Looking for a way to lower your stress levels and enjoy more peace of mind? Meditation might just be the tool you’re looking for. While meditation is a long-practiced activity by many different kinds of people, it’s not necessary to remove yourself from the “real world” in order to cultivate a practice. It’s nice if you can take a month off from work to move into a cedar cabin in Malibu, or to visit an internationally-known meditation center, but you can also go on a refreshing meditation retreat without ever leaving your home. Try these suggestions to set up and enjoy a restful and enriching experience.
Steps for Preparing Your Home
1. Clear away clutter. Minimize distractions by putting the TV, phone and computer out of sight. This is good time to discard possessions you rarely use or store them away. Physical clutter also tends to cause mental clutter! If you have a space you can dedicate to your meditation practice, make sure to clean out that space, but if not, a corner of another room can work just fine.
2. Set out appropriate objects. Select a few items that help to put you in the mood. You may want to arrange a small vase of flowers or serve yourself tea on a pretty tray. Eliminate anything you don’t need – you can always add things back later, but be careful not to restore the clutter.
3. Prepare to eat light. Foods that are easy to digest will let you concentrate your energy on other activities. Fill your refrigerator with yogurt and salad greens. Drink protein shakes and plenty of water. Try to eliminate distractions – sometimes a heavy meal can force your body to work so hard that you cannot focus on your meditation.
4. Dim the lights. Soft lights will calm your mind. Light candles or use shaded table lamps, and pull sheer curtains or lightweight drapes across the windows so that the sunshine (or rain) doesn’t distract you.
5. Gather inspirational reading material. Browse online or visit your library for books that you can read during your retreat. Pick whatever is meaningful for you. Consider using audio books so that you can limit your physical movement if that helps you to relax.
6. Keep track of time. When you’re new to meditating, it may help to use a device that will let you know how much time is passing without watching the clock. Put your alarm clock behind you and set it to a pleasant sound. Or sit for as long as it takes one stick of incense to burn down, time how long you’ve been sitting, and use that for a reference point in the future.
7. Find a cushion. You can buy an official looking cushion or use your bed pillow. Sit in a straight backed chair if you find that more comfortable. Try to remain sitting if lying down will encourage you to fall asleep – the point of meditation IS to relax, but not so much that you fall asleep.
Steps for Preparing Your Mind
1. Pick a good time. Make some free time on your calendar. Your best dates may be when your spouse is away on a business trip or your kids are spending the night at a friend’s house. Give yourself the luxury of time to create this new experience and plan ahead for success.
2. Slow down in advance when possible. The weekend after a major convention could be a difficult time to switch gears. Become more deliberate and mindful in the days before your retreat so you’ll need less transition time and can relax and de-stress more easily.
3. Try to resolve any pressing issues. Take care of doctor visits and car repairs before you go on retreat. Put aside future plans as much as possible.
4. Let people know you’ll be out of touch. Write an auto reply for your email letting people know you’ll reply on whatever date your retreat is over. Ask your loved ones to avoid contacting you except for emergencies.
5. Focus on what you want to attain. Set a goal for your retreat. You may want to strengthen your determination to pursue a new career path. Maybe you want to draw closer to your family and friends. Having a plan ahead of time will help you to focus during your retreat.
During Your Meditations
1. Breathe deeply. Breathing correctly improves your mental functions. Take full breaths from down in your abdomen. Let the air travel in and out of your nostrils. Think about extending your normal breathing cycle – slow down your inhalation and work to completely exhale and maximize your oxygen.
2. Straighten up. Good posture also helps you stay alert and concentrate better. Straighten your back, relax your shoulders, and hold your head erect and slightly forward. This will also help you breathe more deeply.
3. Observe your thoughts. Watch your thoughts without making judgments. Identify any concerns or goals you want to spend more time reflecting on after your retreat.
After Your Retreat
Much of the value of any retreat lies in the aftermath – write down your impressions and feelings after you have completed the retreat. Develop a practical plan of action for reaching your goals. Review your progress daily to help stay on track.
Get away from it all while you stay at home. Meditation retreats occur in your mind, so create a peaceful setting and generate positive thoughts you can take along with you when you resume your daily routine.