Meditation is a concentration and relaxation practice that originated in Asia’s devotional communities, especially in India, where Siddhartha Gautama, the Historical Buddha, lived and taught his followers thousands of years ago.
Two of the Eightfold Path of Buddhism paths are Right Concentration, which is the practice of meditation, and Right Mindfulness, which is the practice of awareness of body, sensation/feelings, and mind. Both of these are the most accessible meditation skills to pursue, even without embracing the precepts of Buddhism.
Meditation is all about the present-moment awareness
“The practice of meditation is not so much based on becoming a better person, or for that matter, becoming an enlightened person. It is seeing how we can relate to our already existing enlightened state. To do that is a matter of trust, as well as a matter of openness.” (Lion’s Roar; Why We Meditate by CHÖGYAM TRUNGPA RINPOCHE, September 2, 2016) With this background perspective, the decision to take up meditation practice will require discipline and curiosity.
The Four-Limitless Ones (Brahma-viharas) as a practice for beginners
Loving-kindness (metta) is the practice that wishes happiness and to all beings. When doing this type of meditation, a person visualizes themselves and others and recites the mantra, “May all beings enjoy happiness” repeatedly while feeling love and kindness in their heart. Compassion (karuna) is the practice that wishes all beings “to be free from suffering.” This sentiment, the second of the Immeasurables, is recited with compassion towards the self and others. The third of the Immeasurables is Joy (mudita). The joyful mantra is “may all beings have joy in their hearts.” The fourth Brahma-vihara is equanimity (upekkha). This practice wishes all beings to accept life as it is, and the mantra “May all beings dwell in equanimity” is a releasing attitude towards life’s experiences.
All meditation styles share a common goal: samadhi or the ultimate calm state of present-moment awareness that all is well, here and now.
Setting up a meditation room
Setting up a meditation room is something a person does because they are serious about taking up the practice and incorporating meditation into their daily routine. Creating the best meditation space is a matter of personal taste and personality. The basic needs of a meditation space are:
- A comfortable space: either a corner of a room or an entire room. The amount of space isn’t important as long as it is a comfortable and calm environment. Windows that let in natural light would add a warm atmosphere to the meditation room. Sparse decoration and neutral colors bring soothing simplicity.
- A sitting arrangement: traditional meditation sitting takes place on a zabuton (mat) and zafu (cushion). There are many types of postures and sitting styles to try out to find what is the most comfortable; everyone eventually finds their preferred sitting position.
- An altar or inspirational centerpiece with items that inspire spiritual connection and introspection. Some items meditators like are incense, crystals, flowers, pictures, statues, prayer beads, and spiritual pictures. A meditation bell or singing bowl is a traditional part of the altar.
The meditation room is a space of solace and safety
No matter how much space and what is placed in the meditation room, ultimately, the goal is for the space to be welcoming, comfortable, and pleasant. It becomes a space of solace and safety, and the atmosphere invites the meditator to stay for a while. The longer a person sits and the more regular the practice, the greater the spiritual and physical benefits.
Consider the flexibility of the space
The meditation room can double as a reading room or personal office where the meditator spends time learning about meditation skills, traditions, history, and philosophy. Journaling is an activity that meditators like to pursue in their meditation room. It’s part of the contemplation and introspection that comes with a meditation practice.
Meditation is an important mental health practice for the world right now
Mindfulness and meditation is the cornerstone of contemplative and spiritual life. They bring emotional calm and physical well being to our life, something that is very much needed at this time in our collective consciousness. And when a meditator invites their family and friends to meditate with them, the ripple effect is transformational for our society and world. Even younger members of a family can participate in meditation, and their life would be so much more positive as a result.
A meditation space is your personal safe haven
Regardless of how devoted you are to mindfulness meditation, the space created for sitting (zazen) is important. Whether it is a corner in the bedroom with just a pillow and mat or a separate room in the house with an altar, music, incense, and lots of pillows, feeling comfortable in the space will become the container of your meditation practice. It will be where you want to go for a few minutes or hours of calm and mental space.
May all beings be safe from suffering and feel joy in their hearts.
- Mindful Meditation is a Path to Self-Compassion - October 22, 2020
- Creating a Meditation Space That is Welcoming and Nurturing - October 22, 2020