I recently moved across the country from Chicago to Seattle. My husband and I sold our three bedroom house and downsized to a one bedroom apartment. In our previous house we had an office and half of it was dedicated to my meditation space, now I have carved out a tiny corner in our bedroom. What's important isn't that you have a lot of space, what's important is that you have a dedicated space, whether it's an entire room or a small blanket and tray you bring out of the closet. Having a personal meditation space will help motivate you to practice on a regular basis.
How to Design Your Own Meditation Space:
1. Find a space in your home that makes you feel peaceful
Maybe you like the light that comes in through your bedroom window or maybe there is a back closet away from everyone else in the house. Either way, select a place in your home that makes you feel calm and peaceful. It's probably a bad idea to set up your space in the middle of the kitchen, but only you will know the right place in your house or apartment.
2. Determine what you need to help you meditate
Not everyone needs props in their meditation space, but there may be a few calming objects that help signal to you it is time to meditate. Some people use crystals, a salt lamp, plants, or a Tibetan singing bowl.
For me, I have a small table with a candle, lucky bamboo, and a few decorative objects on it. I'm still looking for the perfect statue of the Buddha.
3. Use candles, incense, or an essential oil diffuser
Every day before I meditate I light a candle. As I light the candle my meditation session begins, and when I blow it out my session is complete. It helps me stay centered.
Lighting incense or starting an essential oil diffuser would have the same effect.
There are certain calming scents like lavender and sandalwood that are ideal for meditation.
4. Find a cushion or something to sit on
One of the goals of meditation is to clear your mind. You won't be able to get clear while you are uncomfortable, because the entire time you will be thinking about how your back hurts and your feet are asleep (I may or may not have experienced this in the past).
You can use a pillow, yoga blanket, or a meditation cushion. I use a round pillow, but I have my eyes on this buckwheat medication cushion by Hugger Mugger:
5. Use music or a meditation app
Once you've chosen a space and found the items and scents that prepare you for meditation, it's time to practice. I use a free app called Insight Timer. It has thousands of meditations to choose from and you can bookmark your favorites. I bookmarked about 50 meditations and I am working through them from shortest to longest. It's helping me learn to sit for longer periods of time. The app has both spoken meditations and music, so you can use whichever you prefer or simply set a timer.
If you don't want to use an app, try putting on some soft music or white noise.
It's easy to set up a meditation space and once you do you will find you are more compelled to meditate on a regular basis. Personally, I meditate first thing in the morning for 5-20 minutes. I find that if I wait until later in the day I am more likely to come up with excuses or feel less "in the zone."
After I meditate I do cat-cow pose and three half sun salutations and then I feel ready to start my day.
Find what works for you and then make it a daily routine.
Here is a picture of my simple meditation space. The table is an original mosaic created by my grandmother:
Overtime meditation has helped me cope with anxiety and chronic pain. Meditating in the morning ensures that I start my day in the right head space. I still need practice on letting go of thoughts, but I know it takes time.
Do you meditate on a regular basis? Do you have a meditation space set up in your home?
"Meditation means the recognition or discovery of one’s own true self." - Sri Chinmoy
Last week I went to a yoga class with a plank sequence that went on twenty minutes. While the rest of the class did low plank, high plank, side plank, and one-legged plank, I was in child’s pose. There were at least two people in the class over seventy-five who seemed to have no problem with the planks. At first I was embarrassed being folded up in a little ball while the others we’re sweating through their gym clothes, but then I remembered—my challenge was just in getting there.
When I walk into a yoga studio there is no indication from my outward appearance I’ll be the one in child’s pose half the class. I’m average weight and usually one of the youngest. The reason I struggle is because, in addition to Lyme, I have an autoimmune condition called SAPHO Syndrome. It's a type of reactive arthritis that attacks my muscles, joints, and bones. Over time, this extremely rare illness caused fusion in my lumbar spine and sacral joints. I also have fusion in my clavicle, limiting the range of motion in my shoulder. I’m lucky if I can just touch a block in forward fold. SAPHO also causes chronic pain. In spite of my physical limitations, I will never stop going to yoga. For me, the positives far outweigh the negatives.
I fell in love with yoga, when I bought a DVD called Yoga Conditioning for Weight Loss to get in shape for my wedding 10 years ago, but it was only after I became ill that I truly understood the benefits of regular practice. When I'm in yoga class, I am at peace. My sympathetic nervous system, or "fight or flight" reflex shuts down and puts me in the healing state of "rest and digest." It's the only type of exercise I feel comfortable doing with my condition, because I don't have to worry that it will put a strain on my already taxed immune system.
Yoga also helps me maintain the range of motion I still have, and hopefully will help me gain some back. Due to my unstable spine, my hamstrings overcompensate and become extremely tight. With regular practice I'm able to inch the tiniest bit closer to touching my toes. In addition to adding flexibility, the stretches ease and prevent pain.
