The Air Element

airAs soon as we call to mind the air element within the body — the air in our lungs and other body cavities, even the gases dissolved in our blood — we’re immediately aware of the breathing, aware that air is flowing rhythmically in and out of the body.

So almost simultaneously we recall the Air element outside of us — the air surrounding us and touching the skin in this very moment, the winds and clouds and breezes that we see and hear moving branches and grasses.

We’re taking in and giving out this element right now. Right now the Air element is entering and leaving the body as we breathe in and out. Right now, air is entering, oxygen is dissolving in the bloodstream, being taken to cells to provide energy, and carbon dioxide is being exhaled.

There’s no boundary between inner Air and outer Air. There is only one Air element, and what’s within us is simply borrowed for a few moments. We can’t hold onto the Air element any more than we can hold onto any of the others. In fact we can only live by letting go, never by holding on. To hold on is to die. And so we reflect that the Air element, like the other physical elements, is not me, not mine, that I am not this.

By this point in the practice I’m usually beginning to sense in a very immediate way the impermanent, transient nature of the body. I have a heightened appreciation that what I normally assume to be a relatively fixed and solid physical form is actually a dynamic process. I often find myself thinking that to watch the elements flow through this body is rather akin to sitting by a river. I can watch the water pass “my” stretch of the riverbank, and I say “that’s me, that’s me,” but in every moment of claiming, of grasping, what I’m trying to cling to flows inexorably past. Clinging is futile, and painful. Letting go is to recognize how things are.

There’s a sense of curiosity, wonder, and openness. The world is more alive. I’m less attached to my physical form, and my sense of identification has expanded outwards; everything that has ever passed through my body — the solid matter, air, water, and energy — is now “out there” in the form of fields, clouds, forests, and soil. In a way those things are me. And because this very body is made of these same things, I am them. Having this direct sense of interconnectedness is enlivening and empowering. I’m no longer separate and small, but an intimate part of the vast cycle of the elements.

9 Comments. Leave new

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Air « Compendium of Toast
October 28, 2009 2:09 pm

[…] It is very loose and involves the interconnectedness of all things. It actually is identical to this meditation here, and I have not ever looked up meditations on the internet before today, preffering to let myself do […]

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I am a wind element what kind of meditation should i do?

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Hi Simon,

I’m not sure what you mean by saying you’re a wind element — whether that’s from astrology or some other such thing — but I’m not aware of any correspondences like that. There are traditional alignments between meditations and personality types, but the those are framed in terms of whether mental qualities of greed, hatred, or delusion predominate in the mind, and the exercises that need to be done to overcome those tendencies.

Generally most people need to do some kind of mindfulness practice, and some kind of lovingkindness practice. Eventually there needs to be an element of insight reflections brought in as well, which is where the six element practice comes in (although there are other kinds of insight practice, of course).

I hope this is helpful.

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Rosalind Morris
June 11, 2011 9:12 pm

I would very much like to know where I could buy/download (whatever) a cd of the 6 element meditation practice. It is not so easy to practice on my own from just reading it. Hoping you can give me some ideas, direction on where to get a hold of such a cd.

Thank you

Rosalind

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Hi, Rosalind.

You can download the six element practice from our online store: http://shop.wildmind.org/product.php?productid=277

All the best,
Bodhipaksa

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Portrait of a Character – Doug Beckett | Barking up the Muse Tree
October 9, 2012 9:20 am

[…] is also action and movement – he is something of an air element. As Leonora is communication, Lili is fire, Malcolm is water and Melissa is the earth, Doug is the […]

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I’ve heard if we do wrong during practice this wind element meditation, the wind element inside the body will be too much so our elements not balance and body could be trembling too. could you please explain more about this ? what kind of disease could be happened ? like scyzhophrenia or something maybe ? :(
Thank you

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I really don’t know. It’s possible to do meditation in an imbalanced way, and a very small number of people who have meditated have ended up with mental problems, but I’m not aware specifically of what they were doing. In over 30 years of practice and 25 years of teaching I’ve never seen such problems. I think the key thing is to balance lovingkindness meditation with mindfulness or insight practice, since mindfulness or insight without metta can be emotionally cold, distant, and detached in a very unhelpful way.

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Guided Instructions on The Four Elements - Mindfulness Exercises
April 28, 2015 1:03 pm

[…] wind element. Easiest to experience that as pushing wherever there is movement. Feeling the breath in your belly […]

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