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The purification with the elements begins as concentration and gradually deepens into a practice of contemplation. It is an excellent preparation for meditation. The practice is well suited to the early morning, and wonderful to do standing barefoot or sitting in contact with the earth. If doing the practice inside, stand or sit near an open window if possible.
Close the eyes. At first you will need five to ten minutes to focus on each of the four elements. After you have learned the practice, you may shorten the concentrations to five breaths for each element. Start with some deep exhalations, pushing gently, slowly and as fully as possible, first out of the chest and then out of the abdomen. Exhale further and further, and then let your inhalation be completely natural, using no effort. A natural inhalation is very important, so that you do not strain your lungs or the muscles in your chest. Hold the breath for a moment after the inhalation. After a few rounds of exhalations and inhalations, begin with the breath of the earth element.
Imagine drawing magnetism and healing power through the soles of your feet (if standing) or the bottom of your spine (if sitting). Commune with the earth, and consciously channel the earth's magnetism to the parts of your body that are depleted. Feel the healing power of the earth. You may have felt this in your feet while walking barefoot outdoors or in your hands when working in a garden. Try to sense a subtle reality, a crystalline lattice-like structure, behind the denser aspects of the physical plane. Sense that, at this subtle level, the earth is not only a singular organism but is also connected to the solar system and part of a galaxy. In your connection to the earth, you are also connected to the moon, neighboring planets, the sun and distant stars.
On the inhalation, sense yourself as part of life, your body made of the substance of the earth and thus subject to the harmony and order of the natural world. As you exhale, release toxins or pollution back into the earth. Breath out your tiredness, disharmony and agitation. Now concentrate on the magnetic field of your body. The body has a force field around it, similar to that of a magnet, as does the earth as a whole. Feel as though you are aligning your own magnetic field to the magnetic field of the earth, the way that iron filings align around a magnet. When magnetic power is weak, the iron filings are in disarray. When the power is strong, the filings align in symmetric, harmonic patterns. On each in-breath, feel the filings coming into order. On the exhalation, sense that your body gives forth a natural magnetism and harmonizes the atmosphere around you.
Breathe in through the nose and out through the mouth. You can imagine exhaling a fine stream of water through the mouth. You might imagine yourself immersed in a mountain stream. Feel the drops of water penetrating your cells, dripping off of your fingertips. Feel water reaching your chest and heart, helping to loosen any tightness and obstruction there. Feel energized and renewed, again focussing on those parts of the body that are in need of healing, and those that lack life energy and vibrancy.
Concentrate on the purity of a crystal clear lake or stream, high up in the mountains. Let yourself become the water, and let the qualities of purity, life energy and power flow into your immediate environment.
On the inhalation, come in touch with your soul's desire; your aspirations for spiritual awareness and understanding; your desire to be authentic; to make your life meaningful and worthwhile; to stand up for what you believe in. On the exhalation, radiate light as if from a miniature sun in your heart. Feel the light to be intense and golden. Use the fire breath as a place of offering up the parts of yourself you would like to transform. Subject your self-doubt, cynicism, addictive patterns or resentments to the fire. Avoid making pledges you won't keep. Simply clarify your intention and open yourself to the purification process. Instead of using will power to change, the concentration on the fire element represents the action of life as a teacher, who activates and burns up what needs to be burned, a natural force of change and growth, by which your deeper nature emerges.
After you have completed the purification breaths, reflect upon the effect of all the elements taken together. While separately each
of the breaths emphasizes different forces and qualities in one's being, together the breaths bring about a sense of wholeness. Each element complements and moderates each other. According to your own makeup, you may feel the need to place more emphasis on one or another in order to attain greater balance.