So you now have a new meditation space set up in your home or office, and are really ready to move forward to commit to that daily sit down when you actually work on that busy mind that keeps you stressed and overworked every day. If you’re uncertain on how to take those next steps, here are some helpful ideas.
Long ago I set my intentions of meditating everyday before I followed Vajrayana Buddhism. My spiritual path was personal, not connected to any specific faith. I talked to others who did yoga, some who followed Hindu masters, and others who were free spirits and were nondenominational but still had a spiritual path that was their own. They all told me about their altars, what they looked like, and how to build one. So I did to.
I sat down at this altar I created; candles, incense, a couple of statues, and even playing digital bell sounds from monasteries in Switzerland (of all places) that were supposed to help meditation. I was cross legged on a cushion like I thought I needed to be, candles lit, incense smoking, bells ringing in the distance…. and… well. There I sat.
That was when I realized I had no idea what was supposed to happen. I actually thought a couple of times “Am I meditating yet?”. And then “Is something supposed too happen that tells me I’m doing this right?”. I felt utterly out of place. I had no idea how to actually meditate. If this is you, I’m hoping these ideas might give you more direction than I had at that time, and help you make some good decisions on how to proceed.
There are two or three different types of meditation, and it’s good to know those broad categories so you can make choices. I’m not a master, and these three ways are not to be considered religious or perfect. They are just meant to give you ideas on how to find what works best for you.
- The practice of quieting your mind – watch your mind, train it to be still, at peace. There are many books that will help this kind of practice such as “Stabilizing the Mind” by Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo.
- The practice of doing mantra – receive a mantra from a teacher, or choose one that sounds peaceful and calming to you when heard. ‘Om’ is one word, ‘Om ah hung’ is a three word chant that is very ancient. Both of these can bring peace when said clearly over in over, in the mind, or quietly out loud, until a kind of peace descends because your mind becomes focused on only one thing and naturally quiets.
- Visualizing a great being with virtuous qualities, and meditate on that pure quality – imagining it to be a part of you, that you also become that pure quality – pristine and compassionate. This can be the Medicine Buddha, Mother Mary, Jesus, Buddha Shakyamuni, or even Mother Theresa or Gandhi. To some people this gives a real centeredness to your being, and brings a feeling of peace and purpose.
These are only three ways you might begin to meditate, but at least you’ll have an idea of where to start. If it feels right, take classes, or find a book to read that resonates with your beliefs or views, and you should soon know why so many believe in this idea of meditation and peace.
You can also go online to find free meditation classes where you can practice with others, participate in a meditation that is guided, or do mantra in a group. For some this helps them stay disciplined for an everyday practice or weekly effort.
There are also meditation gardens where you can do your own meditation practice so do a search on the web and enjoy! Here are three ideas of what you might find out there.
Kunzang Palyul Choling
KPC in Maryland outside Washington DC has a great walking set of meditation gardens.It’s a perfect place to go and visit especially during COVID restrictions because the grounds are amazing with long walking trails and Stupas, ponds, creeks and other Buddhist gardens. This temple was founded by Her Eminence Jetsunma Ahkon Lhamo in the 1980’s and the group has a very positive impact on the community, and the world through prayer that is very specific and compassionate based on a deeply traditional lineage from Tibet, but you don’t have to be Buddhist, or even religious to visit. It’s free and a wonderful day trip from the city.
Meditation Gardens at the Self-Realization Fellowship Center
Encinitas is a beach town just north of San Diego. One of the best places to visit is the free Meditation Gardens at the Self-Realization Fellowship. Located on the cliffs above the beach, this is one of the most scenic areas in coastal San Diego County. This temple was founded by a great yogi by the name of Paramahansa Yogananda, a much loved and followed master in the 1950’s. Their outside meditation garden is free and just along the beach. You can get directions and read more here .
Crestone Retreats – Colorado
The Crestone area of Colorado is home too many different meditation centers and temples. It is in a remote area just over the mountains from Colorado Springs and outside the Great Sand Dunes National Park. One of the most well know retreats is the Crestone Zen Mountain Center. It’s not just a garden, its not free, and the minimum stay is four days, but it’s safe from covid, and guarantee’s you’ll be away from noise and busy because the internet is spotty at best. Beautiful and very quiet. And visit the amazingly peaceful Tashi Goman Stupa close by accessible down a twisty dirt road, but worth the trip.
We hope these ideas will inspire you to pursue your own way to meditate, and then return to your own meditation space for daily sit downs, and look deeper into how to accomplish a prayer or practice that can bring peace one day at a time.
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