Four elements meditation

In case you are wondering, I'm going through a progressive set of meditation instructions in a number of different posts that take you to the very essence of your own mind and being. I'm doing the exercises as I go along so it's kind of in real time. We've started with some body meditation and some ideas about mindfulness.

Now we move forward to start investigating the interface between mind, body and concepts (especially in relation to compactness which I will explain later). The launch pad for this type of  investigation is the four elements - earth, wind, fire and water - but let's not get hung about these labels. This meditation is derived from Buddhist meditation practices that were devised thousands of years ago when they hadn't discovered electricity and they hadn't figured out what a quark was - but they did have fire, earth, water and wind. In essence, this practice is nothing to with these elements - it's just a way of looking at experience that is different to the way we normally look at things. It's about seeing how the functioning of the body is an impersonal flow of information and how we project concepts on top of this flow.

It's highly useful because it helps with the discipline of mindfulness.


- Begin by focusing on the breath. Breathe in and out.

- Establish the knowing faculty of the mind - you know something if you can label it. Know breathing in, breathing out, and the pause in between,

- Now, know pushing as you breathe in. Feel the breath pushing the rub cage apart and pressing against the diaphragm. This is the air in the atmosphere pushing into you.

- Next, know supporting. This is your muscles keeping your body together and in a certain posture.

- Know softness - the belly, your lips, relaxed muscles.

-  Know hardness - your teeth and bones. The hard floor. Feel them from within.

- Know heaviness. Feel gravity pulling you down. Feel the heaviness in your body.

- Know lightness. There's always some space in the body that is light and wispy.

- Know roughness. Clothes against your skin.

- Know smoothness. This would be silk on your skin, or a polished nail, or a smooth tooth.

- Know hot - warmth in the belly, the out breath on the lip.

- Know cold - fingertips, toes, the in breath on the lip

- Know flowing - the liquid mucus in the mouth, the blood in your body

- The last one is a bit tricky. Know cohesion. This is basically the fluid (water) that is everywhere in your body keeping it juicy and pliable.

And that's it. Keep cycling through the list and take a mental note of each characteristic. Do it as you move around. Notice how these things come and go, and shift about. Notice how external events influence these features of your bodily experience.

If you want to go a bit further, ask yourself something like: what is heat? How do I know heat? What sensations make me think heat is happening? How am I constructing the heat experience?

This is where we are ultimately headed but before we go there, we'll explore bliss and jhanas. It's an interesting but useful diversion.


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