Being in a peaceful, sacred place gives us the opportunity to come back to ourselves. But as Brother Phap Dung writes in the book Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice, this peaceful place doesn’t have to be a church or synagogue. It can be our home.
“If we make space for contemplation and meditation right in our own homes, then peace and joy are always available to us,” Dung writes in the introduction of the book. In this sacred space in our home, he writes, we are able to “return to ourselves and touch something deep within ourselves.”
In Making Space author Thich Nhat Hanh, a Zen master, poet and activist, talks about everything from the power of sitting to eating mindfully to practicing deep relaxation. According to Nhat Hanh, “The key to creating a home meditation practice is to create space where the busyness stops.”
For many of us this is really hard to do because busy and work don’t stop when we open the door. Some of us work from home. Others still cook, clean, pay bills and perform other tedious household tasks.
But Nhat Hanh’s tips are practical and feasible. Here are three of my favorite tips from the book on how we can build a busy-free sanctuary.
1. Put poems around your home to remind you to stop rushing.
These visual cues serve as gentle reminders to stop and focus on the present moment. Stopping also gives us space to observe negative thinking without getting stuck in its sticky web; and to connect to what is positive and healing. These are several short poems or gathas Nhat Hanh suggests (along with where to put them):
Near the sink:
Water flows from high in the mountains.
Water runs deep in the Earth.
Miraculously, water comes to us,
and sustains all life.
Near a sitting area:
Feelings come and go
like clouds in a windy sky.
is my anchor.
On the front door:
I have arrived.
I am home.
2. Create a breathing space.
Whether you live alone or with others, it’s important to have a breathing room. Or if you live in a smaller place, you can have a breathing corner. The two most important elements of this space are to sit and feel peace. Anyone in your household can use this space whenever they need it. Ultimately, it helps you take a break in your own home.
Your breathing space is sacred. It is where anger, arguing and even talking are off limits. It is your sanctuary. It is where you go when you feel upset, anxious or uneasy. It not only helps you ease your suffering, but it may help you better understand its source.
Once you’re in your breathing space, you can sit down (on a cushion, if you like), and invite the sound of the bell. As Nhat Hanh writes, “in the Zen tradition, we don’t say that we ring or strike the bell, instead we ‘invite’ the bell with the ‘inviter’ (usually a wooden stick) — and practice breathing mindfully.”
3. Create an altar in your breathing space.
According to Nhat Hanh, “Creating and maintaining an altar is a way to pay respect to the world around us, our ancestors, and the natural world, and to remind us that whatever we love and respect is also within us.”
Your altar includes anything that is important to you. For instance, you might include a bell, an incense holder, images, candles, flowers, a small rock, a statue and words that ground you.
In our go-go-go society, we tend to eschew stopping and relaxing. We pride ourselves on our productivity and ability to get things done. And we often jam-pack our schedules with tasks and activities. But as Nhat Hanh writes, “When we rest, everything becomes easier.” When we stop, breathe and relax, we restore our well-being. This gives us the opportunity to “be our best.”
Sitting at home photo available from Shutterstock