Connecting to inner and outer nature is an aspect of spiritual practice essential to recognizing what is. A treasured shift of awareness can facilitate an emergence from egocentric into ecocentric existence by widening the aperture of awareness to no end in sight.
What we imagine and what we sense creates a physiological response. By clinging to a sense of self as we often easily do, it can be helpful to remember what we are actually made of – earth, water, fire, air and space. There is no “I” in water, no ownership of air, no tight gripping in space, no disconnect in water, and always a chance to find ground in the body we are manifest in and the earth body of our shared home.
We might start with an intellectual understanding of the elements around us, and learn how we are also composed of them. Following concept with direct sensing of the elements possibly aided by imagination, we can “see for ourselves” ehipassiko as the Buddha recommended. Including the 4 elements (the 5th of space was included in different schools) in the First Foundation of Satipatthana Sutta (MN 10): “One examines this same body, however it is placed, however disposed, by way of the elements: In this body there are the earth element, the water element, the fire element, and the wind element.” There was practical pointing out about the thread of conditioned phenomena being impermanent and impersonal.
How we sense and make sense of these qualities can be heuristic, so I think it behooves us to find ways to support our own transportation out of the illusion of a separate sense of self and into recognition of the nature of all things.
Experimenting, we might explore a sense of solidity, tightness and contraction in the mind, heart and/or body. We might draw upon the softness of the air around us and then connect with it internally, through breathing. By imaging a wind-like air we can relieve tension and tightness and draw the mind out of discursive thinking (that is creating the tension).
When we sense ourselves disconnecting, we might picture a tributary of water flowing over anything in its path to become one with a greater body of water and become re-united. Imagining the water element internally we have the potential to reconnect the illusion of mind and heart being separate, the illusion of self and other.
When we feel tired, uninspired we might start an internal fire. When we are restless sensing the earth within through gravity and weight can be supportive and calming. And, space holds it all in the softest embrace possible that allows everything to arise and pass with no problem at all. This ability to shift our perspective, and change our mind is a gift worth opening again and again.