Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Why it’s best to stay put

Just as it helps to have a regular time to meditate, there are some definite advantages to sitting in the same location day after day, instead of moving from place to place. These include
  • Fewer distractions: As a beginner, you already have plenty of distractions to contend with, both inner and outer. Why add all the nuances of a constantly shifting external environment? Once you get used to seeing those little stains on the carpet and those cracks in the paint, you can free up your attention for the matter at hand: meditation.
  • Good vibes: The more often you sit there, the more you infuse your spot and its environs with the energy of your efforts — your good vibes, if you will. Whenever you return, your meditation is buoyed and supported by the energy you’ve invested, just as you feel especially comfortable and relaxed in your favorite chair.
  • Peaceful memories: When you’ve picked your spot, you start associating it with meditation, especially if you keep your altar or your sitting gear there. Just passing it on your way to other activities reminds you to come back to meditate when you next have a chance. And if your meditation involves spiritual aspirations, your spot becomes a sacred site where your deepest insights and reflections take place.

Meditating in nature

As you may already have noticed, the natural world has an unparalleled capacity to relax your body and calm your mind. When you’re sitting by the ocean listening to the surf or hiking in the mountains among the rocks and trees, you don’t have to practice some formal meditation technique — just open your senses and let nature work its magic. Without any effort on your part, you begin to feel your mind settle down, your worries dissipate, your breathing deepen and slow, your tension melt away, and your heart fill with gratitude and love.
As a species, we evolved in the natural world, and the plants and animals have been teaching us how to meditate for as long as we’ve had legs to cross. When you meditate in nature, you’ve arrived where you belong, and the ease and familiarity you feel there invites you to return home to yourself, to your innermost “nature.” (How fascinating and appropriate that the words are the same!) Entering a natural setting can stop your mind in its tracks, causing you to sense the presence of something deeper and more meaningful.
Make it a point to meditate in nature as often as you can, and take note of the state of mind and heart that it evokes. Even if you live in the inner city, you can usually find some park or garden or small patch of woods or water. Then, when you meditate at home again, you can invoke the resonance of your moments in nature to help you deepen your practice.

Where to Meditate: Creating Sacred Space

Perhaps you’ve seen those Chinese paintings where a bearded sage in a flowing robe sits in deep contemplation at the base of some majestic peak with a waterfall thundering beside him. Maybe you’ve even had moments when you wished you could become that sage, disappear into the mountains, and meditate in silence and simplicity for the rest of your days. Alas, life doesn’t usually support us nowadays in actualizing such fantasies! Instead of shaving your head and heading for the hills, however, you can follow a few simple guidelines for carving out a special place for the practice of meditation. You’ll find that the space you set aside will enrich your life in ways you can’t imagine.