Harnessing the Elements

Each of us going on

in our inexplicable ways

building the universe.

Mary Oliver


illuminated letter T - Google Search | Fancy letters, Illuminated ...erce is the hour of blessing, the hour when the vitality that flows through our veins and our body takes the form of our work in the world.

At this hour, we are inspired to action, and we in turn inspire others in a chain of blessing. In the midst of this flurry of activity, we pause to appreciate and nurture the natural flow of our work, and the precious opportunity to be alive and part of this infinite web of life.

10429216-3A84-413D-8A0B-AF4358135A2C_1_201_aAs human beings, we all share the natural forces and energies that animate all living things: air, water, fire, and earth. These elements flow through us and we are inseparable from them. When we breathe, the air flows into our lungs, bringing us the oxygen our body needs. When we breathe out, we release carbon dioxide that other life forms need for their survival. We drink water because every cell of our body requires hydration to perform its functions, and water cleanses our body of toxins. In the cold of winter, we are warmed by fire. The heat produced by our bodies in turn can be offered as warmth to others through the touch of the hand. And so, our bodies are none other than a mixture of the elements and forces of nature that make up the Earth from which we come. Throughout our life, these forces are in continual interaction with our body from moment to moment. When our life has run its course, our body returns to the Earth, lending nutrients to the soil that will allow new forms of life to arise in our place.


Our work is not merely our own, our crowning personal achievement. Just as our body is in constant interaction with the air that we breathe and the elements that surround us, our work is one voice in a much larger conversation. Our work is an expression of the gifts we have received in the form of kindness, support, and encouragement from others – the shelter, nourishment, and education we have received as part of our upbringing, and the privileges or constraints of our place within the scaffold of society.

02E654A5-09B1-4698-A0CF-D13D975A2343Our work is also an expression of the challenges we have faced and the obstacles we have overcome. These trials of life seldom come to us by our choosing, yet they are the font from which our own unique thread of wisdom arises. We can weave this thread into our work – direct our energy and action in the way that our wisdom tells us will be of the most benefit to our world, our community, our shared future. But then we can step out of our own way. We can bow to the tapestry of life and our place within it. Time is short and the collective challenges of our world are daunting. We are weaving the very tapestry into which we ourselves are woven, and our contribution is not inconsequential – it is vital.

So, at Terce, we can pause for a moment to feel this vital energy of life that fills our lungs and flows through our veins, that animates our work in the world and goes forth as the fruits of our labor and our connection to others. We can appreciate all the gifts – bidden and unbidden – that have made it possible for us to be alive today and have our own unique gifts to contribute. Then we can feel the exhalation of our breath and send out a blessing of kindness in the form of a wish, a smile, or a kind word to those around us, and return to the important task of working on this world.



Song of the Builders
by Mary Oliver

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God--

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.


  • The Four Elements –  Take a pause in the midst of your daily activity to contemplate the four elements of air, water, fire, and earth – how they appear in the body, in the world around us, and in our lives. Each guided meditation below is 10 minutes long. Try working with a different element each day.

Guided Practice: The Element of AIR 

Guided Practice: The Element of WATER

Guided Practice: The Element of FIRE

Guided Practice: The Element of EARTH

  • Act of Kindness – Pause to extend a gesture of kindness to someone at this time of day – a note, a gift, a helping hand, a kind word of thanks or appreciation


  • Which of the elements do you feel most “at home” in? Which resonates most with your way of being in the world?
  • Which element is most dominant in your life at this point in time? Where is there balance or imbalance between the elements in your life?
  • What is the quality of AIR (movement) in the work or activity to which you dedicate yourself? What is the quality of WATER (flow)? FIRE (activity & energy), EARTH (support & stability)?
  • What gifts of kindness, support, or encouragement have you received along your path to doing the work you do in the world?
  • What obstacles or challenges have contributed to the thread of wisdom you weave into your work in the world?


  • Visualize the Four Elements Capture your experience of the four elements. Listen to each guided meditation above. As you contemplate, see what images, colors, forms, or words coalesce around your felt sense of that element. Move directly from the meditation into working with whatever medium calls to you.
  • Work with Words: write a poem or verse that captures some quality or experience of the elements.
  • Work with Sound: What is the sound or rhythm of each of the four elements? Create a soundscape of sounds or music. Alternatively, put together a playlist of music that has the quality of each element.
  • Work with Food: put together a menu of appetizers or dishes that capture the qualities of the four elements.

If you would like, share your work with info@art-of-being.org, to be compiled on this page at a later date.


Share your own experiences, observations, or insights in the comment section below. Remember to follow these two guidelines:

  1. Speak from your own lived experience.
  2. Situate any outside references (religious, spiritual, literary, etc.) within your lived experience (i.e. what experience of your own made those ideas or words of others ring true in your life)


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