The Beauty of the Sacred
I was fortunate enough to travel across Thailand recently and had the opportunity to venture into ornate temples adorned from the bricks to the peaks with artistry and beauty. The golden details radiated brightly in the hot sun, the mosaic mirrors glittered, and the statues towered over us as we stumbled through in awe.
Driving across the islands and exploring Chiang Mai, it was hard to miss the altars and offerings people had displayed outside their homes. The physical representation of spirituality and respect was present from the airport to the Grand Palace.
Some of the temples had signs that read, “Buddha is not for decoration.” These temples, filled with golden idols and intricate designs were not there to please our human eye, they were there to offer respect, to represent our own shining Buddha nature, and to value the teachings and scriptures that guide us to liberation.
Creating Sacred Space
Arriving home I decided it was time to deepen my meditation practice by setting up a similar sacred space. We can’t all afford a meditation room (or a temple) but we can offer up a corner or place on our floor to regard as holy. The following suggestions can guide you in making your own Zen-den at home.
1. Getting Comfortable.
In a traditional Zen meditation, there are a variety of pillows available to create a meditation posture. You want to be comfortable for extended periods of time but you also want to remain upright and alert. Have a soft surface to sit on with firm pillows ready in your corner. You can also use a blanket over your lap.
2. Setting the Sound.
Some people prefer meditating in silence so they can take in the naturally occurring noises in their immediate environment. If you prefer nature noises or music you can set up a sound system or small speaker that will project your audio of choice from bluetooth on your phone.
3. Building a Shrine.
In Buddhist tradition and in Buddhist temples it’s customary to honour the Buddha on an altar. The Buddha should be honoured on the highest shelf of the altar. You can add additions such as a prayer book or photo of a revered model like the Dalai Lama. The bottom of the altar should be a places for offerings like fresh water, candles, flowers, fruit, or other food.
4. Lighting Incense.
Incense is a key part of my own meditation practice. Our brains link scents to the memory centre and it’s easy to link a sensory experience of scent to a behaviour or event. When I smell my incense, my nervous system begins to unwind for a peaceful meditation session.
5. Privacy Please.
If you’re sitting down to engage in a meditation, it’s important to limit interruptions. If you’re a busy mother, or have an involved roommate, let the other people in your space know that you need some time (make sure your kids are supervised of course). Lock a door if possible and set up without the concern someone might run in. Nothing breaks a Zen moment like a loud knock and a rattling doorknob.
People opt for different styles of meditation and same goes for their space. Try to keep your meditation zone clean and quiet, other than that, make it feel like yours. Creating a special sacred space can enhance your practice by encouraging you to enter it every day. Happy meditating!