Several months ago, I marked a life-changing time by moving my son and I to a new home in the city. It is bright and happy and safe and it has this lovely energy that I wanted for us as we (literally and otherwise) opened doors to new rooms in our lives.
As the days and then weeks and now months have ticked by and spring T-ball slid into summer camp, which has given way to a new year of preschool, my intentions of being settled in this space have remained packed up in many boxes still stacked in the middle of the living room. I've agonized over what furniture to buy and mentally rearranged each room many times without a trace of commitment. It's just that I want it to feel right, like our own little sanctuary in the city and beyond the stress of how we got here.
When I read "A Room of One's Om," a wonderful article in this month's Yoga Journal about how to thoughtfully create a place to practice yoga in your home, it made me think about my own apartment in a different light. I never intended to just fill up the empty spaces, but this article guided my thoughts beyond over-sized sofas and big bookcases stacked with volumes and photo albums. It reminded me that, in the midst of toys and pans and dirty towels, I could still have my own corner that could still be full of that energy I was seeking when I first signed the lease.
It was then that I knew that I needed a meditation space. As a woman who works from home and is raising a small child, I know my well-being requires more calm and still and silent than I usually get. That means that this corner is more for me than a place to sit and om it out when I'm feeling overwhelmed. It is a symbol of how -- and where -- I want to live.
Here's how I am dedicating a little room to myself and my meditation in four simple steps:
First, clear the space. This might be as simple as moving a table a foot to the left or it may mean mandating that no plastic, talking toys are allowed on the back deck. Where ever you choose to create a meditation space, be sure you have enough room to sit, lay down or stretch to your comfort.
You won't need a lot of square footage, but you will need to be sure your mind-clearing moments aren't interrupted by a huge pile of laundry, nagging bills or a giant garbage bin. Even if your home is small, you can claim a space for yourself. I have meditated in an empty bathtub many times just so I could close the door and escape the noise, clutter and stress in every other room.
Second, sit comfortably. If you do not have a chair, cushion or pillow that's perfect for sitting still upon, invest in one that feels so good that you will feel compelled to meditate. It should be firm but inviting and have enough space to sit cross-legged, on your knees (a rolled blanket works great as a support in this position) or however you will be able to relax your body and mind.
My heart beats faster every time I see this adorable round Zafu cushion (pictured here), filled with organic buckwheat and wrapped in retro-funky fabric that is made from three recycled plastic bottles (available on Fleurville, $50).
I love the beautiful and ergonomic buckwheat meditation pillows like this one that is perfectly bean-shaped for the behind (available at yoga.com for $50).
If you'd like to spend a bit less, this handmade cushion is offers a sturdy, soft place to rest (available on the Emuenfant boutique on Etsy for $30).
If you prefer to sit on a chair or sofa or blanket, small-sized Zafu cushions offer a resting place for your hands, a focal point if your eyes are open, or as a support for your back, knees or head during meditation. This one is polyfilled (available at the OmMama boutique on Etsy for $15).
And if you need a bit more help relaxing or tuning out the rest of your life, I would highly recommend an eye pillow. The only risk in placing a great-smelling, well-weighted pillow over your eyes is sleep (and sometimes, this is the best thing anyway). Even though I work at a computer all day, wear contacts and am sensitive to light, I am always amazed at how good I feel after giving my eyes (and brain a rest) under a lavendar pillow like this gorgeous wallpaper-inspired organic flaxseed number (available in many pretty fabrics on the KyraHaigh boutique of Etsy for $12).
Third, set the stage. Take a look around your home, in your storage space and even inside your scrapbooks and keepsake boxes. Is there a painting that has always given you a sense of peace? Can you find a trinket that reminds you of a time you felt free or empowered or humbled? Are there flowers in your garden that you love to smell but don't enjoy often enough? Choose an item or two that will calls to you and consider all your senses (lavendar spray does wonders and a small fan is perfect for white noise).
Your objects will both set the mood and remind you of why you are sitting in this space. Candles, a small statue, a pretty scarf or a bowl of stones might be just right in this corner of your world. There's no need to buy anything, and remember that simple is not just enough, it is plenty. (Swirling Sky Girl print pictured here available on the AliceinParis boutique on Etsy of $15).
Finally, stock up on inspiration. If you are a person who can take a seat and get right down to the business of meditating, more power to you. I think, though, that most of us need some help to unwind, even for a few minutes at a time. I keep a folder of handouts my yoga teacher gives her students of that day's practice, chants and meditations. I occasionally pull them and read them aloud to help me send the to-do lists from my mind and prepare to meditate.
I also love using Angel Cards (usually about $15 from retailers specializing in therapeutic tools or spirituality), runes and stones (make your own mix with stones like the one pictured here from the KadyHope boutique on Etsy, each for $3.75) with sayings etched into them and books of prayers to focus on so I can set intentions for stillness or gratitude or even silence.
Using items like these not only helps to transition from the busy-ness of our days into a meditative calm, it also is nice to have a focal point if we are suddenly jarred from that centeredness by a car honking or kid crying or cell phone buzzing on the table (hey, it happens). I think it is helpful to look down to see a stone that says "breathe" or a card that says "om nama shivaya" when I am contemplating giving up, getting up and forgetting the whole Zen thing for a while.
Again, no need to overcomplicate. If you don't have inspirational books or tools and don't want to spend money on them for your meditational practice, make some of your own by writing on river stones or rocks from your garden with a permanent or metallic marker. Or copy quotes or simple words on to sticky notes and put them on the wall next to you. Maybe a greeting card or magazine clipping will do it for you.
Once you've invested your time and good energy in to carving out a little spaces of your home just for getting centered and calm, use it. Even if it is challenging to get there, sit still and stay there (even for five or ten minutes), the more you do, the more the space will become your own.
Now, let's go back to our corners.
What would make a nook in your home a perfect place to meditate?
- Make a place to meditate in your garden
- Breathe in some fresh air on your made-over apartment patio
- Find great fabrics to create your own cushions
[photo credit, first two images: Getty Images]