Teaching Idea: Meditation on the elements

When we were planning a pedagogic programme some of our course members sometimes had a hard time to focus on the task at hand. The pedagogic programme had the 4 elements for a central theme, so I came up with a corresponding meditation sequence to try and help with grounding and focussing our awareness and energy. Due to our season (autumn, late October) and rather chilly weather conditions I would suggest doing this outdoors standing upright in a circle facing inwards:

After an opening sequence of slow breathing, closing your eyes, centring your attention to your body and a short body-scan from head to toe, first focus on the element Earth. Feel your feet on the ground, feel the firmness and strength of the earth carrying and supporting you. Imagine the soles of your feet sprouting roots, extending downwards and anchoring your feet in the ground. Feel the power of the Earth flow from the tips of your roots up to your feet, your legs and further up to your whole body. Envision yourself strong and firm like a tree, rooted in the soil, sustained by mother Earth. Then let your roots go very gently.

Shift your attention to the Air and become aware of the air as you are simply breathing. Feel your chest and abdomen expand with inhalation and deflate with exhalation. Sense the air streaming in and out of your nose, throat and lungs. Smell whatever the air can tell you about your surroundings. With the next inhale envision the fresh energy of the air filling you and reaching far into your lungs, floating along the blood vessels through your body. When you exhale, envision your breath to carry not only the used air but distracting and interfering thoughts, too. Let them go and inhale again the fresh energy with a deep breath.

When you feel refreshed and filled with oxygen, shift your attention to Water. Maybe water is surrounding you in the form of rain, snow, mist, clouds, a brook or a lake nearby. Maybe water is not visible in itself, but abundant in plants, trees and even yourself. Depending on your easiest available water source focus on the sound of the water – a murmuring brook, rolling waves, trickling rain, rustling trees or grasses, maybe even your own pulse. Or feel the water in humid air around you, on your bare skin, under your feet. If those don´t work for you, put your fingers on the pulse point at your neck and feel your own blood pumping. This too is water. Focus on whichever sensation water is giving you and envision the power of flowing water washing over you and cleaning your mind.

Maybe at this point you will feel a little cold, so it is a good moment to focus on the element Fire. The sun is our biggest fire and always there to warm and energize us. Shift your attention to the middle of your chest and envision a narrow ray of sunlight shining exactly on this spot. Feel this tiny spot warming up und expanding to a larger spot, covering soon your whole chest and expanding further – up to your neck and head, down to your abdomen and hips, your legs and your feet, sideways to your arms, your hands and fingers. Savour the warmth covering and permeating your body and let it spread outwards to the people next to you, until you are forming a joint circle of warmth and light.

Keep some of that light and warmth inside your chest and gently let go of the intense focus. Take some deep breaths and let go, just be. Feel the earth beneath your feet, the air around you, the water flowing and the sun shining. Allow your senses to fill your mind slowly with sensations of your surroundings – the sounds, the smell, the feeling of your body. And when you feel ready, just gently open your eyes again. Stay for a moment and familiarize yourself with your group and your place before you proceed to the rest of your day.

Update: I offered this meditation in our last course lesson after the opening circle and all attendants were game. My, 18 people in a circle outdoors are a lot! We were standing in a meadow surrounded by forest, but near a clearly audible highway. Surely this would be easier in a quieter landscape or in smaller groups, I really had to remind myself to speak louder than I usually would. Some people experienced difficulties to engage deeply, but listened nonetheless and all were able to relax to some degree. Most appreciated at least part of the sequence and a few felt the energy of the elements intensively. Afterwards I perceived the group as quite eager to start their scheduled tasks and maybe even a little more focused. Thanks to all for being open and engaging! CT