Creating an inviting atmosphere for meditation in the home - for C.M.Eldershaw
Originally published on the C.M. Eldershaw holistic estate agent blog. C.M.Eldershaw bring a holistic approach to buying, selling and letting homes and workplaces.
Natalie Cristal Morrison is C.M.Eldershaw’s wellness oracle, and in the first of a series of guest blogs and collaborations, we asked her for some advice and guidance on creating the best conditions for your mindfulness practice at home.
NCM Developing the intimate relationship between our meditation practice and our home can be a powerful, life enhancing activity. The home can become a wonderful sanctuary for meditation and an incubator for creating a more mindful way of living.
Meditation can help us to gain more enjoyment out of our home life. Our home and our meditation practice can both serve to ground us and help us find a deep sense of peace, confidence and contentment so that we can flourish in our work, relationships, and life ambitions.
CLEANLINESS AND TIDINESS
In Japan, cleanliness is next to enlightenment. Our home environment is often a direct reflection of your state of mind. A disorderly home with objects lying around from projects left unfinished, dishes lying in the sink or messy cupboards and drawers all contribute towards a sense of unease or disruption and can challenge a meditation practice before it even gets going.
Over time, practicing meditation cultivates a propensity to be more clean and tidy as we naturally start to become more aware of our surroundings, more respectful towards our things, and more appreciative of order and simplicity. Life eventually becomes more of an art form, each task being completed with a sense of aesthetic appreciation for function, and our home becomes a reflection of that mindset.
If this all sounds like a long way off fear not! Tidying can actually be a great way to kick-start a meditation practice. Picking a task such as doing the dishes or folding clothes can be a meditation in itself. In fact, the more tedious and repetitive the chore the better!
Applying our full attention to that task, noticing all the information that comes in from the senses; the textures, sounds, visual details, scents and even thoughts and emotions that arise when completing that task, and simply observing ourselves breathing while we’re doing it, is a powerful meditative practice in itself.
Not only is this very calming and a great preparation for seated meditation but it also trains us to find a more mindful and fully present way of being in all aspects of our lives. You might even find yourself enjoying tasks like vacuuming or ironing which you may never have appreciated before!
CREATING A SACRED SPACE
Select an area of your home which feels appropriate for meditation. The bedroom can be a wonderful haven-like space, although practicing actually in bed may not be ideal as we naturally associate that so much with sleep – the aim of meditation is usually not to nod off!
A quiet and inviting corner of the living room can also work particularly well. The space need not be used uniquely for meditation so long as you pick that same location each time in order to psychologically establish this as your meditation area.
Buddhist meditation practices are full of rituals and creating your own simple meditation rituals can help to create a sense of being in your meditation space even if that part of your home is also used for other things.
Rituals might include:
– Lighting a candle
– Spending a moment at your alter. Creating an alter around your meditation space is an invitation to meditate and can motivate you in your practice. This could be as elaborate or as simple as you like, comprised of any pictures, statues or objects of people, places or ideas you hold sacred or important and that inspire peace. Fresh flowers, petals or a healthy plant on your alter can also become symbols of a well-tended practice and mind.
– Burning incense or aromatherapy oils such as lavender for relaxation, frankincense and myrrh for spirituality, sandalwood, rose or neroli for their soothing properties, or vetiver for it’s grounding properties.
– Burning palo santo wood sticks, sage leaves or frankincense resins which are said to be energy cleansing by many spiritual practitioners around the world.
– Taking a couple of stretches or mindful movements such as those practiced in yoga or tai chi or just whatever feels good to help establish the meditation space.
– Simply sliding a screen or curtain across to section off your meditation area.
These rituals can all help to establish a sense of stepping away from the concerns of day to day life and moving towards finding a deeper feeling of connection with yourself and your environment.
Have whatever you need to support your body in meditation thoughtfully placed in or near that area. A buckwheat-filled meditation cushion on a soft mat or rug is what is traditionally used in seated meditation as this allows the hips to be elevated above the knees and the pelvis to be gently tilted forwards to allow the front of the body to be open and breathe freely. However if you require more support an upright chair might be more appropriate for you.
The most important thing is to be able to sit comfortably for the duration of your meditation – whether that’s 10 minutes or an hour long.
The more we can bring our home conditions into harmonious balance with the elements of nature the more we benefit our overall health, sense of wellbeing, and support our meditation practice.
Optimising the quality of the air in the home promotes both relaxation and alertness. Air purifying plants such as Garden Mum (Chrysanthamum Morfolium), Draceana and Peace Lily remove particles from chemical cleaning products, pollen, bacteria, and molds, as well as outdoor air contaminants such as car exhaust fumes which can find their way into buildings.
Likewise, an aesthetically-pleasing and functional furniture arrangement which creates a sense of spaciousness and convenience helps to create more of a sense of mental space for meditation.
Natural sources of lighting using either daylight or candlelight attunes our practice to the time of day, supporting the biorhythms of the body. In the morning, if your body, face and eyes are exposed to sunlight your body will increase its production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that regulates mood, appetite, memory and sleep. Meditation already boosts serotonin and so the morning light will help to support and enhance that process.
In the evening, low lighting enables the pineal gland to open, promoting relaxation and sleep. This is also said to be connected to the spiritual third eye center which is regarded as the center for spiritual insight and meditative development in many meditation styles.
We don’t necessarily need perfect silence to meditate but we do require a certain degree of quietness to avoid becoming too distracted. This can be a big challenge, especially if you live in a city or have children, pets or noisy neighbours! Where possible, find a time that’s convenient for you to practice which is also as quiet as possible.
First thing in the morning or late in the evening can be great times to meditate. Setting the same time for meditation each day not only encourages you to stick to a regular practice but also allows you to manage any distractions that come up around that time, perhaps simply by sharing your enthusiasm for your new practice with anyone who might be a little noisy at that time so they’re aware you’ll be looking for a little more stillness.
A little background noise can be helpful to incorporate into your meditation as a means of bringing you back to the experience of being in this moment, however conversations, lyrics or otherwise overwhelming sounds can easily become too intrusive.
If all else fails, noise-cancelling headphones playing white noise, sounds of nature or meditation music can work wonders! Moby’s Long Ambients album is a great accompaniment to any meditation.
REMINDERS OF BEING IN THE HERE AND NOW
On retreat at zen master Thich Nhat Hahn’s monastery, Plum Village, every time you hear the sound of a bell you stop still, stop talking and stop moving. It might be the telephone ringing, the clock chiming, or the monastery bell sounding. When you hear the sound of the bell you relax your body and become aware of your breathing. This restores a sense of peace and freedom, so that what we’re more able to enjoy and appreciate what we’re doing or who we’re with.
At home even when we’re not meditating we can use the ringing of our telephone, local church bells, the cry of a baby, or even the sound of fire engines and ambulances as our bells of mindfulness. With just three conscious breaths we can release the tensions in our body and mind and return to a cool and clear state of being.
Art or objects in the home can also become reminders of simply being present. Thich Nhat Hahn himself creates artworks featuring simple, mindful messages such as ‘let go’ or ‘present moment, wonderful moment’ to inspire gratitude for and connection with the here and now.
Anything can serve as a device to bring us back to a state of mindful presence. Plants can remind us of our intimate connection with the web of life and our ecosystem. A transition from one room to another can help us to refocus on what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. The sofa can be a reminder of the comforts we are so lucky to enjoy. The smell of our herb box a celebration of our nourishment and connection with others over mealtimes. Over time our entire home can become infused with the richness of our appreciation and the spirit of being alive.