There are three essential elements for successfully practicing Zen meditation at home: Space, Time, and Community.
Set aside a space
Home practice is greatly enhanced if the meditation space is dedicated to meditation. Ideally in this space no other activities take place, and it remains undisturbed when not in use. Of course this isn’t always possible, but it is very powerful. Another important element is cleanliness. The act of cleaning the meditation space is a reminder of the importance of meditation, and the ever-returning dust speaks of the necessity of returning to meditation again and again.
An altar setup, which is optional, can bring power and dignity to a meditation space. The various items on the altar are placed there because they have meaning, and serve as reminders of spiritual aspiration. Common items for an altar are a small bowl of fresh water, a small bowl with rice or some other food offering, fresh flowers, an incense bowl, a photo of a teacher or inspiring person, and a spiritual image. There are no rules for a home altar, but it should be kept clean and tidy. Fresh flowers are a wonderful addition to an altar; be sure to change them when they begin to wilt.
Decide on how much time to meditate
Home meditation practice is well served by consistency and it is helpful to meditate at the same time every day. Choose a meditation time that is reasonable, preferably when interruptions are unlikely. Many people wake a little early to meditate first thing in the morning, another common time is just before bed. Some people meditate on lunch break, or at other quiet moments in the day.
It is important to meditate for an amount of time that can be done daily. Choose a length of time that is unquestionably possible, rather than one that feels like a stretch. It is better to meditate for twenty five minutes to thirty minutes per day than for one hour every week. Of course when the meditation period ends it’s fine to continue meditating. This should be done with a mind of enjoyment and appreciation, rather than a sense of “should” or obligation. Once a time of day and length of time have been decided and established, commit to that schedule. Making a firm commitment allows meditation practice to become a habit, rather than something that is done only when it’s convenient.
Meditate with a community (sangha)
Sitting with a sangha is a great addition to a home practice. Sangha is a reminder that there are many, many people in the world who also believe that meditation is important, and are willing to commit time and life energy to the practice. The experience of meditating with a sangha is different than sitting alone, and this difference is very interesting and revealing. A sangha is also an environment to connect with other people, some who are inspiring and some who are challenging. The ZCM Heroes Hill sangha includes a teacher, and interacting with a teacher can be a great catalyst for spiritual practice. A sangha also offers an opportunity to benefit others with the fruits of meditation. Listening attentively or supporting someone in need are great gifts to share, and enhanced by meditation practice.
At ZCM we offer a weekly schedule and keep to it come rain or shine, hot or cold. We will help you develop your own schedule (or practice agreement) that harmonizes with how you live your life. And we will support you in it in any way we can.