Like many people with Lyme and related autoimmune disorders I also have chronic fatigue, which means most days I don't have the energy to go to yoga and after I finish class, I'm exhausted. I usually only make it to one or two classes a week. It takes a lot of motivation to get myself to go, but when I'm done I feel so accomplished--exhausted--but accomplished. I used to worry that the teacher or other students would think I was lazy or not trying, but through yoga I've learned to listen to myself. Now, I don't worry about what other people think, and simply do what my body tells me it needs.
For other people with limitations who have been considering yoga, I encourage you to try it. There are chair, gentle, restorative, and slow flow classes at most gyms and studios. These classes are designed for beginners or those of us who need to take it easy. You can slowly work your way up to the next level. For those of you who are intimidated by a group class, private sessions may be an option. There are also certified yoga therapists, who meet individually with clients and use yoga poses and breathing techniques to treat emotional and physical ailments.
It’s also important to note that using pose modifications and props help you get the most out of your practice. Don't be ashamed to use a block or a strap—even the most experienced yogis use them to deepen poses. When I reach my limit, I simply go into child’s pose and rest. Make sure you communicate your physical restrictions with the instructor before class.
At the end of each class when I bow to the teacher and my classmates and say, "namaste," in my head I always say my preferred English translation, "the divine in me blesses and honors the divine in you." We're all sacred beings, and no one in any yoga class is better than anyone else based on ability or flexibility. What's important is showing up and listening to your body. Remember, honoring yourself is the honoring the divine.
"Yoga is not about touching your toes, it is what you learn on the way down." - Jigar Gor
When I see people I haven't seen in awhile our conversation has a way of revolving around my illness. I don't do it intentionally. My friends and family are curious about my progress and healing from my illness takes up a lot of time and brain space. My fellow blogger and writer Susan Pogorzelski posted "10 Things About Me Not Related to My Illness" on her Instagram and I thought it was a great idea. I think it's something we should all think about. I did a similar post called 25 Things You Didn’t Know About Me, which was more fun facts, but this will be more about who I am as a person.
10 Things About Me Not Related to My Illness:
1. I recently watched Minimalism: a Documentary About the Important Things and now my husband and I are planning to downsize our living space and get rid of most of our things. I also plan to read the book Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn, one of the men featured in the documentary, to further my understanding of minimalism.
2. It's been a lifelong dream of mine to go whale watching, and I finally fulfilled that dream when we went on a cruise to Alaska in July/August of 2017. During the cruise we saw whale spouts or tails almost every day. Then, when we were in Juneau we went on a whale watching tour and saw tons of humpback whales and even an orca. We were so lucky to see a double breach (although I only saw the second whale). It was amazing, because whales don't usually breach in Alaska.
I plan to get a humpback whale tattoo for the next Ink to End Lyme event to represent rising up from under the water and strength.
3. Podcasts are my new obsession. I listen while I'm getting ready in the morning, commuting to work, and while doing chores. My favorites include: Lyme Ninja Radio, The School of Greatness, Beautiful Writers Podcast, Pod Save America, 2 Dope Queens, Gleeman & The Geek (Minnesota Twins podcast), The Art History Babes, You Must Remember This, and The Social Work Podcast. Maybe I'll start one of my own one day.
6. I love the water and anything that has to do with water. The ocean, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, and even fountains. We visited Niagara Falls this past summer and it was breathtaking.
4. I grew up in Minneapolis and it's still one of my favorite places. I go back about three times a year and always love driving along the river and seeing how things have changed since the last time I was there. The friendliest and most down to earth people live in Minnesota. I'd move there if it wasn't so cold.
5. Chai tea lattes are my biggest weakness, so I bribe myself with them. If I go to a yoga class, I allow myself one small chai tea latte (with alternative milk of course). At home, I brew a cup of decaf chai tea and then add hemp milk.
6. I love taking our dog, Scooter, on walks around the neighborhood. The truth is he actually walks me, because he knows where he wants to go and leads me there. He's stubborn, but incredibly loving. Sometimes I dress him up and he hates it.
7. I don't have any children and I'm not currently planning to have any. I have a niece and nephew whom I adore and are good for a kid fix when I need one.
8. My lucky number is four and my lucky symbol is the four-leaf clover, even though clover is considered a weed in Ireland. The reason is because I was born on June 14th.
9. I'm a true Gemini--full of contradictions and a personality pulled in opposite directions. Gemini's are known communicators and I love to communicate through speaking and writing. We're naturally inquisitive and ambitious, but also easily bored and overly opinionated.
10. My favorite thing to do is travel and my goal is to see the world. The next destinations I want to visit are Hawaii, London, Italy, and Australia.
Please consider doing this exercise. It helped me remember that my illness does not define me. I decide what defines me. I would be happy to create a blog post for you about your ten things. Just reach out through my contact page with your list and a few pictures.
"Identity cannot be formed or fabricated, but emerges from within when one has the courage to let go." - Doug Cooper
I'm Kerry and I am a licensed therapist, writer & speaker. This is a positive space focused on how to thrive in any situation and the transformative power of suffering.