By Jonathan Borella
As I hold my attention gently and firmly on my entire in-breath and out-breath, I feel my abdomen raising and falling. The air is cool as it enters my nostrils and a little warmer as it exits. Thoughts and feelings pass through my awareness, sometimes taking me along with them. I catch myself and bring my attention back to my belly. “In, out.”
Soon, I notice my in breath becoming slower. I can see my thoughts and feelings clearly as if I’m sitting on a river bank observing the current carrying now a stick, now a leaf, now a duck. I smile as each one passes, resting my mind solidly in my body. “Breathing in, I am aware of my body. Breathing out, I relax my body.” I bathe my feet with my mindfulness, fully aware that I’m not standing or walking.
I feel appreciation for my feet and all they allow me to do and enjoy sitting, giving my feet a reprieve from the burden of my body weight. They feel light and at ease. My mindfulness moves up to embrace my ankles, calves, and shins – these sturdy roots that allow me to stand. I am in wonder at their working in concert so that I can run, jump, climb. Now, they can rest. I feel my lower legs breathe a sigh of relief.
My awareness no touches the tension in my right thigh. I’ve been holding that muscle tight as I’ve been sitting cross-legged. With mindfulness, I release the tension in my leg. The muscle softens and the pain disappears. Now, I become aware of the contact of my backside and cushion and of my whole pelvis. I see my pelvis as the anchor of my whole body, balancing my center of gravity, supporting my back, allowing me to stand and sit upright. I contemplate the important role of the pelvis in human evolution.
Thank you pelvis, for being stable and solid. Gently, I shift my attention upward to my abdomen and lower back. I feel my belly raising and falling. My abdominal muscles are relaxed, supported by my upright posture. I sometimes hold my abdominal muscles too tightly, self-conscious of my stomach sticking out. This sometimes causes indigestion, which makes me feel even more bloated. There is no one to judge me here.
I release all the tension in m stomach and send it my love. Now I feel my chest filling with air as I inhale and empty as I exhale. I can feel my heart beating. For 28 years my heart has never stopped beating and my lungs have never stopped breathing. They do this without me ever saying so. All they need is my care and attention. My lungs breathe deeper and my heart beats slower. They are at ease, at rest.
With my next in-breath I become aware of the sensations in my shoulders, resting comfortably at a downward angle. My mindfulness flows down my shoulders to my upper arms, elbows, forearms, wrists, and finally to my hands placed lightly at my lap. All day long my arms and hands work to carry things, write, prepare food. Now they rest with no effort at all. This is a moment of joy.
I feel the air passing over the back of my throat and am aware of my neck supporting the weight of my head. My head is perfectly balanced, neither too far back nor too far forward so that my neck doesn’t have to word too hard. I let my jaw soften, allow some space to be between my molars. A half smile blooms on my lips as I relax the muscles in my face and release the tension in my forehead. I am fully present in my body, in this moment, at ease and at peace.
I am fully present in my body, in this moment, at ease and at peace.
“Breathing in, I am aware of the earth element in my body. Breathing out, I see no separation; I am one with the Earth.”
My mind turns to recognize and contemplate the elements that comprise my body. I see the earth element is the calcium in my bones, the iron in my blood, the protein in my muscles, the vitamins, the food in m stomach, the excrement in my intestines. All the solid matter in my body comes from the Earth. I see the Earth element entering my body in every moment, and in every moment, my body is entering the Earth. There is no separation; my body is but one manifestation of the Earth.
“Breathing in, I am aware of the water element in my body. Breathing out, there is no separation; I am one with water.”
My attention now shifts to the liquid elements in my body: the saliva, tears, urine, sweat, blood. All these parts of my body are part of the water that supports all life. I know that without water, my tears will run dry, my blood will clod, my kidneys will shut down, and I will overheat from not sweating. The water in my body comes from the juices in the vegetables I eat, the water and tea that I drink, the rivers, lakes, oceans and rain. There is no separation. This body is just an aggregate of water. I am one with the water element.
“Breathing in, I am aware of the air element in my body. Breathing out, there is no separation; I am one with air.”
I feel my lungs filling with air as I breathe in. Even as my lungs empty, I am aware of air’s presence in the oxygen being carried to every cell in my body. I see there is never a moment that air is not moving through me. The air I breathe is the same that all beings breathe: humans, plants, animals. I see no separation between me and the air. We are one.
“Breathing in, I am aware of the fire element in me. Breathing out, there is no separation; I am one with fire.”
As my belly rises and falls, I sense the feeling of warmth that lives there. I see the fire element in the heat m body creates through metabolism – digesting food and burning calories. I see all beings that consume and transform energy. We are all burning, and one day, we will all burn out. There can never be more energy going out than going in; this is thermodynamics. I see that my body is animated by the energy of heat, the element of fire. There is no separation; I am one with fire.
“Breathing in, I am aware of the space element in my body. Breathing out, there is no separation; I am one with space.”
My mindfulness naturally drifts from heat, which is the motion of molecules, to the space between molecules. I see the space between my ribs, allowing my chest to expand and contract with each breath. I see the space between each joint so my arms and legs can swing. And, I see the space within each atom of my body. Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. There is no separation; I am one with space.
“Breathing, I am aware of the consciousness element in my body. Breathing out, there is no separation; I am one with consciousness.”
I contemplate the element that manifests this body from the earth, water, fire, air, and space. I see the store consciousness; the consciousness that was present as the cells of this body organized themselves while still in my mother’s womb, the consciousness that was present before I learned to call this body “me” – before I learned that I was separate. This is the same consciousness that makes the trees grow, the rivers flow, and the stars shine. This consciousness manifests this body and the same time this body manifests this consciousness.
There is no separation; I am one with consciousness. “Breathing in, I dwell in this present moment. Breathing out, this is a wonderful moment.”
My attention returns to the sensations of sitting on my cushion. There is no longer a body here. Just a manifestation of life like a pile of sand, or whirlpool, or passing breeze, or flickering flame. The boundary between my skin and the rest of the world is gone; my body has disappeared, and yet there is nowhere in this moment that I am not present.
I am one with Life. How wonderful!