trip they were always done outside: the only building we entered on this trip was the sauna hut on our last evening!

Fire

Fire had a special significance for our trip. All cooking and boiling of water was done on a wood fire, and the responsibility for providing the wood was the men’s, a return to the old ways! It was easier when the wood was already lying in the forest, and just had to been sawn (with a two-man saw) and split. Only once we had to fell a tree. But you could not always assume that the wood would be dry enough to light in the morning!

I always think of prayer as a kind of energy, just as fire is, a crackling, sparking energy that can cross enormous distances in a moment. We had regular prayer sessions twice a day, early and late.

Air

And finally, the air. It is so insubstantial that it took me some time to realise how pure it was where we were. I spend much of my life breathing city air, and being in the countryside is a gift we do not always properly appreciate.

Perhaps for us the air signified a dove, the Holy Spirit. It also linked all of us on the trip.

If the Holy Spirit allows speaking in tongues, then much of it must have been with us, as we were blessed in the number of people able to translate between Russian and English or French, with Galina there as well as Katya and Philippe.

The fifth element

If I could choose a fifth element, I would choose light. This was special so far north, where it deceived the senses by still being light close to midnight. I was in bed late enough that I normally missed the early-morning prayer session! But the evening was a good time for more talking and more singing. The star song of the trip was Frans doing the Whale (from Polynesia).

It was a pleasure to be with our two non-IVI participants: Kyril for his laughter yoga and mastery of the sauna; and Vadim for his sunny atheism!

Amongst all this the organisers and guide also found time to tell us of the history of the Karelia region, where much blood has been spilled, and to teach us some Russian, and something of the local flora.

It was a wonderful IVI trip for me, and I will always feel close to everyone else who was on it.

Russia

Nigel, Holland/Germany