In our last article on mindfulness meditation, we discussed the importance of providing a suitable context for cultivating mindfulness. We talked about that context in a broad sense as the way to act and comport ourselves throughout our lives.
We also noted that committing ourselves to follow certain ethical precepts helps provide a congenial environment in which mindfulness can flourish. Today in this article, we will narrow that context considerably as we turn to the more specific circumstances for practicing meditation.
The fundamental instruments for strengthening our mindfulness skills. Since our minds have been conditioned to become easily distracted, it is essential to set aside a specific place and time to minimize those distractions and allow the mind to concentrate on learning to concentrate.
And as the mind is reconditioned in more skillful ways, it will become easier to move beyond the special practice setting to everyday life.
This is not to say however that you should strictly confine your practice to special times and places until you have mastered mindfulness. Exercising mindfulness meditation in a special context is often intended only to support the development of moment-to-moment awareness without judgment throughout the rest of our lives.
Establishing a suitable setting for practicing is not complicated but it requires some forethought and perhaps a bit of imagination and experimentation to make it work.
(Also Read: Yoga Poses for Stress and Anxiety Relief)
Table of Contents
In this article, we will discuss three key elements you’ll need to take into consideration:
- The first is determining the most appropriate time for your practice.
- The second is the environment, creating the most congenial location for your practice.
- And the third is your posture, learning to put the body in a proper position to facilitate the goals of mindful development.
Note- Today we will talk about each of these in turn.
1. Key Element of Meditation #1: TIME
Deciding the best time to practice meditation is probably the most individual of all decisions you will make concerning the external factors of this discipline. You alone can determine the best time to practice, and you may have to try different times to figure out your answer.
Your decision will depend on what works best for your schedule and on the condition of your body and mind at various times of the day. So you’ll ultimately want to set aside about 20-40 minutes for your daily meditation.
It is vital to decide when you can carve out some time to be absolutely free from all the external interruptions or other distractions. If you are a busy parent, for instance, you may have to wake up way before your children may arise or wait until they have gone to bed.
One would also want to take into consideration some personal things like the times one’s body and mind are most conducive to practicing meditation. If you are a morning person that may be best for you, if your mind is more alert and your body is more relaxed late at night, you may decide that is your ideal time.
You might even want to dabble with different time zones that seem counterintuitive. Whatever time you choose; you’ll find it best to practice when your stomach is relatively empty.
Trying to meditate on a full stomach is difficult. Less important than the time of the day is the regularity with which you practice. It matters little if you meditate at 9 in the morning or nine at night. But it matters greatly that you make an effort daily.
At first, it will probably be difficult to devote 20-45 minutes to the practice. Perhaps you can only manage 5 minutes, that is fine. It is better to practice for 5 minutes for six days than 30 minutes for only one day in six.
The benefits of mindfulness practice are gradual and cumulative, and regularity is key to the process. And as the benefits of the discipline become more apparent, you’ll find it easier to make time to practice. And you’ll probably begin to protect those mindfulness meditation times with great passion.
You’ll discover pleasantness about your practice that draws you to it but don’t expect that at first. You may find the initial days or weeks of meditating to be rather difficult but as with any skill, the difficulties and awkwardness of the initial phase will soon go away to more agreeable sensations as the practice develops.
Note- You should have access to a timer of some sort, an ordinary kitchen timer will do nicely. The timer will signal the sound to the end of the meditation practice when the time is over.
The timer allows you to determine before you start how long you intend to practice, and it will help you stay committed to fulfilling that intention. And as your practice proceeds, you’ll discover yourself developing a most fascinating love-hate relationship with your timer.
2. Key Element of Meditation #2: PLACE
The criteria for establishing an appropriate place to practice are essentially the same as those for determining a suitable time.
Your mindfulness meditation physical environment needs to be perfectly conducive to the facilitation of moment-to-moment mindful awareness without being judgemental. Accordingly, the place you choose to meditate needs to be as quiet as possible and free from distractions and interruptions. You may not have the luxury of being able to dedicate a particular space in your home exclusively to the practice of mindfulness. Sitting quietly on a chair in the living room or bedroom will serve just as well.
But if you can afford a special location such as the corner of a room, or an entire room itself. Having a dedicated space may symbolize the seriousness of your dedication to your discipline and may provide an inducement to stay committed to it.
But whether you create a special space or just use a chair in the dining room you may find it helpful to use the same place each time you practice although it’s not essential.
Returning to the same location helps your soul, mind, and body readily prepare for mindfulness meditation and obviates the need to become aware and familiar with a new setting.
Ideally, your mindfulness meditation practice space should be relatively free of any visual as well as other distractions, especially from the external noise. If you find it inspiring to display a Buddha image or hang an icon of Jesus or maybe a picture of a God, you believe in that’s fine. But it isn’t necessary.
But your practice space must be pleasant. The place should be welcoming and inviting, and calming in whatever way you see fit. If that means decorating it with flowers, or scented candles, or maybe incense sticks as you practice by all means do so.
But fussing too much with one setting can easily become a substitute for actually practicing mindfulness. For that reason, it’s best to keep the decoration of your space as nice but as uncomplicated as possible.
Just make sure your place is quiet, safe, uncluttered, and agreeable.
3. Key Element of Meditation #3: POSTURE
By the time, place, and bodily posture for meditation practice is governed by the aim of creating a calm and alert mind. To create these conditions, it is helpful at least initially to bring a body into a still and stable position.
The classic position for mindfulness meditation is of course the SITTING. Professional practitioners often define the meditation practice simply as a sitting or a sitting practice. But just as anyone can be mindful anywhere one can cultivate mindfulness skills in any physical position, including standing lying down, and walking.
Sitting however has remained the favorite posture for a millennium. The lotus position is often considered the best posture for practicing meditation on a bare floor or a thin cushion and places the right foot on top of the left thigh and then accordingly your left foot on top of your right thigh.
While it is relatively easy to get into the full lotus position, maintaining it however can be quite difficult and painful for beginners.
Using a chair and cushion works just as fine, and I think the urgency of getting into the mindfulness practice outweighs the need to learn the traditional position.
For that reason, I strongly suggest you at least begin with a cushion or a chair.
Note- Always wear loose-fitting or comfortable clothes during practice, and you should always remove your shoes as well.
(Related: Maintaining Mindfulness Practice)