"The meditator divides experience within their body, regardless of posture or activity, in terms of these four elemental qualities: Within the experience of this body: ‘This is earth element, this is water element, this is fire element, & this is wind element’." The Buddha MN 10.
Elemental qualities are the building blocks of experience and how the mind perceives the world before perception and concept.
All experiences that arise within your body (kaya) and mind (citta) can be broken up into the below elemental qualities and it is these two areas that you should focus towards to develop insight.
A range of solidity:
Most easily experienced at points of contact of the body with the world, or attention with the six sense fields, or mental qualities present.
A range of temperate:
Most easily experienced within the body, or within mental qualities present.
A range of movement:
Most easily experienced associated with breathing, physical pain, attention moving out to the six sense fields, or within the focus of awareness.
A range of cohesion:
Most easily experienced within saliva, the mouth and around the lips, or within the stickiness of mental qualities present.
Slowly move your awareness through your body, gently rubbing your awareness within the elemental qualities experienced, observing their autonomous nature and their role in constructing experiencing for insight into anatta.
To observe the true function of the body as a sense organ, by observing its elemental quality and anatta (not-self) nature to observe the contact of the world as elemental qualities, before the overlaying of perception.
Summary: After preparing your attention as per the instructions in Preparing Your Attention for Insight, ground awareness within your body and intentionally bring awareness to each of the above Elemental Qualities and gently rub it against it.
If any of these elemental qualities are not currently present, that is ok. Just experience what is present.
You can apply these investigations in three ways:
*List of elements found above.
1) During your investigation observe how these element qualities present them self in the body and mind dependent on specific conditions.
2) Observe closely the borders between these element qualities, how they are undefined and flow into each other.
3) Observe how one elemental quality contain the others, and that what is dominant to you is dependent on the focus of your attention.
4) In daily life, observe how these elemental qualities arrange themselves as different emotions as a direct reflection of the state of mind that is present.
5) In daily life, observe how particular states of mind and qualities of attention also contain the above elemental qualities. Can you notice all four qualities in attraction or aversion?
You are ready to progress to Insight 03: Borders of Perception when:
Please note that the recording and video for the practicality of instruction uses kaya-gata sati (mindfulness immersed within the body) as a foundation for enquiry for practical reasons rather than access unification or jhana.
While it appears that we can directly experience the blanket or the floor, when we observe directly during meditation, we see that it is not possible to experience them other then as sensations that arise within our body as they touch it.
The experience of hardness is not the floor; it is just sensations arising within our body due to touch. The experience of softness is not the blanket; it is also just sensations arising within our body due to touch.
The idea of the blanket and floor is mind created. The image of them is a perceptional overlay created by your mind to interpret the world around you through this touch.
Our body's function is to experience the world around us through touch, and touch arises within our body as different sensations, this is one way that you sense the world.
Hardness and softness arise at any point where two things contact, the pressure of that contact changes the experience between hardness and softness as they are relative to the solidity of the surfaces. The only place that we can experience this touch is within the sense field of our body.
Observe points of touch within your body during meditation such as your buttocks on the floor or chair. Become aware of the sensations at these points of touch and observe how the imaginary experience of the chair or floor fade and the sensations of pressure, hardness or softness become all that there is.
The Buddha used similar names to what you have used but with the addition of water element and the combining of wind and air as one.
When referring to the four experiential elemental qualities he used: Earth, Fire, Water and Air.
The different elements that I have referred to during this MIDL Mindfulness Training are the way that these four elemental qualities are experienced.
While the concepts 'earth, fire, water, wind' are convenient labels for sorting the elemental qualities within a talk or book, they are not the actual experience during meditation. The experience is the sensate quality that arises through the contact of our senses.
We cannot experience any elemental qualities outside the range of our body though we can infer that they exist by thinking about them. All that we can know as meditators is our own experience as the world 'touches us and this experience is dependent on contact with our senses.
In other words, we cannot know the world around us we can only know it as it contacts our senses and even the experience of this contact is not the experience of the world but the elemental qualities that arise due to the touch of this contact.
This is the difference between book knowledge and actual experience, experience is limited by the range of the senses.
The purpose of breaking experience into its elemental qualities while meditating is to remove the ability of the mind to habitually identify with the present experience.
Giving them group names and referring to anything outside of the purity of the present experience just encourages more mental verbalisation and therefore hinders the development of mindfulness, curiosity, and unification.
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