I’ve been trying to meditate for more than a decade. Because I’m goal-oriented and easily bored, I’m pretty rotten at it. I do see how addressing those obstacles and cultivating calm in my life by doing the thing I avoid–just sitting–could bring me peace. And I’ve found that (as with so many things) environment is everything. I meditated more once I designated a quiet space for sitting, with my favorite incense, prayer books and cushion.
While shooting houses for Natural Home, I’ve seem some pretty amazing meditation spaces, from tucked-away bedroom corners to grand shrines. I’ve also seen how hugely they benefit the people who created them. Here are five that have inspired me.
Photo by Elisabeth Groh
Architect Sarah Susanka, whose Not So Big House books launched a movement in quality-over-quantity homebuilding, designed her house in St. Paul, Minnesota, according to her own rule that every room should serve several different needs. She agonized, at first, over whether to include a single-use meditation space in her attic, but her longing for a place where she could escape and perform her daily meditation rituals won out. Here, surrounded by her favorite books, candles and incense, Sarah found strength to write and rewrite her first book, The Not So Big House, when the publisher kept sending it back and asking for changes. In that room she found the voice to write a book that has inspired people across the world to see that smaller is better in housing. “If you make a place like this, with the intention to make time to use it,” Sarah says, “wonderful things can happen.”
Photo by Laurie Dickson
Tom and Flame Lutes’s off-the-grid home in Colorado didn’t have space for a designated shrine or meditation room, so they placed their altar in a bedroom corner. This little shrine holds a collection of sacred items that remind Flame and Tom of their dedication to spiritual wakefulness first thing in the morning.
Photo by Povy Kendal Atchison
Peter Lamoureux’s home in Fairfield, Iowa, a hub for Transcendental Meditation (TM) practitioners, includes a sweet, simple meditation space, strategically placed in the home’s northeast corner following the tenets of sthapatya veda, ancient Indian rules for orienting and placing buildings to promote health, good fortune and higher consciousness. The serene mood that permeates Peter’s home is intensified in the meditation room.
Photo by Daniel Nadelbach
“There is a peace that permeates these natural surroundings, and it carries through into my home in a seamless transition,” says Bonnie McGowan, who also built her straw-clay home in Pecos, New Mexico, according to ancient Indian sthapatya vedic principles. She sits daily in her calm, uncluttered meditation room.
Photo by Povy Kendal Atchison
It was my honor to meet yoga and meditation master Richard Freeman, one of my personal heroes, when we photographed the meditation space in his Boulder, Colorado, home. Richard melds decades of ashtanga yoga study and practice with Zen and Vipassana Buddhism, Sufism and Western philosophy. “A meditation room can be sanctified through prayer or chant to mark it as a sacred space,” he says. “In the same way that you create a sacred space, you can create a sacred time for meditation by beginning and ending with a chant or bow. This ritual, done as you enter and leave your space, encourages a fresh look at the thoughts and feelings that arise within it.”
For more on setting up your meditation space, check out Om at Home: Expert Meditation Advice at www.naturalhomeandgarden.com.