This Guided meditation is intended to be associated with the Dharma talk presented on the same evening entitled “Mindfulness of the Body Adaptations”, with focused attention on the Four Elements: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. These contemplations are included in the First Foundation of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of the Body. During the meditation, suggestions are offered to facilitate direct experiential awareness of these elements.
This guided meditation does not represent Zen shikantaza, translated as “just sitting”; instead using persistent mindfulness of breathing practice to stabilize focused attention on the cycle of inhalation/exhalation, with emphasis on exhalation, to facilitate expanding awareness gradually and systematically to areas of the body. Beginning with the head, you carefully investigate whatever sensation might be discovered, then moving attention to the shoulders, etc., down to the feet, with the goal of integrating the concentration developed through mindfulness of breathing to eventually include the entire body.
This talk is the last focused on the First Foundation of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness Discourse (Satipatthana Sutta), Mindfulness of the Body (Kayanupassana). The Four Elements and the Nine Charnel Grounds Contemplations were read and discussed. Peter provided a brief introductory meditation to facilitate using Earth, Air, Fire and Water as subjective contemplations, followed by discussion. The talk then shifted to the Charnel Grounds Contemplations–Peter suggested these have no contemporary relevance, so the discussion then focused on how one can currently contemplate mortality in ways to motivate bringing mindfulness practices into one’s daily life routine.
Here are the notes prepared for this discussion: Understanding The Four Elements
Next week’s discussion will begin a review of the Second Foundation of Mindfulness, Mindfulness of Feelings, (Vedanupassana).
During this dialogue, Peter read the part of the Satipatthana Sutta called “the charnal ground contemplation”. He then commented on how our culture is shielded from the experience of death and what happens to the body as it disintegrates, which was a common occurrence during the time of the Buddha. The intention of that contemplation was to motivate diligent practice, as in those days, life was typically short and a lot less certain than during this era. How can we be motivated to be diligent in our practice since our culture is much more comfortable and secure than at that time? This question was discussed around the group for the rest of the evening, with each person who shared talking of what makes her or him motivated to practice.
The subtitle of this talk could be “The Four Elements Meditation”. Several years ago, Peter found the title quote in a book by Jack Kornfield. In the book, he talked of visiting Las Vegas in his monastic robes and seeing “You Must Be Present To Win” signage above the door into a casino, presumably announcing rules regarding a lottery. Peter appreciates the irony, so painted a sign with those words that’s posted above the room where our Sangha meets to meditate. During the talk, he described the nature of the four elements, earth, air, fire and water as subjective awarenesses, that is, earth is density or pressure, air is movement, fire is temperature, and water is cohesiveness. These focus points for meditation practice are for developing mindfulness of the body, and are mentioned in the Satipatthana Sutta. Mindfulness of the body is useful as being several ways to interrupt the internal chatter in order to cultivate concentration and tranquility. After this, Peter led a brief guided meditation to familiarize participants regarding the practice. This was followed by discussion about the experience and utility of the practice.