Anatomy of a meditation space

My dad’s favorite childhood book was Mister Dog, by Margaret Wise Brown. I can still recite much of it from memory, and there’s one line that always glowers at me: “A place for everything and everything in its place,” Mister Dog says while sweeping his house after dinner. Frankly, I’m a slob compared to the respectable and orderly Mister Dog, but he does have a point.

While I may not have a perfect place to put, say, my colander or my unopened mail, as meditation goes, I absolutely can get behind having a place set aside for meditating. Here’s why:  The more you meditate in one spot, the more spiritual energy permeates that spot, and the easier it theoretically becomes to get down with your bliss-seeking self in that spot. (In real-world terms, the feel of a place usually depends on what we do there, no?)

However, contrary to the images floating around out there, a meditation room doesn’t need to look a thing like an ashram if you don’t want it to.

Exhibit A: Most adult Westerners are not accustomed to sitting cross-legged on a pillow for any length of time, and unless your hip flexors are like silly bands, we’re not prone to a straight-spined lotus position. (Note: I haven’t ever been able to get myself into lotus, as much as I desire it, and even in half lotus, I have a hard time keeping my back really straight, which is kinda important, as a straight spine allows for a clear flow of energy through your nervous system.)

Rather than fixate my thoughts on trying to make my body assume a challenging position, I sit on a bench with my feet on the ground, thighs parallel to the floor. So, if you’re not one of those inspiringly nimble hatha yogis, just get yourself a firm, straight-backed chair. For reals, it’s totally legit to meditate in a chair.

If pillows are a must, put a firm cushion between your back and the back of the chair to support your lumbar spine and keep your chest open. Face East. If your arrangement limits you from facing East, face North. If that doesn’t work, face anywhere and just meditate.

Next, drape a wool blanket over your chair and on the ground beneath your feet. Wool helps to soften the subtle earth currents flowing through the floor of your home. (I sound completely out there with all this talk of energy but, again, it’s legit.)

Lastly, have a little table—let’s call it an altar—in your meditation space. On this altar, place a candle and few objects that are meaningful or holy to you. For some, it might be a cross, the Bible or a picture of Jesus. A rosary and a likeness of Mary. A statue of Buddha or an image of Krishna. Prayer beads. Incense, crystals, meditation beads, a special book or anything else that’s sacred to you. Place your chair in front of the altar, sit down, light a candle and breathe.

It’s easy to make your own meditation nook. Here’s what you need:

  • A space in which to meditate. It doesn’t have to be a proper room; it can be a tiny corner, a closet, an alcove, whatever, as long as it’s set aside for, as I explain it to my kids, “listening to God.”
  • A chair, meditation bench or floor cushion
  • A small altar table holding any devotional items that are sacred to you
  • A wool blanket
  • A candle and matches or a lighter
  • If there’s no door to your meditation nook, fashion a curtain or a folding screen of some sort to separate your sacred space from your living space

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