ESTABLISH A HOME PRACTICE
Why a Home Practice?
Life in the modern world is busy and full of distractions that can distance us from ourselves and what we know to be truly important. Setting up the time and space for a home practice can minimize that distance and can offer us a sense of peace from the day-to-day tensions that can overwhelm us.
If you’ve been meeting regularly with others for group meditation (once or twice a week) and that feels like all you need, that’s great. That can be a healthy, helpful practice.
But maybe now that you’ve begun to mature in your practice you feel you need more. You feel that the time is right to deepen and expand your practice. Developing a home practice is a healthy next step and your life right here, right now offers you everything you need to create your own personal home practice.
Making a personal space for practice in your home is very helpful. By doing so you create a sacred space of your own right where you live.
Start with a Plan
You need to start with a concrete plan that you can reasonably stick to. Along with that plan, you need to muster up the willingness to follow through with all you hope to achieve. This will lead to a regular, workable home meditation practice. Your plan should include physical space, rituals and time.
1. Physical Space
Making a physical space for meditation in your home can transform your whole house. It can help to make your home an oasis within your world. If you are going to practice at home, ask yourself where can you reasonably do that? If not at home, can you create another space to practice (e.g. at work)? How much and what kind of space do you actually need?
In answering these questions, consider how people all over the world practice meditation.
Muslims pray where ever they lay their rug facing east
Zen monks honer ritual and create mental space
Jail-cell monks (a.k.a. criminals in incarceration) create sacred space in the worst kind of conditions; prisons and jails
Park monks create a practice in public space
Office meditators create sacred space at work
Find a space that you can make your own (e.g. a physical location in your home). Set it up according to your own needs and requirements for your practice, using special blocks, cushions, tables and images that are comfortable and appropriate for practice. Ultimately, you will need to experiment and find the right space for your home practice that suites your personality and preferences.
2. Your Own Rituals
Create a personal practice that has meaning to you, that you personally find refreshing and meaningful. Specifically choose forms of practice that you personally find helpful in drawing you mentally inward and that physically prepare you for practice. Creating personal rituals that surround your practice can help you to naturally prepare yourself to fall into a meditative state of mind.
Chants, Prayers and Mantras
Choose special chants, prayers and mantras that give your practice personal meaning and joy. Check the Resources page for ideas.
Acts of reverence and respect for your practice such as bowing and placing your hands in mudra will always help you to get your mind and heart in the right place for meditation.
Taking the time to recognize teachers as well as those who came before us is always a fine way to mentally prepare for practice. In doing so we acknowledge and show respect for the tradition and those who passed it on to us.
Candles and Incense
The lighting of candles and the burning of incense are a special and intimate way of creating your own personal rituals and cultivating the right atmosphere for your meditation.
Create your own meditation station with flowers and images that are personally meaningful to you. E.g. Pictures of spiritual teachers, loved ones etc. These are not objects of worship, simply reminders of love and compassion. For example, Thich Nhat Hanh has pictures of both Buddha and Christ on his personal alter. Some people enjoy the simplicity of a single flower on there alter, or even a single image that evokes a feeling of peace and well-being.
Once your rituals are established, the physical setup will serve you as a reminder for your practice. It will help you to get into the proper state of mind just by being there.
3. Figurative Space (a.k.a. Time)
Ask yourself: When do I have time? When can I make time?
Any time is a good time to practice (morning, noon, or night). It’s all a matter of what works best for you. Meditation can bring different benefits depending on the time of the day you practice.
Morning: Starting the day with good intention, right motivation, a centred and balanced state of mind
Afternoon: Taking time during lunch brake or a quite time during the midst of daily activities offers us a reprieve, a way of re connecting with ourselves
Evening: A way to bring resolution and peace to the day’s end
That all depends on how, where and when you choose to practice. A good and valid practice can be a 3 to 5-minute sit in the middles of a busy workday. A 10-minute to a 25-minute sit when you can make time, possibly mornings or evenings. Always remember that consistency is the key to creating your own practice.
Start Small and Build
Don’t feel that you have to put aside large blocks of time when you first begin.
Putting aside a few minutes each day and being consistent is what’s essential to developing a personal practice.
Don’t Forget to Breathe!
You take your breath with you everywhere you go. Any place you choose to focus on your breath becomes sacred space, a place to create a practice. Focusing on the breath is of greatest importance when ever you practice, anywhere – anytime.
The breath is your most valued inner guide and teacher. It can serve you as a Mantra when and wherever you choose to practice. Think of your breath as your own personal guide leading you on the path to self-realization.
Each time you take your seat in meditation, each time you sit before your personal alter and each time you hear the sound of your own bell, remember your breath, your teacher, your connection to yourself and your ground of being.
As the Buddha said, “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, a person cannot live without a spiritual life”.