How To Establish a Meditation Space

My Meditation Room
Sawyer- Resting in Stillness

I live way out in the country in western, northern Virginia on 6 acres where it’s so quiet and still. On the one hand, I love it for myself. But since my children have arrived, I would like closer neighbors so they can run out and hang out easily. Still, during this lockdown I feel so grateful for all our space for them to run around in the sun.

I’ve been sure to keep my meditation practice consistent, despite the rare times when I don’t feel like it. I’m currently on a 70+ day consecutive meditation stretch. It’s a priority right now, to help me center myself and reconnect with Divine everyday. I get grounded and I’m a better human, partner, parent, and mentor to my clients.

Some days when my kids wake up extra early, they find me at the tail end of my mediation session. My son has lately taken to lying down with me in my lap (they’re 5 years old) and it’s clear he enjoys the stillness and the quiet time too.

Today, while I writing this, long after my morning meditation time, he asked to come in and rest on my meditation mat. I lit the candles for him to enjoy but he’s 5 and he blew them out after playing with his breath on them after a bit. But then he laid down and snuggled in and just rested in the silence. I love seeing him recharge in the quiet, just being still. Makes this mama’s heart explode with joy that he’s taking the time to be.

So I wanted to share with you my thoughts on creating a meditation space and some lessons learned.

My Experience

First is that we have a large house and I actually created what I call my zen room. It’s my space and no one gets to hang out in here except with my permission. I love to have that space.

I know that’s not practical for many people so I recommend trying to find even a corner of a room that you can set up with some sort of altar and candles and other artifacts that bring you joy. For me, in addition to my Buddha and candles on my altar, all of my favorite pieces from my travels are here.

My meditation room – with cushion and altar

It brings me such joy to see them and I love them after all these years. Near my altar, I have my green and yellow batik from Zimbabwe, my apsara from Cambodia, a framed picture from my walking trip to Ireland, a replica of a window from one of my trips to Nepal, and two antelope statues, chiwaras, from a trip to Mali.

What I’ve put behind me on the opposite wall also supports my joy. I have a framed picture from Haiti, a peacock from India, some pieces like carved tusks of twins from my time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin, some pieces of blanket from Niger, a martini pitcher from my maternal grandparents that was passed to me upon my Mom’s death, a canister from another trip to Nepal, and another bust of the Buddha- again from my trip to Cambodia.

Some of my cherished pieces
My meditation room – the wall behind me

I also have a desk and a computer in here. I do use the desk for journaling and working on this business. Originally when we moved here, I used to work in this room (back when I was still at a J O B) but I found the more job work I did here, the less sacred this room became. I found other places in the house to work and that really boosted my sense of the sacred every time I enter this room.

In fact, I no longer wear any shoes in this room because it just feels wrong. And I ask everyone to take their shoes off before entering as well. It just feels too special for me to have anyone, including me, to treat it as anything else.

My How-To Ideas on Setting up a Meditation Space

Choose the Space

Set up a space that is solely devoted to your meditation, journaling and other activities that are devoted to establishing and maintaining your connection with the Divine, to centering, and to grounding you.

If you have young children like I do, you’ll have to enforce the notion that this space is just for you hundreds of time. But soon enough, with you setting consistent boundaries, they will be respected.

Set up the Altar and Choose Items that Help You Connect

I ordered a two-tiered altar on Etsy. On the top tier, I have a small statue of the Buddha, that I also got on Etsy. I have two candles with beautiful candles holder plates. On the bottom tier, I have an incense box that I used to light incense in during my meditation sessions. Since returning from Bali a few months ago, I can’t burn the incense because it bothers my lungs. I also have a prayer wheel from a trip to Nepal and looking at it gives me a zing of a connection to the Divine.

I likely will be getting a devotional candle of some sort of Christian theme soon because my issues with the Church seem to have resolved and I’m getting back to a deep love and devotion to the Christ.

You can also put items from your vision board or other inspirational items, like a picture of a child if you’re trying to get pregnant or something that represents abundance to you, like money, pictures of money, a waterfall or anything that really speaks to you. Other ideas include pictures to help you be peaceful, such as the ocean, open vistas, or whatever speaks to you.

Keep the Room In Use for Just Your Meditation and other Soulful Activities

As I mentioned, in using this room for work for a short time, the energy of the room shifted and it no longer felt inviting or sacred. Once I noticed the feeling and correctly diagnosed the issue, I keep the room solely for my soul work. (see what I did there?)

Use it!

Of course, you should use it and keep coming back to your meditation practice no matter the stories your mind is telling you about whether or not you “feel” like it or that it’s not fun or maybe that meditation isn’t working for you. It is. Trust the process and get still and silent and allow whatever is arise and fall away and arise and fall away. I like the app Insight Timer to track my meditation sessions both in terms of being a timer as well as number of sessions and other stats. But there are many out there so you may find something else works for you.

What does your meditation room look like? What’s on your altar? I’d love to see pictures for inspiration!

