Skillful Means Podcast

#34 Contemplating the Elements from the Inside Out Guided Practice

January 28, 2021 Jennifer O'Sullivan & Sarah Jane Shangraw
Skillful Means Podcast
#34 Contemplating the Elements from the Inside Out Guided Practice
Show Notes Chapter Markers

In this episode, Sarah Jane introduces and leads a mindfulness meditation on the four elements from the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (Foundations of Mindfulness) as taught by the Venerable Bhikkhu Anālayo, a contemporary Theravada Buddhist monk and scholar.

Contemplating the elements (earth, water, fire, and wind, according to early Buddhist writers), as they are expressed both within the body and outside in the natural world, can lessen harmful over-identification with the body. They also remind us that we are in and of nature, not separate from it. Further, it can give rise to the key insights of impermanence and emptiness. 

In this meditation, we use the body scan as a way to discern the presence of  the Earth element through solidity particularly in the bones. Water is present as moisture in the mouth and cohesion of the flesh. Fire, or the heat element, is known through the sensation of temperature on skin. And we note Wind in motion, circulation and, of course, breath.

Bhikkhu Anālayo compares this practice to receiving a package in the mail that is meant for someone else: It is enough to look at the address and realize the parcel is not ours. No need to open it to search its contents to know this. In other words, we need not analyze the expression of elements in the body; it is enough to notice them and to comprehend the continuity between ourselves and nature and the ever-changing flow of experience. 

Find Bhikkhu Anālayo's writings freely available through Universität Hamburg, where he serves on faculty at the Numata Center for Buddhist Studies.

"Satipaṭṭhāna Meditation: A Practice Guide" by Bhikkhu Anālayo inspired this episode's meditation.

You can join Bhikkhu Anālayo for one of his courses or workshops at the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Massachusetts or online.

Don't forget! Dharma Book Club starts in March 2021.  Join us in reading “The End of Your World,” by Adyashanti, available through many Black-owned bookstores


Skillful Means Podcast offers these guided practices to help you deepen into your yoga and mindfulness journey.

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You can also get in touch with Sarah Jane directly. To sign up to attend her ongoing twice weekly live meditation drop-in, visit Mindful Morning Sangha.

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