PREPARING FOR MEDITATION
Making preparations for meditation is quite a large subject and a great deal has been written on the matter. I’m therefore going to break it down into bite-sized chunks, but with the energy of the Full Snow Moon nearly upon us (19th February), I am conscious that I also need to include some basic guidelines as to how to meditate so you can use the waxing moon's energy to navigate safely through to the other side!
Why is preparation necessary?
Your Mind, Body and Soul (MBS) needs to be trained to understand that when you sit on a chair or cross-legged on the floor to meditate, that there is a difference in your expectations of them, from sitting on a chair or cross-legged on the floor to complete tasks such as reading, eating etc.
By making regular, routine preparations over a period of time, it will become a habit and your MBS will know that when you make certain preparations, it’s because you intend to meditate.
In respect of creating a habit, it takes quite a while to train your MBS to accept something new. James Clear, a behavioural psychologist notes the following:
“How Long it Really Takes to Build a New Habit
Phillippa Lally is a health psychology researcher at University College London. In a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, Lally and her research team decided to figure out just how long it actually takes to form a habit. The study examined the habits of 96 people over a 12-week period. Some people chose simple habits like “drinking a bottle of water with lunch.” Others chose more difficult tasks like “running for 15 minutes before dinner.” At the end of the 12 weeks, the researchers analysed the data to determine how long it took each person to go from starting a new behaviour to automatically doing it.
On average, it takes more than 2 months before a new behaviour becomes automatic — 66 days to be exact. How long it takes a new habit to form can vary widely depending on the behaviour, the person, and the circumstances. In Lally's study, it took anywhere from 18 days to 254 days for people to form a new habit. In other words, if you want to set your expectations appropriately, the truth is that it will probably take you anywhere from two months to eight months to build a new behaviour into your life. Interestingly, the researchers also found that “missing one opportunity to perform the behaviour did not materially affect the habit formation process.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if you mess up every now and then. Building better habits is not an all-or-nothing process.”
If you have a room where you can have your own “space” to meditate, the act of walking into this space sets the intention to meditate. It doesn’t have to be a large space, just somewhere that isn’t cluttered that you can either place a chair (with a back for support), or a cushion or pillow, whatever is comfortable to sit on.
“Clutter” holds negative energy from such things as arguments, illness and anxiety, which can get stuck in corners of the room too. It’s beneficial to clear not just your sacred space, but all your rooms where such things might have a negative effect. Tools for setting the intention to remove such negativity are explained below:
· Clapping your hands around the clutter and into corners. It may help to open a window and imagine the negative energy floating out of the room and dissipating into the air.
· The vibration of a singing bowl is a lovely way to remove negative energy in the same way as clapping.
· Lighting a sage stick and wafting the smoke around the clutter, (this is called smudging). You can also waft it around yourself to release any negativity from your aura, but please do be careful! Start at your feet and work up to your head, or whichever way you feel most comfortable – it’s all about intention! You can buy smudge sticks on line or in local specialised stores. You may wish to say something like “I clear this room of all negative energy and replace it with love and light”, but again it’s what works for you and what feels right.
· You can buy essential oil sprays or light an incense stick. My favourite is patchouli and these can be bought quite cheaply on-line.
· If you find crystals beneficial, Tourmaline cleanses, purifies and transforms dense energy into a lighter vibration. It brings protection during rituals, disperses negative energy, balances and connects the chakras and is also beneficial for the garden and plants.
· Adding a plant into your sacred space will bring nature into your room and green is a healing colour. The oxygen it releases will also energise the room.
At the end of the day, it’s all about intention – you could simply walk into your space and say “I clear this room of negative energy and replace it with love and light” and job done! When first starting out though, with setting a new habit in mind, it’s good to use such tools so your MBS knows you mean business and are making preparations for meditation.
In the early stages of meditation it helps to create a “ritual”, but do take care not to become dependent upon the ritual itself. If you include lighting a candle or listening to a CD, but then run out of candles or have lost the CD, you don’t want to be so dependent upon them that you can’t then meditate.
If you cleanse the room in the same way each time, this will help your MBS to know that you are about to meditate. Whenever possible, meditate at the same time every day and start with just 10 – 15 minutes. If it’s only 5 minutes a day, it’s a good starting point.
You may find it useful to have a small table on which to place any items onto it that resonate with you, such as a candle, incense burner, essential oil diffuser, crystals, fresh flowers etc. You may have a favourite stone that you have picked up from the beach that has happy memories or something similar. (NB take care with your choice of candles as some conventional candles are created from paraffin, which is a petroleum by-product that creates unhealthy air quality when burned). “Smudge” the table and items to clear negative attachments, with the intention of replacing them with love and light, then use the items solely for meditation.
Please do note that you don’t have to do any of the above – you can simply sit on a chair or floor with the intention of meditating, but it definitely helps to train, in particular the mind, when you are first starting out. It is however, essential to turn off any phones, social media or anything that will disturb or distract you.
I will write more on this subject in the next blog to explain the why’s and wherefores, but for now, let’s get you started and keep it as simple as possible.
· Sit in a position so that you have a straight back and are comfortable. (Wearing comfortable clothes will help too);
· If sitting in a chair, place your feet firmly on the floor so they aren’t crossed;
· Place your hands comfortably on your lap (uncrossed too). Don’t worry about positions for your hands at this stage;
· Let your MBS know that you are sitting with the intention of meditation;
· Close your eyes to avoid distractions and take a couple of slow, deep breaths, inhaling and exhaling;
· Return to regular breathing and be aware of the inhale and exhale. It may help to say “Inhale” and “Exhale” out loud, to keep you focused;
· Each time your mind wanders, bring yourself back to focusing on the breath;
· There are a number of guided meditations you can listen to on the Internet, or you may want to play some relaxing music, which may help in the early stages to encourage your mind to quieten and your body to simply “sit”, even for a short time. It is better to start out in short bursts, rather than have high expectations of yourself;
· Daily practice is preferable to longer ad hoc “sittings”;
· At the end of the meditation let your MBS know that you have finished and say thank you;
· Extinguish any candles / incense burners etc;
· Write in your journal how long you sat for; how your mind and thoughts reacted; how you felt and whatever else you would like to record;
That’s the essence of meditation. In the next blog I will discuss certain aspects of meditation in more depth.
I do hope you have found this blog interesting and please do let us have your comments / feedback!