By Bill Primavera
In her memoir, “Eat, Pray, Love,” author Elizabeth Gilbert (and actress Julia Roberts in the movie) travels the world to find spiritual fulfillment, but most of us probably conduct our quiet time for meditation or prayer at home.
We all know the designated places to eat and to make love – although I do sometimes eat in the bedroom and hear that some people make love in the kitchen. But where do we meditate or pray?
Enduring a pandemic is as good a time as ever to think about meditative practices and where to do them.
While enjoying a winetasting one evening some time ago (before being isolated) with some realtor buddies, the subject came up, and we were all quite open, even enthusiastic, about how and where we “go within.”
“I prefer doing it outside, observing nature,” said one, “and I do it with my eyes open,” she added, which surprised me. While Buddha was able to meditate outside under a tree, I lack that capability, finding outdoor sounds and even the breeze distracting.
“I can focus anyplace and anywhere I happen to be in my home,” another friend said. That talent also eludes me.
A third friend said he meditates in his office, taking a few moments when the need arises. That is something I did years ago when I worked a 9-to-5 job in the most dysfunctional office environment imaginable. I would sometimes retreat to the men’s room, perhaps two or three times a day, go into a stall and repeat the mantra, “relax, relax, relax.” This survival technique was abandoned after my boss asked me if I suffered from gastrointestinal problems.
At home, I suspect that many of us have our own special place dedicated to making contact with our inner selves and the universe. I was reminded of this a while back when I was told of a complaint from a seller who said that an agent left her business card on the homeowner’s “altar,” which would seem to be a violation of sacred space. The agent, in her own defense, said, “Gee, it looked like a regular sideboard to me.”
At the height of my spiritual quest some years ago, I explored an endless and seemingly discordant mix of meditative practices. These included listening to new age and gospel music, the sound of an indoor waterfall and a vibrating chime, all supported with the energies of crystal healing, a very heavy dose of Vipassana meditation and attendance at a then-popular men’s group. (God that men’s movement was awful, when guys just got together and mostly complained about not getting enough sex.)
It would have been impossible to engage in such an elaborate other-worldly plan either outdoors or in a public place. So I carved out a space – actually an entire room – for personal meditation. I figured that it could double as a second guestroom. Then, I started collecting crystals (minerals I called them to the outside world), and I became so obsessive about it, not so much for their metaphysical qualities, but for their sheer physical beauty, that at one point my quiet place looked like an outpost of the American Museum of Natural History.
Our first houseguest invited to sleep in that room refused. It seems that she had taken a different path to spirituality than I had, one that would classify any association with crystals as witchcraft. To each his or her own, I say.
Today my meditation room, pared of most of its crystals, has certain features that I would recommend for others who want to carve out their own quiet spaces. And the formula can be quite simple. Whether an entire room or a corner of one, the space should be uncluttered and capable of being darkened even in the morning or middle of the day. There should be a system for producing sound, preferably through earphones rather than ambient sound for better concentration. Also, depending on one’s beliefs, there might be religious or spiritual symbols or a touchstone of some sort to set the mood.
Some can meditate on a floor mat, but some of us are not that agile, so there should be a chair that is comfortable but not too comfortable or there is the risk of falling asleep while meditating. What serves as my launching pad as my mind jettisons into altered time is an old wingback chair that has seen better days. I know I should replace it, but what if a new chair didn’t conform just the right way to my back, and what if the height of the seat wasn’t perfect for me? This chair and I have spent a lot of altered time together to the point where it’s become symbolic of my spiritual growth. So how could I let it go?
The one finishing touch might be signage for the entrance to the space that reads: “Altered state of consciousness within. Please do not enter.”
Bill Primavera is a realtor® associated with William Raveis Real Estate as well as a writer, editor and public relations consultant (www.PrimaveraPR.com) specializing in lifestyles and real estate. To engage the services of The Home Guru to market your home for sale, call 914-522-2076.