Regardless of your experience or familiarity with meditation, sitting alone in silence can at times be challenging. Guided meditations are a great tool to focus your mind, kindle your imagination, and enliven your practice.
Distinct From Nature
In the western world, society often lives distinct from nature, and we may associate nature with a sense of fear. We’ve seen imagery of animals fighting and hunting, we’ve heard the clash of thunder, and we may have experienced or witnessed a glimpse of the dramatic force nature can unleash between storms and natural disasters.
This guided meditation is an opportunity to acknowledge the singularity of existence that we share with nature. It is a chance to summon the powers of nature within you for positive growth and change. By meditating on nature, we can dismantle the mental barrier that divides us from the roots of creation to bring about peace and connect with the source and sustainer of life.
Ayurveda, the ancient Indian science, divides nature into 5 essential elements: fire, air, water, earth, and ether. Fire is a transformative energy that stokes our desires and determination. It is associated with heat, the sun, as well as internal processes like digestion. Air also brings change. Its dynamic mobility gives birth to new ideas and goals, allowing us to move past obstacles and accept the newness of each moment. We can associate air with the wind as well as our breath. Water has a cleansing property as well as a connection to the depths of the inner world, our subconsciousness. Both our bodies and the planet are about 70 percent water, giving us a deep connection to the world we inhabit. Earth is a grounding and stabilizing element. It is the source of abundance that nourishes our bodies. Ether is the space that our physical reality inhabits. Whereas air is a composition of matter with specific properties, ether is the infinite space that extends beyond matter and also binds matter with its energetic force. Alone it could be perceived as emptiness, but it is infinitely expansive and allows for growth and creation. In your meditation, you can focus on these elements and their qualities to bring your awareness to the energies we share with nature.
Whether guiding yourself or another through this meditation, allow for a comfortable pause whenever you’d like to focus on a specific exercise. Each should be repeated for several cycles of breath or until you are ready to move on. Enjoy!
Begin by finding a tall seat. Rest your hands lightly on your thighs and gently close your eyes. Without changing anything, bring your awareness to your breath. Simply observe the sensations as your breath moves in and out of your body – perhaps the rise and fall of the belly, the movement of air at the tips of the nostrils, or the quiet oceanic noise of the air flowing in and out. Allow each breath to calm the body, your mind, and focus your awareness on the present moment. (pause to practice breath awareness)
With each inhale, become aware of the force of Nature within you. Feel this life energy animate your skeleton, lifting your chest and lengthening your spine. Each inhalation brings awareness and alertness to your senses- the sounds near and far, the temperature, the feeling of your weight being supported by the ground beneath you, any pleasant aromas floating in the air. With each exhale, feel your body release and relax. (pause)
Inhale and recall a peaceful scene from nature. Whether you visualize the beach, mountains, or forest, move your eyes behind your eyelids from left to right, up and down taking in the different objects around. Perhaps you imagine animals grazing or birds flying up above. Imagine the sounds that would be present – a distant caw of a hawk or the sound of waves washing ashore. Feel the sun and the wind against your skin, the earth beneath you. Perhaps you can smell or even taste the pine or salt in the fresh air. Each exhale brings you a deeper sensation of serenity. (pause)
The elements of nature – fire, air, water, earth, and ether – are the forces that drive creation, preservation, and transformation. Together, they enable the wonderful experience of life and beauty of the world in which we live.
For each element, you will choose a primary quality and a visual image associated with the element. As you breathe in, visualize that image and feel the energy of the quality flowing into you. As you exhale, allow your body to release and relax, feeling the powers of nature within you. Repeat this exercise for several breath cycles for each element.
Starting with fire, you can visualize any image such as a candle or the sun. Choose an associated quality such as power, transformation, determination.
For air, you may imagine the wind sweeping across the tall grass of a prairie or prayer flags flapping outside a hut high in the mountains. Some qualities you may choose include change, lightness, new goals.
For water, the many options for imagery include ocean waves, a still lake. The qualities include protection, nourishment, purity, intuition.
For earth, you might imagine a beautiful landscape or lush vegetation and choose a quality such as stability or nourishment (physical or spiritual).
For ether, you might think of outer space, the darkness in the expanses of our universe, or the subtle space between each cell in our body. You can choose any quality such as creativity, cohesion, expansion.
On your inhales, focus on one of the elements. Feel its qualities move through you – the heat and transformation of fire, refreshing tides of change that flow with air and water, the abundance and richness of the earth that nourishes and supports us, the peace and order of ether. Inhale a growing awareness of the properties of the element within you. With each exhale, feel the quality and the powers of nature flow through you. (pause)
When you are ready, inhale and invite your awareness back to your body and your senses. Tune back in to the sounds around you, your heart beat, your breath. Feel the deep connection and harmony you’ve created with nature and keep an awareness of the forces that are within you.
Sujantra McKeever is the founder of Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week, and also helped create Pilgrimage Yoga Online. He is the author of five books on eastern philosophy, success and meditation. Sujantra studied meditation with spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy and has lectured on meditation and yoga in over 30 countries.