Even though your Sadhana (spiritual practice) is not just something you do for a few minutes a day but rather a reflection of who you are, there are certain practices which most of us follow regularly. These often include japa meditation, silent meditation, pranayama breathing exercises, chanting and reading inspirational books. While you can perhaps chant in your car and read during your lunch breaks, meditation is best done in a quieter, more settled environment. The only two conditions you really need to meditate are to be able to sit down and close your eyes, so you could do it pretty much anywhere. However, creating your own sacred space gives you a place to return to again and again, a place that vibrates with your spiritual energy.
The ultimate sacred space is always in your own heart. When you sit to meditate, you allow your awareness to turn inwards and you in fact become your own temple. There is a story that, at the beginning of time, when God first created the universe She was in a playful mood and decided to hide the essence of life so humans would have to search hard to find it. Some of the angels suggested hiding it at the bottom of the deep oceans, while others favored the distant stars. Eventually God decided to hide it in the heart of every person, “They’ll never think of looking there for it”, She said. However, while you continue your search within, creating a suitable external environment in which to meditate can greatly enhance your experience. Just as when you enter a church, temple or other place of worship, you immediately feel a sense of calm, when you enter your sacred space you should immediately begin to slip into a meditative mood. The association of the place creates an instant physiological reaction.
Your sacred space can be as simple as a favorite chair or as elaborate as your own shrine room but for most people, a seat in front of small table or altar is sufficient. Before deciding on the location of your sacred space try meditating in different places in your home, facing different directions and using different types of seats. Traditionally we meditate facing the direction of the sun, east in the morning and west in the afternoon however, find what is most comfortable for you. See if you notice that one place and situation seems naturally more comfortable and conducive to your practice. Obviously you will want to find a place where disturbances can be minimized but don’t think that the most remote corner will necessarily be the most suitable. Your space also needs to be practical so you or others can easily live with it.
Having chosen a location, the next step is to decide how to set up your space and what to include within it. There are no hard and fast rules to this and you can have a lot of enjoyment creating a space to suit your personal preferences and affiliations. For many people their sacred space is a constant “work in progress”, changing frequently to reflect their own inner growth.
First decide how you like to sit to meditate. Are you more comfortable on a chair or on the floor? Either way, it’s recommended that we have our own asana on which to sit and a shawl used just for the purpose of meditation. The asana is a small square or
rectangular mat just large enough to sit on. Both the asana and shawl are best made from pure natural wool but silk can also be used. With use over time, both of these items will become charged with your Shakti, helping to raise your vibration as soon as you sit to meditate. It is best to keep these items for your own use and not to share them with others.
Your altar can be a small table or raised platform. Depending on whether you will be sitting on a chair or the floor, choose the height of your altar accordingly. The items on your altar should reflect the spiritual values that are important to you. You could include pictures of gurus and teachers who you respect, statues of Vedic deities, religious artifacts, crystals and items from nature. You can even have your own photograph on our altar to remind you that you are ultimately honoring your own soul. Your altar doesn’t have to express only one set of values, it can reflect any number of faiths, traditions and philosophies that are meaningful to you. Burning a candle on the altar reminds us of the light of pure consciousness, which your practice helps to radiate throughout the world. The smell of incense or an essential oil helps to anchor your experience and so, consistently using the same aroma, will immediately move you into a meditative state. While music can be helpful to settle you before meditation, playing it during meditation may distract your awareness from moving into a deeper silence. You may also wish to create a mini version of your altar, which you can easily pack, take with you and set up, when you travel to other locations.
Remember, your sacred space is a reflection of your spiritual practice. Keep it clean and tidy and don’t allow it to become too cluttered and, most of all, enjoy it!