Mindfulness and the Elements

7 and 8 October 2017
Saturday 11 am to 5pm, £45 
Sunday 11am to 4pm, £40
£75 for both days.

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In this autumn's mindfulness retreat, at the meditation house in Leeds, we will explore mindfulness of the breath, bodily sensations, thoughts and sense experiences, focussing especially on mindfulness of the elements. You can come to one or to both days of the retreat. 

Mindfulness of the elements is a powerful practice for helping us come into presence, to step back from unhelpful thoughts and feelings, and for contacting positive and supportive states of mind. In the meditation traditions, particularly in Yoga and in Buddhism, it is understood that our emotions and states of mind are closely related to the aspects of our physical world called the 'elements': air, earth, fire, water and space.  These are understood not to be the literal building blocks of the material world (
e.g. as the ancient Greeks believed) but more ways of categorising and relating to our subjective experience.
The elements are associated with particular wisdom states of mind and when we connect with them we can touch and experience the positive qualities they reveal. Let’s look at the earth element as an example. Earth, like bedrock, is all about solidness and materiality. Like rock, or the soil, earth has substance. So the earth element is present in the substantiality of our breath (we are literally breathing in some ‘thing’, the particles of air we can feel passing into and out of the nose);  in the hard matter of the body,  such as the bones; and in the solidness of the floor which supports our body as we sit. In being aware of these earth qualities, through mindfulness of the breath, the body and our environment, we begin to connect with the emotional and mental counterparts of the earth element, in other words an inner feeling of substance, steadiness and stability. Through its solidness, the earth element supports us. Imagine how helpful connecting with the earth element can be when we are feeling emotionally unsteady and need to literally ‘ground’ ourselves.  It could be as simple as feeling the substance of our breath coming and going, or physically feeling the ground beneath our feet, and we have an emotional ground of support, a steadiness, that helps us comes into presence.
Similarly, we can subjectively focus on any of the elements through mindfulness of body, the breath, sensation, feeling and thought, and through mindfulness of the environment around us. Connect with any of them mindfully and we can touch and embody their wisdom qualities.
  • Air is all about movement, for example breezes move the leaves on trees, and our breath is constantly coming and going. The winds teach us how to act, in other words, how to move, with confidence and trust.
  •  Water has flow, adaptibility and clearness, like a lake perfectly reflecting an image of the moon, or a river flowing around obstacles. Water can reveal qualities in us of adaptability, clarity and insight.
  • Fire is all about warmth and light. It teaches us about the warm and tender qualities, like compassion and belonging, and brings the light of discernment to the mind. 
  •  Space, like the sky, is all-encompassing and boundless. In connecting with the space element we learn how to remain in the space of our awareness, not identifying with limiting thoughts and emotions. 
During each day of this retreat we will practice several meditations with mindfulness of the body, the breath, the senses, the thoughts and the emotions, especially focussing on the elements. To support us and inform our practice, there will teaching on the elements and ample time for sharing and discussion.We will learn how to work with the elements so we can step back from unhelpful patterns of mind, and instead embody the supportive and positive qualities of the elements.The course is being lead by Zeenat Cameron, director of Insight for Wellbeing. 

This is a mixed level retreat which is open to all practitioners from beginners to those with some previous experience (e.g. having attended an introductory mindfulness day at Insight for Wellbeing or elsewhere). For complete beginners who can attend for only one day then please book for the Saturday rather than Sunday as the basics of meditation practice will be explicitly covered on the first day of the weekend and give the ground for the Sunday meditation practices.