In yesterday’s post
we discussed some of the preliminary considerations before initiating a meditation practice. Today, we will discuss some additional considerations. We’d appreciate hearing comments and suggestions from others. There are many paths!
It is important in beginning a meditation practice to set aside a place to meditate. Select a single place to meditate. You can meditate outside of this space, but use it for the majority of your practice. It is possible to meditate anywhere. But, I recommend that to begin with you pick a quiet place where it’s unlikely that you’ll be interrupted. By having a quiet consistent place there are fewer distractions and it becomes easier for your mind to settle.
In you meditation space learning will occur. The objects, sounds, smells and feel of the place become associated with your meditation. Conditioning will happen slowly and unconsciously. If your meditations are pleasant, the stimuli in the space will become associated with that pleasantness such that as soon as you enter the room you begin to feel good and relax. Even the meditative state becomes associated with the space and in this familiar place you more easily quiet the mind and slip into a peaceful state.
It is important to make meditation pleasant. Don’t set it up at a time and place that is uncomfortable or rushed. There are some forms of meditation that suggest that you must endure and withstand discomfort to progress. I don’t subscribe to that notion. Progress occurs more readily when you’re comfortable, relaxed, and relatively pain free. So, decide in advance that you’ll make it pleasant and not make it a physical challenge or an endurance test. If you are uncomfortable or in pain during meditation then you should consider changing something, perhaps shortening the time of meditation or changing your position or posture. We’ll discuss this in a later post.
There are often questions as to whether it is better to meditate in a group (class, sangha) or alone. I find that it’s useful to do both if possible. I recommend that you start off alone and establish the practice. Starting off in a group can be difficult as you’re often immersed with experienced practitioners who will meditate for longer than you’re presently comfortable. A group or class with beginners like yourself could be a good place to start. But, it is often difficult to locate an appropriate one. So, for most people it is best to start off by yourself until you feel comfortable with meditation.
Later finding a meditation group that you can sit with on occasions can be very beneficial. This should not replace your daily practice alone but rather should supplement and support it. When you’re ready the group can be of great assistance in your progress. The support and companionship of others on the same path can be a tremendous help. Interacting with others can reveal that they are struggling with the meditation as much as you are and can make you feel more comfortable with your own experiences. There is also a subtle group pressure that can provide extra motivation to keep you practicing. In addition, there can be great power and energy produced by the group that can subtly, positively, and unconsciously affect your meditation and experience.
A final note in preparation for beginning your meditation practice, it is helpful to begin reading about meditation. Select some good books written by teachers and experienced practitioners and spend a few minutes each day reading. Meditation can produce some unexpected twists and turns and sometimes it can be psychological and physically troubling. Reading prepares you for the journey by learning in advance the kinds of things you might experience. Hearing of others experiences can also be helpful in coming to understand that what you’re experiencing is not unusual but shared with many meditators.
Now you’re ready to begin your meditation.