2023-03-10-Gil-Mindfulness of the Body (4 of 4) Four Elements
4:44PM Mar 10, 2023
Hello. So in them Buddha's teachings on the four foundations of mindfulness on this section of mindfulness of the body, he has an exercise on what's generally called the four elements. And the four elements are usually called earth, water, fire and air. And one of the reasons in this exercise is to become aware of our sensations of our body, in their elemental, properties, elemental manifestations. And one of the classic reasons for this meditation is to be able to experience our, our, our present moment experience, without the filter of self identification, without all that comes along with taking it personally and making it mine or it's happening to me or this is my experience. And to be able to kind of experience it directly, without any overlay of self, to do so impersonally in a sense, not but in personally sounds cold. So I kind of made up the term, pre personal or under personal, something, it's so intimate, that it's so close in and so intimate, so settled here, so connected here. That it though we stay so at the foundational level, before the mind starts bringing in ideas of me, myself and mine. So, one of the so this exercise in the forefoot in that four elements is meant to be an element of frees us from self self concerns, preoccupation. The elements, earth, water, air and fire. I don't know if it's appropriate to call it elements because the elements kind of like it's the elemental table, it to kind of imply some solid like atom, some things molecules, it's fundamental things that exist. And, but rather, that probably the better translation of dhatu, the Pali word is properties. And because there's many things that are dhatu is which are clearly not elemental in terms of things. They're elemental in terms of being fundamental, like the building blocks of something. But they're not things, their processes, their activities, they're things that are appearing and disappearing. And so, so these have to do with our sensations. So it's not our thoughts, it's not our feelings about it, but rather the sensations that might be there, providing the information that helps us understand, oh, this is an emotion, the sensations that tell us the impact that thinking might have. So the sensations to stay there. In the in the realm of sensations. The idea of the four properties, earth, water, fire and air, is to give us a little bit of an orientation of how to stay close in to these these different things. So they, the earth element is solidity, hardness, softness, firmness, maybe tightness, sometimes. So anything that kind of feels solid, or the opposite to kind of soft, that range is considered the earth element. Granite Rock is really hard, soft soil, the Earth is quite suddenly put your hand in water, the water element is one of the harder ones to experience. But the way that the tradition holds it up, is that it's fluidity with the kind of fluid fluidity where the fluid kind of holds together as what fluid is it's kind of water has a very little of force that keeps the molecules connected to each other. This spit in your mouth has more stickiness to it to itself. And, and, you know so, so things that hold things together, keep things kind of coalesced. So it's a little bit hard to feel and experience but maybe you get the idea. And then there's fire which is a temperature, hot and cold and and then. And then then there's the air element, the literal word and Pāli is not air, we say air, but it's wind. And then it's easy to understand that the elemental is level here is has to do with movement. So any movement we have in the body, as we're sitting still, for example, and there's some kind of movement, that's the, the wind element moving through us. And the so the, and it can be a delight to be able to put to rest ourself preoccupations with the rest all these kinds of concerns about me, myself and mine, and become so deeply personal, with our experience that the media personality personal is personal illness falls away. And so I tried under personal, personal I see in the chat, someone's suggesting sub personal, maybe underneath at all. And, but this is where the the idea, it's so personal, the idea of personal personal, falls away, it's kind of like, some people may have maybe had the experience of being in your home or in your bedroom, no one's around and maybe in your pajamas and your cozy with a cup of tea, and there's no self concerned about me, myself and mine, and you don't thinking about yourself just kind of cozy and settled. And there's no other person to bounce off of, to compare ourselves to or be in interaction with, and where you feel like it just okay to be ourselves. So in meditation, it can be this way where it's okay to be ourselves, that this is the maybe the one place where we can drop the social world, we can drop the responsibilities, we have to do it temporarily. So that we can get underneath to a deeper level of, of well-being of safety of, of comfort, that we're where we can be just be absorbed, in the simplicity of the moment, in the sensations of the experience. There's no agenda, that's why we're doing it for a purpose of trying to get concentrated or something, but just kind of floating in the sensations that come and go, kind of diving into them sinking into them. And to have a fairly good experience of becomes a wonderful personal experience of an alternative to all the me myself and mine mining that we go through the day with. It can be exhausting, how much our self concern is part and parcel of so many of the things we're doing all day long. Our preferences, we're trying to avoid what we want, we don't want, how we feel about things, our opinions, my opinions, how we we are in relationship to other people. It's many people can get exhausted from all the ways in which we're navigating ourselves in relationship to other people. And with challenges that we have in our lives, challenges tend to evoke a strong sense of self because the challenge is often has some personal quality, I had to figure out if it's happening to me, or I'm responsible, like to figure something out. And so this emphasis on ourselves as the agent or as the victim or as something kind of elicits more self. Some of that's okay. But it's really nice to know an alternative. It's really nice to know that there's no other way where we don't take things personally, but it doesn't feel cold. We just are present for things without measuring it against our idea of self or measuring against me myself in mind and what it means for me to do this for element meditation dropped down into the sensation that this deeper than personal is gives us a feeling for going about the challenges of our life without taking them so personally. Maybe they involve something that has to be done. But then we do it without the weight of Why'd me I shouldn't have to do it. Or this is too difficult for me. It just there's a simpler way of engaging where the me myself and mine doesn't interfere. It might be there in the background guiding a little bit but it doesn't interfere.
So Some people find the four element meditation very meaningful. And in fact, for this insight, meditation practice that they learned in Asia. That was kind of the heart of it was this four element meditation, in that the heart of it was to really dropped down into the sensations of the experience, not the thoughts of the experience, the stories about the experience, not the idea of we take how we take it personally the experience, but actually dropping down and really staying intimately present for the sensations. And this gets really helpful, like with an emotion? What are the sensations of the emotion, and to course and travel and feel the sensations of the emotion? What are the sensations connected to thinking? What are the sensations involved in activity and movement that we're doing. And to spend some quality time in this sub personal realm of just the sensations is quite freeing. And the freedom of self that it provides, then becomes a reference point, to much better understand how much extra self we bring along, as we go about our life, including with our challenges. So So you might die if you feel inclined. See, if you could find a way to settle in, in some nice way at home or somewhere for a few minutes, here and there. To see if you can be so at ease, that you stop taking anything personally. It's just nature operating through you, just nature operating in this body that's here. And in not taking it personally not being aloof or cold, but rather, diving in to the sensations diving into the basic fundamental building blocks of sensations from which we build our interpretation of life. And, and see what that see if that teaches you something about a less self concerned way of being in the world. It's invaluable to do when we have challenges, because the challenges that that we have that get mixed up with self preoccupation, those challenges become much more difficult. But the less self there can be self. The agitation of self, the easier it is to take care of challenges in a responsible way. So thank you. So the end of the week, this Sunday, at IMC, we're going to have a community meeting I think the first in person community meeting since the pandemic. I know many of you are far away, but some of you are close by. And we're having at at about 11 o'clock, which is you know, after the usual Sunday morning program, and there's no need to register to come to a community meeting, if you just come to it. You do need to register to come to the dharma talk. And so and we'll talk about IMC we'll talk about the pandemic we'll talk about our COVID protocol and maybe he's changing it talk a little bit about the vision of IMC and how we're gonna go forward from here and hear from you a little bit about what did you think your ideas of IMC and how we'd go go on from here. And then in about a month, we'll do a similar kind of community meeting for the online community and we'll do it on Zoom. And there'll be information more about that later, mid April sometime. So thank you, and and look forward to being here with you on Monday.