Unlike a targeted exercise regimen or a strict type of diet involving special cooking techniques and ingredients, meditation is a practice that can be done pretty much anywhere, at any time. While various sounds, aromas, and lighting can all aid in having a meaningful, successful meditation session, there are no physical tools or pieces of equipment that are absolutely necessary for a person to be able to meditate. All that is really needed is a mind and the desire.
There are many types of meditation that are widely taught and practiced in the Western world (and far more types in India and other parts of Asia, where many of the most popular current practices originated thousands of years ago) and they can vary significantly in both their intent and in the specific disciplines required. However, generally speaking, the purpose of most meditation techniques that are taught and practiced by people in the West is to bring about inner peace and well-being, alleviate stress and anxiety, and promote mindfulness and emotional tranquility. Increasingly, people have been turning to certain forms of meditation (oftentimes at the suggestion of their physicians) to help them deal with various health concerns including high blood pressure (and the heart and cardiovascular problems this can cause), anxiety and anger related conditions, insomnia, and other stress-related issues. And for many of us, regular meditation sessions are simply an effective way to relax, gain perspective, and deal with the rest of our day is a more positive manner.
Where to Meditate
Although, as previously stated, a person can meditate pretty much anywhere, the quality of a meditation session – and therefore the actual benefits derived from it – can be significantly affected by the physical space in which it is done. Particularly when talking about regular, daily meditation sessions (normally lasting 20 to 30 minutes) the space in which the session regularly occurs can have a direct impact not only on the quality of the session but also on how consistently a person chooses to practice. Particularly for individuals just starting out with meditation, most experts suggest that the more comfortable and welcoming space is, the more likely it is that a person will want to be there and, hence, the more frequently they will meditate.
Finding – or, as is more often the case, creating – the best place to meditate will be governed by a number of factors which will include personal preferences, the availability of the actual physical space, budget and location. While many of us would love to spend 30 minutes a day (or longer) meditating on a quiet, sunny beach in Hawaii or an exotic island somewhere in the South Pacific, this not a practical option for most of us (at least on a daily basis). Spending vast amounts of time, energy or money attempting to find or create the perfect meditation space can lead to frustration and disappointment – feelings that are the antithesis to what meditation is all about. The ‘best’ place to meditate, therefore, will be one that is practical, accessible and where you can be comfortable and relax.
Not surprisingly, many people find their own homes to be the best place to meditate. The home is a familiar place in which most people tend to feel safe and are able to relax. While the options for where to meditate in the home will be determined by a number of factors including the amount of available physical space and family considerations, creating a relaxing, peaceful environment for meditation in the home is often the most practical and cost-effective option.
A Dedicated Meditation Space
Depending on how large the home is and, as always, family and / or roommate considerations, creating a dedicated, permanent meditation space in the home is considered by many meditation experts to be among the best ways to both get the most out of individual sessions and promote a more regular, beneficial overall practice. While this space doesn’t necessarily have to be where a person always meditates, it will be a space where a person can always meditate.
Turning a small, unused room or a portion of a den, home office or even the bedroom into a dedicated meditation space is actually a relatively simple matter. First off, the room or area that is chosen will need to be away from the ‘high energy’ and activity areas of the house, and this is particularly important if meditation is done while other people are home. Space should be cleared of any clutter and thoroughly cleaned. If possible, space should be kept at a comfortable, constant temperature – not too hot, not too cold – and have diffused lighting that is not too bright. If sound or music is a part of a person’s meditation routine, good acoustics is a definite plus.
A comfortable sitting space (whether using cushions, a mat or a chair) should be created with enough room to accommodate the person’s preferred positions without their feeling cramped or boxed in. Any objects that the practitioner chooses to bring into space should be placed thoughtfully, and in an organized manner; some experts suggest keeping decorations to a minimum so as to avoid distractions. If essential oils or incense are part of meditation, the area should be well ventilated to avoid having the aromas become overly intense (too much of a good thing) or distracting. If the mediation involves focusing on a specific object, the object should be set apart and prominently displayed.
Back Yard or Garden
Many people find that mixing things up a bit and taking their meditation outside to the back yard or, if one is available, a garden area allows them to tap into nature’s abundant positive energy. Weather permitting, along with the fresh air and the sounds of nature, some meditation experts believe that physical contact with the earth – called grounding – provides a very specific and special type of energy one can tap in to.
Sitting under a tree or some other sort of shade is the most pleasant option for many people, while others find sitting on a patch of short grass (with or without a mat) in the sunshine to be the most relaxing option for them. For those who have access to a swimming pool, meditating near it can provide at least an approximation of the sound of gently flowing water – a sound often used in conjunction with meditation.
