Meditation can be practiced sitting on the edge of a bed, walking down the street or standing in a queue.
One does not require a monastery to develop mindfulness, breathing exercise and yogic posturing.
All the spade-work of learning to control the flesh and still the mind is carried out readily in any environment if the Will is strong enough to suffer the distractions.
But why try and climb a mountain in a blizzard when you can have the summer sun?
The most important part of advancing meditative practices beyond the basics is securing an isolated space for the work to be carried out at regular intervals throughout the week, month, year.
In a perfectly sacred space, completely devoid of all distractions, meditation happens all by itself.
Our ancestors didn’t build monumental houses of worship just to impress girls. They manifested true power through the daily use of their sacred space. For believers, God was alive in the air (or aethyr) of the room.
Thousands of hours of chanting, prayer and spotless maintenance created a sphere of profound peace within the walls. When disciples or even laymen enter the space, they are instantly transformed.
God notwithstanding, this is the desired effect we aim to create as best we can in an urban environment with limited resources.
An empty room
Securing a solitary room kept only for yogic practices is the kindest thing that you can do for yourself.
One could partition a corner of a large room with curtains if pressed, but ideally you’ll have access to a spare bedroom, attic or basement.
It should be as empty as possible. Having empty space around you makes a huge difference in meditation. Any sort of clutter will make it hard to concentrate.
Inanimate objects in their presence alone can become intensely annoying, causing the mind to drift wildly from its one-pointed focus.
Eventually you’ll bring things into the room that relate to your practice. Like a book of prayers or some candles. But you are better off starting with just a mat.
This will become the most important room in your flat, so take careful consideration of it’s location if you have the luxury of having options.
Tapestries from the head-shop have cool mandala like designs, but I would avoid screen-printed images with loud symbols. You don’t want your space to feel like a hippy-dippy stoner den.
Factory produced textiles in general put off a cold, sterile vibe.
Ideally, you’d be traveling in South America or the Mid-East and pick-up half a dozen hand-dyed, native fabrics spun by an indigenous person in a local market.
Otherwise, check out an ethnic flea market in your city or order online.
Plain, soft, warm color scales are the best for resonating tranquility within your space.
Once you have the fabric, nail or hang ‘em on the walls covering as much space as possible while maintaining symmetry between their relative positions.
The purpose of this is to give the room a distinct feel as being clearly separate from other rooms.
This feel has a major impact on your subliminal receptors.
After a significant amount of practice you will enter a meditative state simply by entering the room and feeling this feel.
This is the most difficult part for urban-dwellers and it is near impossible to achieve perfection unless you live alone in a mountain cabin.
A forced-air system clicking on, a car passing by, or (god forbid) a roommate watching television will break your concentration like a fist to the face while under the influence of heightened-awareness.
Of all these, a roommate or significant other parading about the house is the worst. Live alone if you can.
There are steps you can take to block-out noise… the simplest of which is wearing ear plugs or muffs.
Sealing doors and windows may be helpful in some cases. Sound is like water and will leak through any gap.
But sealing creates new problems as fresh-air ventilation is of obvious advantage when practicing breath control.
It is an entirely different problem than constructing a music studio where you are trying to keep the sound in, but many of the same principles can be utilized in clever ways.
The things that have major impact however tend to require tearing up and re-installing the drywall. Check out Green Glue.
It is a sacred space, a fortress… not just an empty room.
Like the ancients protected their temples from defilement and profanity, you must protect your sacred space from yourself and others.
You are not using this space to eat, sleep, socialize or browse the internet.
There is nothing but meditation, prayer and yogic practice that happens there.
Other people have no business entering your space. Their lack of understanding and respect can cause damage. For most people, nothing is sacred.
The best thing is a lock and key. This not only prevents intruders, but reminds you not to stumble into the room without being mindful of your current state.
This goes along with protection.
Every time you enter the room for practice, you carry out a protocol that brings about a particular state of mindfulness. The purpose of this is to switch your mind from one mode to another.
Before entering your sacred space, a cleansing ritual is common: hands and feet with soap and water.
Putting on a robe or special garment that is loose-fitting is advantageous. It should be something that is worn only in your sacred space and treated with the utmost care.
Then typically a prayer or set of affirmations. This will lock-in the switch and help you banish any residue of agitation or bad feelings that you’ve collected in the day.
Once you’ve entered the room, incense is a useful tool in bathing the air in a special scent you’ve chosen.
Again – this is all about creating subliminal cues that remind your deeper, unconscious mind of the internal states of peace you experience while meditating.
These rituals are anchors upon which those states can ‘grab a hold’ and create neural triggers.
A ritual differs from a habit in that it is intentional and calculated for a specific purpose… but the effect is the same.
After repeating these seemingly irrelevant things in your daily routine over and over again, you will find yourself getting into a meditative state of higher-consciousness immediately upon entering your room.
There is a reason sages and religious acolytes take rituals deadly serious — they work.
There is real magic in rituals like these; they will transform you.
But you’ll never know it unless you are diligent in treating each act as a sacrament.
6. An Altar
Traditionally this is the raised platform upon which a statue of the deity is mounted and adorned with candles, flowers and ornaments.
Of course it doesn’t have to be a Buddha or Shiva, it can be any object that is from the earth (ideally non-manufactured) or a picture of something that inspires contemplation.
Then again, you could place a token of Jesus on the alter and contemplate the meaning of the crucifixion without actually worshiping the token and calling yourself a Christian.
This kind of contemplation is what builds the intuitive powers of the mind and gives you a deeper understanding of whatever you are considering
The alter could just be a place to put your things while meditating: books, incense etc.
The altar doesn’t have to be about worship at all. Its use can be stated plainly as:
“I am going to be sitting in this room for hours staring ahead. Instead of staring at a painted wall, I might as well put something pretty in front of me.”
7. Spotless maintenance
Your space should never see dirt because you don’t eat or enter with your street clothes.
Nor clutter as there are few objects worthy of inhabiting it.
The mental (or spiritual, if you like) connection that you develop with your space is made strong by constant attention to it’s sacredness.
It is sacred because you make it sacred.
Careful construction and vigilance in keeping it clear of clutter and outside influences will create real magic for you. The kind of magic that cannot be described, only experienced.
Your space will become a castle, a forest, a distant star.
It will be the gate through which you enter yourself.
Protect it and it will protect you.