Mindfulness of the Body: The Four Elements

Introduction and Relation to the Satipattana Sutta

In the one-day retreat in May, Ginger gave us a good run through of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness, the Satipattana Sutta.  This sutta provides a toolkit for meditation

Tying the mind to the body, to the present moment. This method has a little bit of discursive action and can be good to engage a bit of thinking and are leaning towards boredom and sloth & torpor.  Simple direct experience

The Elements

Solidity fluidity temperature movement/vibration which is how we experience the world and through science we can see the states of matter solid, liquid, gas, and the temperature of changes between states.

-What is this body?  The four elements.  It is a way of merging yourself back into the elements around you.  Our alienation and loneliness are constructs that make us forget with are interconnected with the environment.

-Feel the elements directly inside and outside your body.  Back and forth between the solid nature of your body and the solidity of the world and others, fluidity, temp., and vibration.  This really works on your ego and self.

-The mind can grasp the basics of this fairly easily, know it through feeling and lead you towards insight.  Noticing it when you are eating earth on earth, mixed with water, fueling temperature change.

-River of substances passing into us out of us and through us.  We are inseparable from the river of experience with patterns that we notice.  Don’t spin theories about this necessarily but experience it directly.  The experience of the four elements, the experience of the body of the four elements. It is hard to separate them from each other they always interrelate themselves. -Proportional change of elements, increase in heat, increase in water, air shifting to water, Earth shifting to water, air reducing the heat element.  Annica ever changing the elements one into another.  All of these feelings can be pleasant, unpleasant or neutral.


Dissection of the body into components of a more and more impersonal nature by reducing it to the four primary manifestations of matter which it has in common with inanimate nature.  This is to erode the ordinary sense of reality that tends towards suffering.  We tend to see the permanent in the impermanent.  See control in what is uncontrollable.  This is a version of the basic elements of experience.  Goal seeing things as they are, annica, dukkha, annata. You may never have heard about this practice in other areas.  I find it incredibly helpful during retreats when doing walking meditation specifically but even when sitting.  It requires a certain amount of mental stimulation which is sometimes the right tool.

Close your eyes and take a dignified posture similar to that of qi-gung with your feet flat on the floor; back erect but without rigidity, hands losely on the legs or in the lap

Gently bring your attention to where you most actively sense the presence of breath in the body; for some this may be at the tip of the nose or on the upper lip; in your chest as it expands and contracts or in your abdomen and belly as you inhale and exhale; remember that we are not trying to control the breath but merely to pay attention to it as a feeling of life.

As you watch your breath, pay attention to the difference between breaths, some are long and some are short, some are deep and others shallow.  Paying attention to the in-breath, pause, out-breath, the space between the inbreath and outbreath.

As distractions, thoughts, and sounds inevitably arise, you can label them if you choose, thoughts, thoughts, sounds, sounds, and let them drift away like clouds in the empty sky of the mind before gently pulling your attention back to the feeling of the breath in the body.

We will begin with the sound of the bells and practice for approximately 30 minutes and end with the sound of the bells.