Writer: Erin Lee
Technically, mindfulness can be practiced anytime, anywhere. However, we can't deny that where we are matters to an extent. There is a reason why deeply-committed practitioners move away from the hustle and bustle of the city and retreat to somewhere more secluded to meditate in solitude, often times for years. Our physical environment has significant impact on our wellbeing and also has the potential to make a difference to our practice experience.
As urbanites with modern world responsibilities, it may be difficult or even impossible for us to live a reclusive life, but putting some thought and intention into designing a more conducive space where we function from day to day can create the conditions for more effective practice.
Here are some tips on designing a space in your home that facilitates better meditation practice:
1. Identify a Space
It is important to dedicate a spot in your house where you can return to every day for meditation. You don't need a particularly big space for practicing - just ensure that it is spacious enough for sitting on a cushion or chair, and laying down on a yoga mat (if you're practicing movements or the body scan), and that it is not so cramped that you feel claustrophobic.
2. Don't Worry about Noise
While a relatively quieter spot is ideal, you don't need absolute silence in your space. In fact, having some natural sounds in the background (e.g. sounds of urban traffic, birds chirping, people walking by) may support your practice of learning to be at ease wherever you are. There is also no need to play any soothing music for mindfulness meditation - we practice to the reality of our experience and learn to welcome any sound or noise that arrives in our awareness.
3. Make it Comfortable
See if it's possible to ensure that the space is well-lit and well-ventilated. A room with windows that can be opened to allow natural light and air in would be ideal. Make an effort to keep the space clean, so that you can meditate more comfortably. But you may not want to make the space too cosy and comfortable, or it might invite drowsiness instead of the alertness you need for meditation!
4. Set Boundaries
Try to make your space a "no work", "no entertainment", and "no eating" zone. When you reserve your meditation space for meditation only and nothing else, it reminds us to honour our practice and commit to the way we would like for our practice to go.
5. Communicate about your Space
If you are living with other people and do not have the luxury of having the space entirely to yourself, you may want to share with them your intentions of setting up the space, and when and how you will be using it. This encourages your housemates to understand and respect your needs, and promotes more thoughtful co-existence within the home.
6. Practice Non-Attachment
With the above taken care of, you have done your best to ensure a more conducive space for practicing meditation every day. You may come to like your space so much that you become quite attached to it, and feel like you won't be able to meditate properly anywhere else.
Gently remind yourself that a space is simply that - a space, and while it supports you in your practice, your practice is ultimately not dependant on where you are. Exercise some flexibility in managing your meditation space, knowing that whatever you have set up may have to change anytime.