THE EARTH ELEMENT
WORKING WITH THE ELEMENTS:
Another approach to mindfulness of the body and forms is to look at our world from the point of view of the 5 elements. These are Earth, Water, Fire, Wind, and Space. In more modern terms, they could be viewed as Solidity, Cohesion, Energy, Movement, and Space. The practice involves focussing on each of these qualities while recognizing the connection between outside elements and inside elements.
In Theravadin Buddhism, there is a practice called the Kasina practice. Kasina means disk. There are 10 Kasina practices. The first 5 are the 5 elements and the next 5 are the 5 basic colours (Yellow, White, Red, Green, and Blue). One uses a disk of the various elements and colours as focus objects for meditation in order to develop an intuitive understanding of the qualities of the various energies connected to these elements or colours. This practice is very good for getting a sense of the workings of the 5 elements that make up our reality.
THE EARTH ELEMENT:
During contemplation of solidity or the Earth Element, we can use a bowl of earth, or a block of clay as our focus object during meditation. We do not really focus on the details of this object, but we focus on the general qualities. We can also repeat to ourselves, "earth, earth" from time to time in our meditation sessions. Very quickly, we will begin to notice or have various qualities of earth arise in our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions.
We notice that there are solid parts of our body. These are bones, muscles, hair, nails, teeth, organs, blood vessels, intestines etc. These, along with hard substances outside ourselves in the world around us, make up the Earth Element of our existence.
In this practice, we devote as much time as possible during the day to watching our interactions between the internal and external solid parts of ourselves and our surroundings. We will notice that the Earth Element represents the "Supporting" and "Nourishing" energy of our existence.
First, we may notice that there is a very close relationship between our own solidity and the solidity of the objects that we interact with. One is measured on the basis of the other to such a degree that they are practically indistinguishable. We feel the earth, floor, and road on our feet. We feel the chair or couch against our back and buttocks and thighs. We feel the table, wall and door against our hand as we lean against them.
The degree of solidity of an object in its relationship to our own solidity gives us a sense of texture. Hitting a nail with a pillow has a totally different effect than hitting a nail with a hammer. We feel the hardness of ice, and the softness of cotton cloth.
We may notice that external elements in the form of food will strengthen or otherwise change the makeup of the internal earth element of our own bodies. We may also notice that things can become too hard. There is a difference between supple, flexible solid matter as opposed to brittle, dry, and hard matter. Brittle objects break easily, whereas supple and flexible objects last longer.
We can notice the ability of objects to take different shapes, or how shape and size affect the function of an object.
The Earth Element can also be very powerfully destructive as can be seen in earthquakes, landslides, and avalaches.
When we get to the point that, whenever we focus on solidity or the earth element, we have a direct and intuitive understanding of the nature of that element, then we have completed this practice.