You don’t need any special things to meditate, just as you don’t need a gym to exercise, a restaurant to eat or a bed to sleep. For meditation, you just need the intention to become more aware. Still, a room prepared for meditation can enhance your practice. It should be a place where you can have some peace. A cushion on the floor in a room with the door closed is a good start.
Here are some suggestions for making a nice place to meditate. You can meditate sitting upright in a chair, but there is something about sitting on a cushion on the floor. The meditation cushion gets you close to the ground, so you may feel more grounded. It should be large and firm enough that the base of your spine is several inches off the floor. A cross-legged position, like the lotus or half-lotus position is quite stable, and it is a constant reminder of what you are doing there. Your position on the cushion helps focus your mind. The cushion itself should rest on a cushioned surface. A small rug or a blanket folded in quarters will do.
The area where you sit should be uncluttered. It is not helpful if your gaze directed at the floor several feet in front of you drifts to a dirty sock that may set off a train of thoughts that are not helpful during meditation. Some people meditate with their eyes closed, but that can lead to sleep or distracting mental imagery, so eyes open but downcast may be a better choice. Facing a blank wall a couple of feet away also reduces distracting visual stimulation.
Burning incense can help create a sacred space for meditation. It brings one more sense into alignment and is another reminder that you are in this space with intention.
Ringing a bell or gong as you prepare for meditation focuses the part of mind devoted to hearing. The environment should, if possible, bring each sense into alignment so that the mind as a whole becomes one. If your meditation place is noisy, it may be necessary to use covering sound to block distracting noise. It is not necessary to cover up all noise, but too much of it will make the task of quieting your mind difficult. Soothing meditation music may help, but white noise, such as the sound of an electric fan or air filter may be even better.
Creating an altar in a room you use regularly for meditation makes that space special, reminds you to meditate there and gives you another point of focus. An altar can be a small table or shelf where you place sacred objects. These may include holy pictures or statues, scriptures, candles, an incense burner, fresh flowers or any other objects of special meaning to you. Before you meditate, spend a few minutes in front of the altar. Pray, light the candles and incense, look at the objects you have put there. Use simple ritual to begin creating sacred space and time.
Whether you meditate in a temple or on a stump in the back yard, it is less important where you do it than that you just do it.
© 1999 Tom Barrett