Many meditation traditions have this practice in common: elemental gratitude. Tracing back more than 2,000 years, and even more in some traditions, an elemental gratitude practice can be found in Buddhist, Native American, Taoist and yogic traditions, to name but a few.
Elemental gratitude is yet another method of practicing gratitude, which modern science suggests decreases physical pain, promotes overall well-being, increases alertness, improves relationships, alters the neurochemistry of the brain for the better and helps to bring about better, deeper sleep in its practitioners.
In most traditions, the four elements of earth, fire, water and air are acknowledged as good and thanked. In the Taoist tradition, from which Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture have arisen, there are five elements which are included: fire, earth, metal, water and wood. The idea behind an element practice is that by acknowledging and expressing gratitude for the elements of existence, one can have gratitude for all of existence, for the elements are the basic ingredients of everything.
For example, a very modern interpretation of this ancient practice might be to acknowledge and feel gratitude for electrons, neutrons and protons, which make up atoms, the scientifically acknowledged building blocks of our reality. Go even deeper, and you could integrate quantum physics: What are the building blocks of atoms, neutrons and electrons? My friends in physics tell me they are made of only vibrations of energy, called fermions, or more specifically quarks and leptons. And so a gratitude practice could be to simply acknowledge and express gratitude to the vibrations of energy that comprise all of existence, including you.
However you choose to practice an elemental gratitude practice, perhaps as the ancients did, or perhaps in a modern interpretation, the benefits of gratitude are undisputed by practitioners: You will feel better, more energetic and possibly enjoy any number of the long list of benefits reported in the scientific studies on gratitude.
If you are new to gratitude, or your awareness is deeply enmeshed in complaining and endless desire, then perhaps you cannot see what you feel grateful for in your life situation. But you can certainly find gratitude for the basic elements of life itself. By acknowledging gratitude for life itself, you may find it easier to illuminate your personal life situation with gratitude.
When it comes to meditation, I prefer the omission of superstition, beliefs or religious worship that might have found its way into this simple expression of gratitude. But if you are religious or have specific beliefs, I hope you'll feel free to integrate them into your expression of thanks. I practice the ancient expression of elemental gratitude by saying out loud or to myself:
"The air is good. The air within me is good. I am grateful for air.
The earth is good. The earth within me is good. I am grateful for earth.
The water is good. The water within me is good. I am grateful for water.
The fire is good. The fire within me is good. I am grateful for fire."