Monday, March 2, 2015

Meditation Monday: The Six Elements

By Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC

In an effort to take the “manic” out of “Monday,” this weekly post explores techniques, issues, latest research, and other thoughts on meditation. Nancy facilitates a weekly meditation group at The Awakening Center. For more information, contact her at 773.929.6262, extension 17 or

The Six Elements Meditation is a systematic practice that fosters connection to everything that composes us but is not from us. Clear as mud, right? Think of it this way, everything that makes up our bodies—solids, liquids, gases—actually comes from outside of us. Food, water, oxygen—we need these from the outside to stay alive. However, we aren’t just consumers. What we take in eventually comes out in some form or fashion.

The Six Element practice helps us get in touch with this process, which then enables the exploration of impermanence. Every element explored in this meditation is ever changing. So this practice is both grounding and dynamic.

Found in the Pali Canon—ancient scriptural text of the Theravadan Buddhist tradition—this reflection enables the practitioner to contemplate the following elements: 
  1. Earth: The solids within and outside the body.
  2. Water: The liquid within and outside the body.
  3. Fire: The energy within and outside the body.
  4. Air: The gases within and outside the body.
  5. Space: That which we cannot touch but surrounds all matter.
  6. Consciousness: That which allows us to contemplate the first 5 elements.

A Six Element Meditation practice typically starts with a period of relaxing breathing and perhaps time to move into a loving-kindness state. Then the practitioner works through each element.

The order is important because each one becomes less concrete or tangible.

As you contemplate each element consider: 
  • How the element comes into your body and how you then return it to the outside.
  • The ever-changing nature of the element.
  • How you experience each element.
  • That each element has its origins in the “not self.”

Allow yourself to feel grounded by this practice but also challenged to let go of the illusion of permanence—like the universe, we are always in a state of flow and always renewing. Notice how this idea makes you feel.

In the Buddhist tradition, suffering occurs when we resist accepting impermanence or when we fixate on how we wish things were, instead of accepting how they are. The Six Element Meditation challenges this resistance. What do you hold on to that hinders your growth? What do you resist acknowledging in an effort to protect yourself from pain? Perhaps this practice can help you answer these questions and more. 

Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC is a staff therapist and the intake coordinator at The Awakening Center. In addition to seeing clients for individual therapy, she leads the weekly meditation group and co-leads the Somatic-Experience-Informed Trauma Healing Group.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of the song "To everything, (turn, turn, turn) there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven."