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Your Mountain Cave - Creating a Meditation Space


Article by Blue Banyan Meditation Products

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For most of us, probably everyone reading an article online, living in a cave in the Himalayas and living a life of meditative retreat is nearly impossible. We live in houses and flats, running off to work and chasing after children. Between the 24-hour news cycle and reality television shows, life seems entirely too hectic for retreats and meditative dedication.

What we can do to make our meditation more powerful is to create a space in our home where we meditate, every day. This space can become the place where when we enter it, our mind will learn that this is place that will bring us a calm, meditative state.

The basic elements of your meditation space can vary, but there are some wonderful things that we can include.

What space? - For many of us, there is not a lot of space to be had. A small flat or a house with our entire family doesn't leave a great deal of space for creating a meditation room. Only the wealthiest of us can set aside an entire room. Your 'mountain cave' doesn't need to be any more than a shelf or the top of a coffee table. It can even be something you take down and put up each day.

One of the most common things to do is to put your meditation space in your bedroom. This might seem logical, but if you can, it should be avoided. Your bed is a place where you sleep and, hopefully, make love. Somewhere deep in your mind, the sight of your bed makes you drowsy or feel other things. You don't want entering into your meditation space to make you drowsy or distracted.

It would be better for your space to be something you have to set up and take down every day than to have it in your sleeping space.

One of the best parts about your meditation space is that it will look good. With some nice cloth, a statue or two, it can look like a very elegant decoration in your living-room or family room. Don't be afraid to show it off.

An altar - Not necessarily a religious space, an altar can simply include those things that bring you peace. Flowers, a small fountain, pictures of loved ones or sea shells can all be placed on a table that reminds you of calm and peace.

If a religious altar is something you prefer, it won't matter if you include Christian symbols, Buddhist, Muslim or Taoist, or all of the above. It should always be those things that matter to you. You can also place books on the altar, to remind you of the wisdom of the content.

Your “altar” should simply be the thing that you face that will remind you that it is time to focus only on meditation.

Sound– Having meditative sounds can make a great deal of difference in being able to turn a corner of a room or small closet into a mountain cave.

A CD player with some meditative CDs or an MP3 player with speakers attached can be excellent for creating a space where you won't be distracted by the sounds around you. You can also use these devices to play meditations to guide you into the state of awareness and clarity that you are seeking.

Music, such as Bindu, by Craig Kohland and Shaman's Dream is slow and relaxing with gorgeous, ambient sounds to relax your mind.

If you prefer something with a bit faster sound, you can choose something like MC Yogi's Elephant Power. This is hip-hop about Ganeesh and Hanuman. Since so many meditators these days grew up with hip-hop and dub step, this faster, “meatier” types of music may be more relaxing for them.

You might decide to skip playing music and choose a guided mediation or simply chimes.

A CD like Anahata – Guided Meditation or A Taste of Meditation can help to bring your mind through to a meditative state by walking you through the steps of the meditation itself. There are also thousands of other guided meditations you can choose online, such as a Catholic rosary or Sufi meditations. You might also look for a meditation by one of the great modern teachers such as the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hahn or Ram Dass. It is all very much a matter of personal taste.

Finding a bell or a chime is similarly very personal. Tibetan signing bowls and hand-held bells tend to play a single note. The Zaphir Chimes offer a set of notes based on the “Golden Mean” principle, which can be ideal for helping to focus the mind.

Seating – Few things will distract you as much from your meditation as being uncomfortable. If your bum is sore, your mind won't focus.

There are a few reasons to choose wisely when it comes to what to sit on.

The first reason is that you want to be able to sit for extended periods of time. This doesn't mean that it needs to be soft, but it should be something that is right for you. Some people prefer something hard, other want a soft cushion. Some like to sit in a straight backed chair, others really like a hard cushion that is firm and tall.

The second reason is that you should try to keep your spine straight. There are lots of metaphysical explanations about chi and energy pathways, but the simplest explanation is that a straight spine tends to keep you awake (thus the military insistence on a straight back). You are also much less likely to get a sore lower back if you sit straight and keep to the pressure on your whole back, instead of asking your lower back to keep you from falling forward.

The list of possible seats in nearly endless.

  • Zafus and Zabutons – A zafu is a pill-shaped cushion, usually stuffed with a firm cotton, or better, buckwheat husks. A zabuton is a mini futon that you place the zafu on. Because you sit on the zafu with your legs tucked under you, the zabuton protects your knees. Either item can be used by itself, but you often find them together. You can find zafus filled with kapok fibre, as well. These tend to be a bit heartier and to hold their shape a bit better than a buckwheat zafu, although either can easily be reshaped and “fluffed” back to their original form.
  • Meditation stool – These are also very traditional. They are, at their simplest, a small wooden bench, under which you tuck your legs and sit. If you have a mobile mediation space, they even have folding legs, making them relatively flat. There is a style with a single leg, like a toadstool. This might seem a bit like you would need to balance on it, but remember your knees are on the ground; the stool just keeps your bum off your calves. Why is this important? It allows blood circulation to your feet. Without it, after a while your feet may go numb and start to ache. This tends to get a bit worse as you get older, so to have a simple, inexpensive stool can make all the difference in allowing you to meditate for extended periods.
  • Moon cushion – This is a bit less traditional, but just as effective. The crescent shape allows you to tuck the “wings” into your legs or have the wings under your ankles as you kneel. You can also use a moon cushion behind while you are in a full-lotus or half-lotus position, to provide you with additional stability. These tend to filled with buckwheat, which will conform to your bum and also stays cooler and drier than fibre filling in warm places.

Smell - Nearly every faith uses incense in its practices. There are several reasons for this. A person's sense of smell is the most powerful memory sense they have. If you smelled a certain incense when you were meditating in a temple, for example, just smelling that incense again could bring you back to that same place and that same state. Also, odd smells, like someone's bad breath or a passing vehicle, could throw you off completely from what you are doing.

Most people don't realise how powerful the sense of smell is. For this reason, you should find a specific incense that you like for your meditation space and use there every time. Also, don't use that incense anywhere else. You want to associate that scent with the act of meditation.

One of the great classic meditation incenses is nag champa. This blend of Indian spices is strong, but not overwhelming. And, importantly, it's not too sweet. It's also easy to find in good quality. To burn it, you don't need anything more complicated that a large, wide coffee cup (like the ones used for cappuccinos) and some sand. You can stand sticks up in it or just set cones right on it. It won't burn or get too hot.

Time - A meditation timer can be an invaluable tool to allowing you to stay focused. If you are constantly looking at the clock or your watch to make sure you get to work or get dinner on the table, you can't really focus on your practice.

There are different ways to time your meditation. Some are as simple as setting an alarm on your smart phone.

The nicest way to time your meditation is to use a specially designed timer. The Meditation Combi Timer acts like your personal mediation master. It not only makes a gong sound at the beginning and end of the session, but will sound off at a pre-set time to help you check your focus. On this device, the gong sound is a Tibetan singing bowl, so it is clear, pure and not shocking. Every time you hear the gong, you can make sure that you are still meditating and not day-dreaming or sleeping. It's an awesome tool that has been designed to replace that meditation masters of the monasteries.

Shawl - While not strictly part of your meditation space, you should have a shawl for your meditation practices, even for men. Most homes can get chilly at times. A shawl over your shoulders can help to keep your body warm and comfortable, so it doesn't distract you from the work at hand.

It can also be a powerful signal to your mind that you are about to enter a meditative state. Similar to a priest putting on a collar, a shawl tells you and the world, “I am about to meditate because I am wearing my meditation uniform.” The best part about a shawl, versus a full robe, is that it is unlikely to get too hot, even on the hottest day.

Wall Art - If you can, putting up wall art can also help with a meditation space. Religious pictures are an obvious choice. Tibetan thangkas or portraits of Christ are amazing inspirations. Photos of Gandhi or Mother Teresa or a Hindu guru of your choosing are all perfectly valid. Even some of the most popular Impressionist paintings, of ponds and flowers, can be calming and transformative.

What you put on the walls of your space is entirely up to you, but it should definitely be something that helps to calm you mind and bring you peace.

A Strange One - A Neti pot can be a very important part of your meditation space and rituals. Much of meditation involves breathing and a stuffy nose can be distracting and make meditation difficult. Using a Neti pot before beginning your daily practice can make it much easier to focus on your breath or, at least, breathe while you contemplate.

Getting a good quality Neti pot may not seem like a meditative necessity, but it can go a long way to helping you stay clear – in more ways than one.

Your Mountain Cave

'Your mountain cave' can be no more than a seat under a Bodhi tree or it can be a giant Cathedral, but whatever you can make it, make it yours. Do everything you can to make it your own special space, with items that are dedicated to only your meditation.

Use your meditation space only for meditation. Even it's just the corner of a room, let it be the place that you go to to quiet the mind and connect with your great, inner self.


29 Mar 2013

Last Update: 1 Sep 2013

Article/Information supplied by Blue Banyan Meditation Products

Disclaimer - Any general advice given in any article should not be relied upon and should not be taken as a substitute for visiting a qualified medical Doctor.