Do you have a “sacred space” devoted to your times of meditation? Most practitioners do. Of course, any place can be deemed sacred by the meditation practitioner; it doesn’t have any specific physical requirements. The picture below…
…shows my outdoor space of choice (see the bench at the top of the waterfall?). My indoor space looks like this:
May I give you a brief tour? I love genuine antiques, especially those that have deep meanings for their owners. We acquired the gorgeous Asian display case above at a privately-owned antique shop; from the moment I laid eyes on it, I knew it wanted to come home with me to help define my meditative space. I enjoy lighting candles before beginning to meditate, hence the four candles you see on the left and center. (I would gladly light incense as well, but my wife is terribly allergic!) On the left to the rear sits a little statue of the Goddess Gaia, a depiction of divinity as the Spirit of the Earth. Center right, I have flowers that are constantly being replaced. My Sensei taught me that flowers are always on their way to becoming trash, and trash is always on its way to becoming flowers. If we learn to “compost” the unpleasant things that come into our lives, we can plant them and enjoy the beauty of the flowers that grow in their place.
Finally, to the right, I have a Tibetan Bell. It’s the genuine article, given to me by my daughter, and one of my most prized possessions. In Mindfulness Meditation, we open and close our sitting meditation by “inviting the bell to sound.” On the in-breath, we say silently, “Listen! Listen!” and on the out–breath, we silently recite, “That wonderful sound brings me back to my true self.” Then I sit on my mat in a half-lotus position (the full lotus strains my muscles) and spend about twenty minutes repeating a mantra silently on my in- and out-breaths. It’s very beautiful, and a most effective way to center and focus the mind.
Meditation as I understand it is about bringing mind, body and spirit together in a perfectly unified whole through conscious breathing. I sometimes use the Sanskrit mantra, Om Nama Shivaya, (“I bow to the divine within.”) At other times I repeat one of the beautiful mantras taught by the Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Naht Hahn. The simplest of these is this:
Breathing in, I know I am breathing in;
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
Simple awareness of breathing is magical. Thich Naht Hahn teaches that, while our minds and bodies are often in different places, conscious breathing brings them together again, allowing us to be fully present. Simple breathing, if guided by deep awareness, has the power to unite disparate parts of our being.
Closing the meditation, I blow out the candles, remembering to inwardly extinguish the poisons of hatred, greed, and ignorance. Then I invite the bell to sound once more, and allow its reminder of “coming back to my true self” into the day.
William K Ferro