He adds: “We have different notifications on our phone all the time. Business emails are coming in,… especially now, with many of us working from home, including me. It is very difficult to draw the line between work and play.”
Successful meditation requires a space — in Keshu’s case, that’s a corner of his downtown Austin apartment — where you can go every day to build the habit of focusing on “internal work and being able to check in with yourself,” says Dora Kamau, a meditation and mindfulness teacher at Headspace. Think of it as your “adult timeout,” she says.
But it doesn’t have to be a separate room; you can practice meditation in a closet or a corner of your bedroom, living room, or home office — or even just in the space at the end of your bed, says Kamau.
Fatima Farmer, a certified mindfulness meditation instructor and breathwork facilitator, says she can meditate “virtually anywhere” if she has her headphones, a playlist, and an eye mask with her.
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Once you’ve found a spot, you’ll need something to sit on, as well as a focal point. You can also consider adding soothing objects, lights, smells, and sounds to enhance your practice. Here are some suggestions from Kamau, Farmer, Keshu and Ofosu Jones-Quartey, a meditation teacher and musician, and the author of the children’s book “Love Your Amazing Self,” on how to create your own meditation nook.
You don’t need a fancy chair, says Keshu. “You can actually just use one of the chairs you have around the house, and eventually, while you practice, maybe invest in a meditation cushion or a support cushion.” Sit on the edge, he says, so “your knees will form a triangular base, which will support you, so you’re not relying on a chair to support your back, and you’re training yourself to sit up straight.”
Set up a focal point within sight of your chair, says Jones-Quartey. This will help focus your attention on an object (a picture, a plant, a candle) and eliminate distractions while meditating. He suggests using a small table or bench, or recycling a cardboard box or other sturdy object in your home.
“Different scents can promote a sense of relaxation in the body,” says Keshu. Candles and incense in sandalwood or lavender are popular choices, he says, and you can also use a candle as a centerpiece. “In the yoga system, this is called trataka, where you’re basically staring at a candle.”
Depending on where you live, lighting objects in your home may not be an option. “I set off the fire alarm a few times in my apartment by lighting candles,” says Keshu.
In that case, try a misting diffuser with a few drops of essential oils and a little water. Farmer suggests buying small bottles or roll-on essential oils because they are portable. (Her favorite scents are eucalyptus and lavender.)
Your meditation space should include a visual cue “to take a breath or pause to connect with gratitude,” says Jones-Quartey. “You shouldn’t see it as an exercise bike. Even if you haven’t meditated for a while, it must still be a beautiful place.”
Jones-Quartey and Keshu both use photos of meditation teachers they admire. “This really inspires you, because when you look at their picture, you can say, ‘If I continue to meditate, I will also develop the same qualities, because everything they have is the result of their meditation practice. And it’s something I can achieve on my own,” says Keshu. Photos of friends and family can also remind you that you’re not alone and that “your practice benefits other people,” he says.
Jones-Quartey incorporates African traditions into his meditation and has photographs of friends who have passed away, as well as people he considers ancestors. “When I finish my meditation, I send all the good energy and merit that I have developed to my ancestors. I will reach out and ask them to continue to contact me and guide me,” he says. He sometimes pours libations for them, “a very Ghanaian custom for contacting dead ancestors.”
Plants, which can lower stress levels and promote relaxation, are another option. Keshu has a snake plant in his meditation corner because “it’s very hard to kill,” he says.
When it comes to lighting, Himalayan salt lamps provide a warm glow that can be more soothing than LED and fluorescent lights, says Keshu. Some people believe the lamps can “give off negative ions, which also purify the air,” he adds.
Crystals are another popular item in meditation rooms, says Keshu. People who use them believe that “certain colors correspond to energy centers in the body, which are related to certain moods,” he says. Chakra practitioners believe that a red stone such as jasper can help boost self-confidence, overcome fear and achieve stability. Yellow crystals, including calcite, are associated with vital energy and sensuality, according to Keshu.
You don’t need a completely silent space to meditate, especially if you’re practicing mindfulness, says Kamau. “It’s really about finding ease and comfort in the noise and not trying to get rid of it.” So if there’s chatter in the next room, rustling leaves or car traffic, just go with it.
But if you’re looking for sounds to enhance your practice, apps like Headspace, Insight Timer, or Liberate offer guided meditations. Or you can try a calming playlist, says Farmer, who prefers lo-fi spa or meditation music.
Kamau spent money on crystal singing bowls, instruments known for releasing soothing sounds that some believe connect to energy points in the body.
Christina Sturdivant Sani is a freelance writer based in Northern Virginia.