Allyson Pimentel offers a guided meditation podcast focusing on five elements of nature – earth, water, fire, air and space. Her meditation, The Elemental Nature of Equanimity, is available through the UCLA Mindful Awareness Research Center (MARC) where she is a meditation teacher. In her guided meditations, Allyson highlights equanimity and a strong sense of connection as key benefits of mindfulness, whether focusing on the elements, our breath or our body. In the elemental meditation she grounds us in the present moment through nature. She speaks of equanimity as “the steadiness and responsivity of a mind that is settled”.
Allyson states that equanimity provides us with balance when encountering the waves of life, however turbulent. Being connected to the elements of nature calms us and gives us access to creative resolution of our problems and issues. She refers, for example, to Ruth King, author of Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out, who in a recently published article emphasised the power of meditating on nature to develop equanimity in a “racialized world”.
Equanimity through five elements of nature
There are many ways to connect with nature. However, Allyson’s approach can be followed anywhere. You do not have to go for a bush walk or visit the ocean, you let your mind and body embrace the elements wherever you are. By reflecting on the elements of nature, you can sense their “strength, fluidity, heat and softness”. Her process involves a number of steps that move you deeper into connection with nature and a sense of equilibrium:
- Grounding – Allyson begins by encouraging you to become grounded through your breath (a few, conscious deep breaths) and your body (sensing your body on your chair).
- Connecting with the element of earth: this element can be experienced inside and outside your body. You can sense the solidity of your body an its integrated form, the sensation of pressure at different points on your chair and the sensation of your fingers resting on your lap or touching each other, providing a conduit for heat and energy. Moving your awareness to the earthiness outside your body, you can sense the form and strength of the earth – the mountains, trees and ground.
- Connecting with the element of water: again, water can be experienced within and without your body. So much of the composition of your body is water and other fluids such as blood coursing through your veins. You can move your attention to water existing outside your body – the trickle of a stream over rocks, the power and incessant energy of waves crashing on the beach or the majesty of a waterfall. You can sense the fluidity of water both within and without, encompassing you in the flow of energy and care.
- Connecting with the element of fire: you can start by sensing the heat in your body – the warmth in your hands and feet, your out-breath warming your in-breath, inner “combustion on a cellular level” and your whole body radiating the energy of heat. You can think of your passions in life and how they ignite the heat in your body and generate the propensity to act, change and transform the external world. Switching your attention to outside your body, you can marvel at the life-sustaining heat of the sun – radiating light, warmth and energy.
- Connecting with the element of air: this brings us the full cycle to your breath – your in-breath and out-breath. You can immerse yourself in the connectedness of the reciprocal exchange of air between your body and your external environment, “offering and receiving”.
- Connecting with the element of space: You can sense the space between your in-breath and out-breath and rest in this space. You can immerse yourself in the limitless spaciousness that surrounds you.
- Being absorbed in your connection: Allyson suggests that the last 10 minutes of your meditation could involve revisiting one or more sources of connection with the elements of nature and absorbing the deep sense of connection, tranquillity and equanimity that arises through this awareness and absorption.
This elemental meditation induces a sense of calm and connection with everything around us. It reinforces how little we observe about ourselves and nature that surrounds us. It brings into sharper relief the energy, tranquillity and equanimity that is readily accessible to us if we slow down to fully experience the present moment. An alternative version of this form of meditation is available from Ayya Khema’s article, The Elemental Self: Connecting with earth, fire, water and air within us, connects us with all of existence.
As we grow in mindfulness through meditation on the elements of nature, we can more readily access the balance of equanimity, the energy within and without and our creativity to accept “what is” – whatever form it takes, including the grief, pain, anxiety and anger brought on by the Coronavirus pandemic.
By Ron Passfield – Copyright (Creative Commons license, Attribution, Non-Commercial–No Derivatives)
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