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Bending (elemental manipulation) and elemental meditation differ a lot from many other forms of meditation, mainly in the respects that itcenters around visualisation in a trance rather than clearing your mind completely. At the very start, before you try bending at all, you need to do something called elemental meditation. It basically lets your chi [the substance with which you bend] know that it needs to associate with whichever element you're trying to learn. It's a rather simple process, but some people have problems with visualisation. For those who simply can't sit still, there's another method for you at the bottom.

Elemental Meditation: Sit in the Lotus position if you can, or just cross-legged if you can't. It's just important to keep your back as straight as humanly possible. Close your eyes, and time your breathing. This is the most important part of ANY meditation: breathing. Keeping a truly steady breathing pattern will make sure you focus well.

Follow this pattern: Breathe in while counting to three. Hold your breath for three counts. Let the air out while counting to three. Hold your breath for three counts.

     Breathe in this pattern throughout the entire meditation. If you slip up, don't worry...just keep to the pattern as much as you can. Now...focus on your breathing for several minutes. Let the sound of it drown out your other thoughts, let the calm it brings clear out any emotions you may be feeling for the time being. Stare at the inside of your eyelids if you have to...the blackness is great for concentration :P After a few minutes of this pattern, you'll feel a change...you'll notice that you were still absently worrying about real-world things...regulating your facial expressions, a cramped muscle, etc. and you'll feel yourself stop caring about these things...like you'll kind of drift behind your eyes. The blackness you were staring at will no longer be seen from your eyes, but in your mind's eye. Once you're there, turn the blackness into a scene of nature that has some connection to your natural element. Try to completely place yourself inside that scene; hear the sounds there, smell the scents, feel the emotions the place gives you, whatever you can manage. I'll list some examples further down the page. After a while of setting yourself in this scene, you'll notice that you don't have to try to make things real to you anymore...you'll experience this place inside your head as if you were standing there in the real world. You'll kind of go into an 'auto-pilot' mode, in which your mindbody will move around on its own, experience the place without you needing to make it. Stay in this state for a while, and you'll feel something on your physical body which will tell you it's safe to come out of the meditation. For me, it was a fiery shifting in my stomach. I'll list some more examples down below. Come out of the meditation once you've felt something like this. It'll feel a bit weird, opening your eyes. Kind of like the feeling you get when you first wake up in the morning. But you'll know you've done it right. Later on, you may feel something connecting you to your element. Things like being hot on a cold night for fire, or feeling more rooted to the earth than normal, for an Earthbender. This means that your chi is recognizing that it needs to 'make friends' with whatever element you want to learn. Without this meditation, bending is MUCH harder to do, as your chi would need to make friends with the element as you're trying to bend it. Just, WHATEVER YOU DO, do NOT visualise a man-made place. If you do, you'll only be able to bend man-made or -cultivated elements. So, for a Waterbender, soapy dishwater would pretty much be your only weapon. A firebender, a candleflame. An earthbender, cars. Well, the car bit wouldn't be so bad :P but still...make sure it's NATURE, and not man-made.

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Examples:

For places in nature to visualise yourself:

Water: A beach, lake, pond, under the ocean, in a dark place with heavy rain, a frozen lake, snowy lands, iceberg, on top of the ocean, even in the clouds if you like.

Earth: Atop a mountain, in a forest, an earthen or stone cave, hill, grassy plains, valley, canyon, a cliff, crystal catacombs, even a natural metal deposit.

Fire: Volcano, a scene of volcanic rock with lava flowing by [I like that one :P], a desert, the surface of the sun even, a forest fire, lightning fires.

Air: Top of a windy mountain. Flat, windy grasslands. A place with hurricane-speed winds :P The center of a stormcloud is a great place as well.

Things to replicate in the nature scenes:

Water: Cold, calm, the feeling of water on your skin, the feeling of being underwater, sleep, safety, gentle, slow, shade, the smell of rain or saltwater.

Earth: Patience, the feeling of being rooted, being dusty, stiffness, stubbornness, invincibility even. Being unmovable, defence, seclusion. The smell of dirt is a good one.

Fire: Anger, heat, rage, frustration. The feeling of heat in your core. The smell of smoke, shortness of breath. Smell of ash. Light, life, sun.

Air: Freedom, flexibility, movement with the wind. Connection to the skies, the feeling of lifting from the ground. The feeling of wind.

Feelings you get that tell you to leave the meditation:

Warm shifting in your stomach, the feeling of pinpricks on your skin, the sensation of something pushing on your body. Your muscles may tense up, or they may relax more than normal. You could break out in a cold sweat, or a warm sweat for that matter. Often airbenders feel like they're floating off the ground, an intense freedom that's impossible to ignore :P Really the feeling differs on your personality, or your element. But when you've finished the meditation, you'll know it.

     After your first try, continue Elemental Meditation at least every day for another week. Once would work...but it's really going to help if you do it more than that. After you're finished with this type of meditation, just repeat it as a daily excercise but just focus on the breathing, no need to place yourself inside a scene. Just focusing on the blackness will give you enough calm to keep your chi under control.

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     As for those of you who can't focus, there is another way. Find something that repeats itself in a pattern...maybe a certain fighting move, or a duel with a friend that follows a specific template. This is good for things like Bo Staff fighting...attack high, attack towards the center, attack low. And have your friend block high, block center, block low; or the other way around. Just the rhythm of the motion can send you into a deeper meditation than you'd think. Also, I'm obsessed with drums and beats so repeating a single three-note beat on drums or just tapping on a table and staring off into space helps loads. If you're a musical person, I recommend this method. Even if you can focus fine enough with breathing, it's great for people who naturally follow beats.

     Alright...well this should be enough for you all to start out with. Just remember: even after Elemental Meditation, meditate AS MUCH AS YOU CAN with the normal method. The more control you have over your power, the easier and simply more breathtaking bending can be. It's also maybe the second most relaxing activity I know besides sleep so that can't hurt either :P

BREATHING PATTERNS

There have been some questions as far as breathing patterns go. Basically, a breathing pattern is the pace at which you breath during meditation, if that wasn't clear. :P The most common pattern is called the four by four: breathe in for four seconds; hold for four seconds; breathe out for four seconds; hold for four seconds; repeat.

 You can be creative with your breathing pattern. Following the breath, hold, breathe out, hold pattern, here are a few to get you started:

4 seconds, 2 seconds, 4 seconds, 2 seconds;

3 seconds, 3 seconds, 3 seconds, 3 seconds; etc

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