Balcony or Rooftop
Balconies or rooftops (providing, of course, that they are flat, safe and easily accessible) are used by many people – particularly city-dwellers and people living in high-rise buildings who do not have an outdoor space on the ground attached to their homes – for much the same reason that people choose to meditate in their back yards. It not only mixes up the meditation routine, but offers access to (relatively) fresh air, vitamin D from the sun during daytime sessions, and natural (and beautiful) focal points in the moon and stars in the evening.
Depending on the type of meditation one practices, meditating on a roof or balcony in a cityscape can present some challenges, particularly when it comes to maintaining focus; the streets below are likely to be noisy and hectic regardless of the time of day, and some may need to bring their soothing music or sounds with them on their smartphones. Some individuals who have been practicing for many years, however, train themselves to use the sounds of the city as their focal point, tapping into the abundant energy of civilization and finding their own calm and center within it.
While many people find meditating during their workday to be very effective in helping them deal with the unique stresses associated with earning a living, finding somewhere to do it at the office, factory or store can prove to be one of the biggest challenges. Unless a company provides a dedicated ‘relaxation area’ or meditation space for employees to use (which an increasing number of companies including Google, Microsoft, and pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca do as part of their employee wellness initiatives) finding a quiet, peaceful place to meditate can be difficult – but many people manage to do it every day.
Empty Conference Room / Office / Cubicle
Although there are some lucky individuals who are able to switch into ‘meditation mode’ in their own workspace, for most people a change of venue – getting away from the phone, computer and other stressors directly associated with doing their job – is a must for a successful session. Booking a conference room for part of the lunch hour is an option that works well for some people, and will be particularly useful if there is more than one person who is looking to have a meditation session at work.
Alternatively, an unused office or even an empty cubicle or storage area will provide good separation from a person’s normal workspace. While there will be limited – if any – options regarding customizing the space, as long as it is quiet and one is unlikely to be disturbed, the benefits of a successful session will usually far outweigh any stress caused by actually finding the space.
Some individuals find that escaping the workplace entirely is more conducive to a productive session and choose to do so by using their car as their preferred meditation space. Whether sitting in the parking garage/lot or after driving a short distance to a more peaceful area, the car is considered by many people to be a safe space that is all their own, which helps them to be able to focus and turn their minds inward.
Depending on the actual make and model of the vehicle, it is usually recommended that those who choose to meditate in their cars do so in the back as opposed to the front seat, as this will often have more room and allow for better body positioning. It also helps to eliminate the distractions of the dashboard, and provide some distance from the negative energy, stress, and anxiety often associated with being in the driver’s seat.
Woodlands, Parks, Forests
Taking the idea of meditating in the back yard a giant step further, a trip to the woods or a large park helps to remove a person from the distractions of their day-to-day life and allows them to tap into the abundant energy that is found in nature. A woodland setting also helps heighten perception and can allow for a more focused and mindful meditation session. Along with the ‘grounding’ that will come from meditating in the woods, the sounds and scents of nature allow many people to more fully get in tune with their surroundings and leave the stress and anxiety of their normal lives behind.
In terms of both sound and natural energy, meditating close to a brook, stream or creek in the woods is about as good as it gets. Gently running water is among the most peaceful of all sounds – and is regularly used (in recorded form) during individual and group meditation sessions.
Meditating on the beach – be it on the shore of a large lake or an ocean – is a meaningful, powerful and deeply moving experience for many people. Most people believe that all life originated in the ocean, and meditating on the shore of a large body of water, in many ways, represents returning to our most primal roots. The sounds, aromas, and overall power of these places allow deep concentration and, for many, the feeling of being intimately connected to something far larger than themselves. It doesn’t need to be Hawaii or another South Seas island (although it most certainly can be), but meditating near a large body of water can help some people take their practice to a higher level.
Generally speaking, a meditation retreat is exactly what it sounds like it would be: a period of time that is spent away from one’s normal life which focuses on meditation. Increasing in popularity in the last several decades and most often scheduled during a person’s vacation from work, meditation retreats can last for a weekend, a week, or longer and will often be held in areas such as those mentioned above: near the ocean, a secluded woodland setting, a mountain resort, or some other idyllic and spiritually soothing setting. There will usually be meditation instruction, group and personal meditation sessions, and the opportunity to interact with other practitioners and meditation instructors. They are available for individuals at any level of practice and if nothing else will usually allow a person to meditate in a beautiful and spiritually enhancing place.