Creating a calm and secure setting for your practice is a great advantage. Some people are fortunate enough to have a whole room they can devote to meditation; others have a section or corner of a room they can use. But not all of us have these resources available. Luckily, since meditation is mostly an Inner Mind practice, physical space is not mandatory. What is important is to be able to generate a kind of mental space for your work. One aid to creating the proper mental space for meditation is to have a personal meditation symbol. Before each meditation session, you take out your symbol and place it in front of you. The symbol, thus, creates the environment. Wherever you are, the symbol takes you to your special Meditation Temple or Sanctum. Although physically being in the same place every day is desirable, with a symbol and the right frame of mind you can meditate anywhere.
You should treat your symbol with reverence. Keep it safe and protected and gaze at it with respect and appreciation.
The symbol need not be religious in nature. It could be anything that invokes a feeling in you of peace and security and perhaps connection to the infinite. Anything of personal significance can be used as a symbol. It can be a picture, a statue, an emblem, a personal object, a flower, a phrase written on a card – whatever suits your belief system and temperament.
Take some time and choose a symbol that resonates with you. This is your personal symbol and only has to make sense to you. Choose whatever works. While looking for or creating the right symbol – CONTINUE your daily practice of sitting. This is very important. You should strive to sit EVERY DAY.
Meditation is like the calisthenics of the spirit. It leads on to advanced spiritual athletics and acrobatics. Although almost anyone can run or jump to some degree, it takes work to get into top physical shape. In the same way, although meditation is a perfectly natural aspect of being human, it is, initially, somewhat difficult to place yourself in a meditative state at will and sustain the condition. This initial difficulty is a reason so few people get around to really doing it. The mind as well as the body tends to resist it, much as the muscles initially resist a good workout and become stiff and sore when one is not in good condition. We know that the best way to get rid of sore muscles is to warm them up and work them out until they become limber and strong. The same is true of the mind – it takes discipline to build up the mental and spiritual muscles so that they perform to their full potential. Once the habit of meditation is achieved, the mental resistance that made it so difficult at first will help you resist stopping the practice. The disciplined habit will then cause us to feel uncomfortable if we DON’T meditate.
When you have worked on Lesson 1 and feel comfortable just siting for 10 minutes a day, try adding your personal symbol to the practice. Use the symbol as a focal point to help you concentrate. Sit for 10 minutes a day, every day, no matter what. Get into this habit until it becomes like brushing your teeth – something you just do every day.
For this lesson:
- Select a time of day and a place in your home where there is the least likelihood of being disturbed.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothing; loosen shoes, belts, or anything binding.
- Take out your symbol (when you have found one) and put it in front of you.
- Then SIT undisturbed for 10 minutes a day.
Once you feel comfortable with the habit of just sitting WITH YOUR SYMBOL for 10 minutes, expand the time slowly to 20 minutes and beyond – but NO MORE than an hour. Unless you are in a particularly fortunate state of affairs, more than an hour of such meditation will drastically take away from the practical concerns of home, family and career. There may, indeed, come a time when you can commit yourself totally to a spiritual life, but there is no need to rush into it. A simple commitment of 20 minutes a day is sufficient.
Do this for at least another 7 to 10 days before moving on to the next lesson.
Focus on your symbol – study and understand it. Experience your body and what is happening to it as you JUST SIT. Examine the random thoughts that come up for you and will yourself to overcome all the objections to continuing this practice. Of course it is boring, of course it is silly, of course it doesn’t make sense – yet this practice has benefited people all over the world for thousands of years. And it will benefit you too – if you will persevere and allow the process to unfold.