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Don’t forget the environment- even in a pandemic (hand sanitizer and soap bottles)

https://www.flickr.com/photos/alvarolopez/6269115281
Bar Soap. Photo by Álvaro

The moment I saw all of the posts about how the entire liquid soap and hand sanitizer section were empty in all the stores, I immediately thought of where those bottles will end up. Here in the US, they will likely go into a recycle bin and then possibly recycled.

But in developing countries, they will likely end up in a trash pile and then through whatever mechanism, it’ll send up in the sea. Floating forever (or the next 500 years), polluting our oceans, sickening sea life, and humans. Some will wash up on shores.

The Western world has been transporting our trash for years and now they are returning the trash to us, because we can’t even recycle well. Malaysia, China, and more countries are finally forcing us to reckon with our trash.

Beach at Nusa Dua in Bali

I spent 9 months last year in Bali and every time I went to any beach, so much trash. It caused me to feel such rage and sorrow at the same time. I felt so angry at people for throwing their trash out to only up in the sea. And it was then that I realized we need to permanently reduce our consumption of plastic.

I’ve since stopped buying bottles of shampoo, hair conditioner, or lotion. I’m trying out different brands of shampoo and the like. It’s not the same but I’m determined to never buy another plastic bottle filled with anything when there are alternatives.

Here is my post about some alternatives to consider.

Remember soap works better than hand sanitizers. And bar soap works as well as liquid soap. And bar soaps come in boxes.

We still have to live on this planet when this is all over. Let’s try to make it a better place once we emerge from our social isolation.

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What Are You Reading- On the Bookshelf

I have some time these days, during our Covid19 lockdown. Not that much more than I did before, given I’m taking care of 5 year old twins. But there is some time now that the kids can entertain themselves so I’m catching up on some oldies but goodies.

I have a friend, Hema, who posted at the beginning of this year that she intends to go deep on all her programs and books rather than wider and keep buying new books and spreading herself too thin.

I think this is a great idea. I’ve spent a great deal of money on programs and books I haven’t finished. So I too am finally starting (and finishing!) books that have long been on my bookshelf or my Kindle.

The one I’m reading right now is the Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford. In the past, I might have read the book but not done the exercises. Now, I’m chapter 6 of 10 and I’ve actually done the previous chapters’ exercises. It’s been enlightening.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I do pray daily to have the veil lifted from my eyes so that I can know the truth and be shown my blind spots. So this book is extremely helpful already, just half way through,in illuminating the way I’m denying my shadow self and rejecting and fiercely judging those who exhibit my shadow self. I love what the exercises are showing me.

Two things she said helped me really visualize the deepening process.

1 – she said that we are like castles and we have many hundreds or even thousands of rooms in ourselves. As children, we have no shame about these rooms whether they’re hateful, childish, loving, mean, funny, joyful, or selfish. We just are. And then the people in our lives tell us that some aspect of ourself is wrong and unacceptable. To survive, we turn off the light and lock the door to that room. As we age, we forget that we even had that room and hide the key. Like taking a coin when we were young and hide it. We wouldn’t remember where we had left if 30 years later, or even that we’d done it.

She quotes Gunther Bernard, “we choose to forget who we are and then forget we’ve forgotten”.

I did the exercise for the chapter and I could feel the rooms light up. Not that I know them yet but I could see and feel the lights flicker on- through the suggested visualization. Very cool. I love breakthroughs.

2- if you spot it, you’ve got it. I’m paraphrasing here, but she points out that if something really bothers us in someone else, it’s because we hate that about us. She gives a great visual that it’s like our chest is giant space for electrical outlets. For aspects of ourself that we’ve integrated, there is no charge when we ponder the concept of how the other person is acting. But for things we despise in others, it’s like there is a cord that plugs directly into our chest and we get an electrical surge whenever we think on this attribute or ponder the person.

Through her exercises, I am able to see that I’m all the things I’ve spotted and judged in others. And it’s so clear through her exercises.

I also see that the things are I truly admire in others are the flip side. I also have those qualities and attributes in myself.

I highly recommend her book and doing the exercises. You likely will find it quite illuminating to your shadow self (see what I did there? ROFL).

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Using the Lockdown for your advantage- How to Set and Keep A Goal –

I recently read a post on FB about how now is not the time to keep exercising or learning how to play an instrument, because of anxiety and stress about the coronavirus.

This is, of course, a perfectly valid way to live your life. Give your brain free rein and let it freak you out and hijack how you spend your days. Living in fear, passing on fear to others, and making decisions out of fear (or stress or anxiety).

Or you can clean up your mental hygiene and give yourself permission to not freak out or indulge in your anxiety, even if the REST OF THE WORLD IS.

You simply (simple but perhaps hard to do) change your thinking about the situation. Rather than stress about what you can’t control, allow your mind to tell you what it fears, acknowledge that, and then consciously search out the opposite of the fears of what your brain is telling you. For example, you can say that the economy is tanking and global recession and job loss – feeling the total fear and anxiety from this. You can then look at where there are bright spots; government stimulus, grocery stores and online businesses doing really well. People able to continue working at home, helping neighbors, and more.

