Creating your own space is important for many things, and meditation/spiritual practice is one of the things where it can make a world of difference. Of course it’s not essential, and a good meditation can bring you away from any uncomfortable setting if you can tune in properly. But for those times when tuning in is a bit difficult and the right mindset is proving elusive, being able to create the right setting can smooth things along very nicely indeed.
Having been a student for several years, and moving around a lot after that too, it’s been difficult for me to be able to create a permanent meditation/spiritual practice/mindfulness space in my home. Often the bedroom is the only available space that is private in a shared flat, and often that bedroom is not very big. While dreaming about the day when I can have a whole room dedicated just for my spiritual practice, I’ve been finding creative solutions in my quest for that something that will help me find the peace of mind needed for a really good meditation.
My altar/centre of calmness/decorative candle stand/miniature bookshelf/photo display-bedside table. Copyright: Fanny Johansson
This picture is of my current bedside table/bookshelf doubling as a place for candles and pictures. It’s not much, but it does the trick. If I’m feeling frazzled and finding it hard to focus on my inner stillness, and the presence of my favourite picture of my teacher isn’t enough to shut down the noise in my head, then I light the candles, turn off all other lights, sit myself down on the bed and drape my meditation scarf over my head so it shuts out all other visual stimuli except for the scene of candles and icons. Nine times out of ten this helps me find my inner peace and be able to enjoy meditation more, whether it is Arhatic meditations or the joyful simplicity/complexity of Twin Hearts Meditation (if you haven’t tried Twin Hearts Meditation, you can find a short audio version of it here, see if it’s to your liking).
Being on the spiritual path in this modern day and age is both a challenge and a blessing. On the one hand, with the internet and the ease of travelling to different places, the availability of spiritual teachings and the possibilities of connecting with teachers are bountiful compared to a hundred years ago. But unless we want to hide away in the mountains somewhere and live like hermits, we have to learn to balance the spiritual practice with the buzz of everyday life. And everyday life can be very loud.
I used to feel that if I let myself be distracted by the hustle and bustle of material life enough to be more tempted by watching TV than by meditating, then I wasn’t really worthy of the live and blessings anyway. And while this in some ways is true (truth comes to those who seek it), sometimes we need to trick ourselves into discipline. The same way that effectivity-self-help books tell us to create routines at work to get into a productive mood (have a cup of coffee when getting to the office, always sitting down in the same chair, opening the computer/documents in the same order etc etc), the same way we can use routine and audio-visual stimuli to help us get into the inner calmness mode.
If we are coming home from being out in a busy city, or from watching TV or talking to friends, it is very difficult to just plop down in lotus position, close our eyes and find inner stillness. It might not even be that attractive, if what you’ve been doing before was enjoyable. In this situation it is much more attractive to do something active, something material: light a few candles, maybe start playing some mantras, light some incense, while still letting yourself be in that active, material mode. This is a way of tricking our minds, emotions and bodies into this new mode of being, and as proved by advertising everywhere, we humans are pretty easily convinced when put in the right mood. After a few minutes in this setting, it is much much easier to let go of the frenzy of the day and enjoy the stillness.
It’s not really self-trickery, it’s being the master of your own mind…