How to Prepare a Meditation Space
When starting a meditation practice, remember that meditation is not easy because the nature of your mind is to jump around like a monkey from one desire to another. Plus, so many external distractions pull you out of your inner focus and truth.
According to the Bhagavad Gita, the most ancient yogic text, meditation is a state of awareness – not a practice – that automatically happens when the student is ready. You aren’t ready to reach this state until you have exhausted all of your desires except one: to experience your true self within.
Shamatha ‒ Calming the Mind’s Formations
Therefore, what you are doing when you practice meditation on a daily basis is actually the calming and focusing of your mind on one chosen thought – excluding all other thoughts – in order to reflect, observe, and be clearer within. You can then make decisions and take actions with love, knowledge, and a willingness to serve others.
This daily development of your intellect helps steer your life in the right direction instead of relying on your emotional mind to drive you toward some kind of functional insanity. If you’re like me, you know this state all too well.
In Buddhism, this one-pointed focus is called Shamatha. Finding these moments to pause inwardly can help you make better and more peaceful decisions, improving your overall quality of life. This practice of pausing develops your intellect more. It’s a maintenance program that is highly efficient for your busy life.
On a scientific level, many meditation practices help balance the nervous system, which is responsible for regulating the stress in your body. On a cellular level, daily calming techniques like the Here & Now Meditation Guide suggests are highly effective for optimal health both physically and mentally.
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Meditation Space ‒ What You Need
Yoga instructor Rina Jakubowicz meditating on the beach.
When you start this daily practice, you should set yourself up with the following spiritual toys.
Your Sacred Space
Create a physical sacred space for yourself to have some quiet and solo time. If there’s not much privacy in your house, lovingly explain to your family or roommates to honor this space as sacred for you. Define what honoring your space means, and share it clearly with those who live with you.
Create your own altar by finding a small table or trunk. Something that inspires you to sit in front of it.
Add some objects that inspire you. Place them on your new altar. Don’t add too many objects so that your space get cluttered. Keep it to the basics. These external objects are only meant to remind you of your inner sacredness. Don’t get attached to the whistles and bells. Here are some options:
- Your mala
- A candle
- Buddha-like statue (symbolic of your devotion to the higher self within you.)
- A photo of your teacher or someone you respect and admire in hopes of emanating his or her state of awareness and wisdom. Personally, my first altar had a small panel of inspiring yogis with the photos of Jesus Christ, Bhagavan Krishna, Mahavatar Babaji, Lahiri Mahasaya, Swami Sri Yukteswar, and Paramahansa Yogananda. My favorite to look at was Lahiri Mahasaya because his face expressed to me that of a silly child in joy, and it made me happy to look at him.
- Your journal/notebook for taking notes on your reflections, insights, questions, and experiences.
- A spiritual text you’re studying presently.
- Anything else that has a deeper meaning to you.
Time of Day
Find a quiet time (ideally in the early morning) to do your practice. Set your alarm 15 minutes earlier and do this right when you wake up. Keep your practice consistent. If you feel you need to also do it at night as a recap of the day, then add that to your agenda as well. The key is to keep it consistent.
Sit on a cushion so that your hips are higher than your legs in order to help increase circulation. Keep your spine straight in order to strengthen your back. If you need to sit in a chair, just make sure you are sitting on the edge of the chair in order to keep your back straight. The posture is important for focusing purposes. Feel free to do some stretches prior to sitting in order to help you loosen up.
Begin Hacking Your Way to a Solid Daily Meditation Practice
One day a sage and his students were meditating together. At one point the student noticed the teacher floating in the air.
Frustrated, he said to his teacher, “Master, I don’t understand why I’m not floating too. What is the difference between you and me that you can do this and I cannot?”
From his position aloft, the master looked down at the student and said, “Practice.”
How many articles, blogs, or social media posts have you read lately that start like the next sentences?
Then they continue by citing more research.
“Meditation reduces anxiety, according to another study. Meditation reduces age and race bias — meaning that meditation could be an antidote to racism and prejudice — says a 2015 Central Michigan University study. According to the American Psychological Association, “mindfulness-based cognitive therapy [meditation] may prevent and treat depression.”
More research: Vast swaths of first-world societies struggle with self-acceptance, experiencing “body dissatisfaction.” Results of a 2014 study report that meditation increases “self-compassion,” meaning reduced “body shame,” and increased sense of self-worth.
And one more: The Mayo Clinic reported that a growing body of research suggests meditation may help manage symptoms of asthma, cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and irritable bowel syndrome, and offers methods such as guided, mantra, and mindfulness meditation as well as qigong and tai chi.
At this point, not making the effort to establish a meditation practice might be likened to not flossing your teeth. And the benefits, including emotional hygiene, addiction resistance, enhanced immune system function, etc., are so far-reaching, one might think humans require meditation for optimal function. Just the fact that meditation is proven to increase happiness should be enough to send us running, en masse, to our cushions. So why aren’t we all meditating like a nation of monks?
Good question. Consider this.
We like to imagine we’re “free” to do what we like.
As adults, we’re free of parental regulation — yay — but if, when encountering friction, we give up on creating new habits, we’re slaves to our own resistance. This means we’re not free to easily embrace and integrate habits that dramatically increase our well-being and quality of life.
For many, failing to meet goals on the first few attempts means lost resolve. Initially, when we’re practicing our new thing, be it a musical instrument, a language, or maybe fencing, we feel solid and inspired. Sooner or later we miss a day because (pick your favorite): We didn’t practice but we’re tired and it’s time for bed. Or there’s a crisis. Or a distraction. Or we’re traveling. Or it gets harder and not as fun. Or boring. Or we weren’t in the mood, or we had a sick child, or we forgot (the most insidious). The rationales are infinite. A couple of “misses” can mean a loss of momentum.
Then we beat ourselves up a little (or a lot) and slide back into old routines, waiting for the next upswell of inspiration, the next urge for change, the next training or class, or in the case of meditation, the next weekend retreat. “Maybe a new method will do the trick,” we think.
If this doesn’t sound familiar, and you are someone who seamlessly integrates new disciplines into your life without missing a beat, skip the next section. Flawed mortals, read on.