You Have 30 (or 60?) Days. What Will You Do With It

You have 30+ more days of this lock down. Do you really want to stress out and over eat and over drink to manage your anxiety? Or do you want to maybe come out of the lockdown with the ability to play the piano? Or having lost 8 lbs? Or having read your full reading list? Or having all of your closets organized and your house finally deep cleaned?

After spending a week coming to terms with our new reality and allowing myself to freak out a bit and come up with a new normal, I’m excited about all that I can accomplish over the next month. I personally have set my goals and I’m looking forward to working on a bit of them each day, until the 30 days is up.

Anxiety Gets You Nowhere

Anxiety will keep your brain laser focused on all the threats outside. Update your thinking by updating your thoughts, whatever that looks like for you. All you have in your control are your thoughts about your circumstances. Get excited about how you can use this opportunity for changing habits and updating behavior.

Set Your Goal

To make it easier, come up with one goal for the next 30 days. Because it’s easy and measurable, I will use the example of weight loss. Many of us are over eating right now, unable to get to the gym or our yoga class, and the fridge is RIGHT THERE every day all day. So you’ve got 30 days, or 4.25 weeks. That’s say, an 8 lbs weight loss for the month. Or you can organize all your closets this month. You’ve got 8 (or 5 or 12) closets, that means two per week of it’s 8 closets.

How to Set and Keep Your Goal

Set out your measurable goal. Break it down into bite sized tasks (no pun intended).

If it’s weight loss, what is your plan of attack? Will you be reducing your carbs? Will you be using intermittent fasting to kick start your weight loss? Get specifics what what will change. Then plan for tomorrow. If you’re doing IF (which I do), plan for your window opening and closing tomorrow and stick with it. Plan your meals (and for your family’s if applicable).

If it’s your closets, look at your closets and really catalogue mentally what’s in there . Allow your brain to start working out what should go and what should stay. Allow your brain to work on how to solve what you’ll do with the stuff that needs to go. Will you trash it? Will you put it in the garage to give away? When do you have time to start organizing? Two per weekend? 1 hour per day? Let you brain loose.

Use visualization each morning and night to keep you motivated and focused. Really imagine the scale at the end of the month showing you the new weight. Feel your body and how much better you sleep and how much looser your clothes will be. Really get into it and allow yourself to feel the buzz. Your brain will get to work while you sleep, helping you come up with ways to solve this puzzle.

Think of the closets and how much lighter you’ll feel being able to use the closets quickly and easily and that you’re no longer burdened with items you don’t want. Picture them as complete neat and tidy. Again, your brain will get to work while you sleep, helping you come up with ways to solve this puzzle.

Keep Changing Your Thoughts to Those That Serve You

If your brain comes up with something about how you can’t get it done, notice your thoughts and upgrade the thought. Allow it to be and allow it yourself to acknowledge it as it really it. And then change the thought to one that will serve and empower you, allowing you to feel better.

Rinse. Repeat. Rinse. Repeat. You have 30 days to use. Use them to serve you.

And then do the work. Open and close your IF window. Use the weekend to clean your closets. No excuse. Just do it. It’s 30 days.

You got this!

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Enjoy The Journey

In writing yesterday’s post, I was reminded yet again about enjoying the journey. So often, when I was living my life mostly in my head (as opposed to dropping down to feel my heart/body), I often thought that being exhorted to enjoy the journey was just silly Jack Handy nonsense.

But in reality, the journey is even more awesome than the destination. I wrote yesterday about enjoying the journey to increased prosperity but it applies to anything.

“As you start to walk on the way, the way appears.”

― Rumi

As example, weight loss: Sure you may want to weigh 130 lbs. But really even losing 10 lbs is amazing. Understand that each pound, each 5 or 10 lbs lost is an opportunity for savoring the journey, enjoying what you’ve accomplished, and learning about yourself on the path. What have you learned about yourself as you allow yourself to release overeating? [Or course, the presupposes you’re not using willpower to overcome your body- that way lies madness].

Self Isolating through the Coronavirus pandemic- Is there any upsides?

My family and I have been self isolating for two weeks now. The first week I allowed myself to have a lot more avoidant behavior, including overeating and have more drinks than normal. But the second week, I asked my mind to show me the benefits of the isolation. I gave it something to do.

Now, I’m cataloguing all of the ways life is actually sweeter if we have to quarantine. For me, I see how busy I was before. I don’t need to be that busy. We were also spending a lot more money than we needed to on going to dinner. I also realized that having a home yoga practice is something I can and should start. As I mentioned in this post, I’m practicing a set yoga routine and I’m able to follow all the sun salutations (a,b, and c) with increased flow and grace.

I’m also uploading my photos to Flickr and I’m doing my first jigsaw puzzle in 20 years. Slowing down and allowing my mind to slow down. Less distraction, less screen time, more family time and quality time.

I’m so grateful to be amazed about this journey. I take a step on what I think is the path and I am allowing the path to show itself to me. Let’s not resist what is happening.

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