By Carmella Stone-Klein, Head of Yoga and Mindfulness
When was the last time you made time to sit with yourself and just be? How well do you know the shape of your inner Self, the Self that doesn’t identify with external concerns like where you come from, what you do for a living, who you’re in relation to, and what you look like?
If the answer is, “I can’t remember,” don’t be ashamed. Most people can’t. It may not surprise you to read this, but self-awareness cannot be found while watching TV, checking your emails, or yelling at the news.
As the varied distractions of the world fight for our attention — like this intensely stressful election, the pandemic, the economy, the murder hornets! — it becomes more difficult to access peacefulness, reflection, and patience. I’m sure you’ve noticed the resulting added stress and tension in the mind and body.
So how do you learn to focus your mind away from these distractions in order to develop a deeper understanding of the layers of your being that lie beneath your exterior Self?
One aspect of the mind-body connection is closely tethered to space. Creating a sacred space in your home or life where you can practice self-reflection and cultivate calm is an amazing way to engage in self care. And to all the teachers out there…You really need to be scheduling time for self care. Even if it’s just ten minutes a day.
How to create a sacred space in your home
A sacred space is essentially any place that you can find a glimpse or feeling of the divine, of harmony, of peace. You can create an area that’s dedicated to meditation, yoga, reflection, or simply an escape from the stressors of the outside world with a bit of thought and intention.
Here are some tips to get you started:
Designate a space
This should be a spot that’s dedicated to your ritual of calm. Meaning you shouldn’t be working from home here. Even in a small living space, you can find a corner that can be converted to a sacred space. Look around your home and seek out a space that might fit a yoga mat or a small rug or blankets and cushions to sit on. I like to have a space that’s clear of furniture and with open wall space.
Create some ambience
A flameless candle, a bouquet of dried herbs, a vase of pebbles, an essential oil diffuser…choose an item that will bring you peace. Having this space near a window with a soothing view is also a great option.
Keep your space clutter free
A cluttered space is akin to a cluttered mind, so keep your sacred space tidy so that it’s ready for you at any time without effort. (I have to keep my space vacuumed because my fluffy dog enjoys sitting in this space as well!) Your sacred space should be inviting and promote clarity.
Make yourself use the space
Begin a discipline of spending 10 to 15 minutes everyday in your space. I like to practice yoga in my sacred space, or sit with my back to the wall, or recline with my legs up the wall. Decide what time of day is best for you…early morning when your home is quiet, afternoon when the sun is bright, or to calm yourself before bedtime.
Once you have this space set up, you’ll find that it calls to you, inviting you to become more mindful of taking care of yourself physically, emotionally, and mentally.
What do I do once I have my sacred space?
That’s entirely up to you. You can practice yoga, do visualizations, reflect on your day, practice gratitude. Here’s a meditation to guide you through. You can set a timer, starting with 3 minutes and working your way up if that’s helpful as you begin your practice:
- Sit upright and well-supported (use the wall for your back, or sit in a firm chair). This posture aids deeper breathing and removes dullness from the body and mind. Plus if you lay down, you might just fall asleep!
- Place a blanket on your legs and rest your hands softly on the blanket. Take off your glasses if you wear any.
- Imagine a mirror covered with dust. This mirror lies within your heart space.
- Observe your breath attentively and label it…inhalation, exhalation,..inhalation, pause, exhalation.
- As you hear sounds around you, label them and then refocus on your breath. As thoughts come into your mind, understand that it is the nature of your mind to move like the leaves on the trees in a breeze. So every time a thought come into your awareness, let it drift away with the breeze of your exhalation.
- Let the rhythm of your breath be natural and smooth.
- Release any tension in your shoulders downward with your exhalation. Feel the imprint of your inhalation as it fills the rib cage and chest without tightening your jaw or throat. Relax your tongue into the base of the mouth. Swallow saliva naturally as you need.
- Let your eyelids softly cover your eyes. Look inward, as if your vision is aimed at the heart. Feel the inner space of the cheekbones and the inner ears. Listen to the sound of the breath.
- Observe that your palms and fingers are relaxed.
- Feel the legs and feet and toes and exhale. Exhale from your head to your feet.
- Now call to mind that mirror in the heart space, and that with each exhalation, imagine some dust being cleared from its surface.
- Watch the breath, feel the breath as it moves through the body.
- Maintaining the softness of your eyes, gaze within towards the mirror in the heart space. You are gazing within…behold your true Self is waiting to be seen, felt, realized. The light of the Self lies within.
- Stay with this feeling, this sound of silence, for as long as you like and embrace the moment of being present within your own Self. This is a glimmer of consciousness beyond thought.
The importance of discipline and ritual
“Attention is the beginning of devotion.”Mary Oliver, Upstream
It takes time and practice to develop this good habit, so be patient with yourself if you aren’t able to utilize this space every day at first. But if you remain disciplined and take baby steps, making room in your physical space, you will begin to notice a ripple effect. You will find space in your mind to be quiet, to listen to your body and emotions, and to move beyond the stress, strain, and speed of mundane life. When you can do this, it is a meaningful gift to yourself and you will tap into the fountain of energy and quietude that lies within.
The benefits of daily mindfulness and self care
“Such space and time allows us to set aside our personal agendas, our identification with “I, me, and mine” and to return, even briefly, to the essence of our being. While some tend to view such unstructured time as unproductive or even wasteful, they fail to recognize that all of us need space and time to restore ourselves, to replenish our resources from a source deep within. Giving from an empty well leads to burnout”.Gitte Bechsgaard, The Gift of Consciousness
Having a designated sacred space helps you to remember to keep up this practice. When you practice the ritual of self care and reflection every day, you will become more compassionate and patient. Your body will thank you! The regular practice of meditation, yoga, or mindfulness has a positive effect on your immune system and organ systems. When the stress response of the sympathetic nervous system is calmed through effective yoga postures, proper breathing, and mental and emotional adjustment, the parasympathetic component of the nervous system takes over. The result is less stress on the heart, better digestion, and overall good health. The vessel of your body needs cleansing, purification, and renewal. Give your body what it needs.