One City

One City

Setting the Stage

I’m in the midst of searching for a new apartment in New York City, a task I do not look forward to. In the back of my mind is the dream that one day I could make a separate space in my home for meditation – a space that is not the room I sleep in, not the room I eat in, not the room I write in. A meditation room. A place of peace and quiet, with no other distractions, neat and clean and no clutter, where I could just sit.

brandeis peace room.jpg(Peace Room at Brandeis University)

How could I make this happen? What if I moved out to Brooklyn? Maybe my two roommates and I could get a 4 bedroom for the price of a Manhattan 3 bedroom, and use the 4th room as a meditation room? That sounds great except that they don’t meditate, so it would be Emily’s Second Room. That’s not going to work.

And then there’s the problem that even though in theory this room would be a clean, quiet room, there’s always street noise and roommate noise, and supers who set off firecrackers on the roof. There is no totally quiet and clean space, and that’s not the point of meditation anyway – to shut out noise. Noise is a part of daily existence. Notice that I want to shut it out. Maybe for me a meditation room would be a step in the wrong direction. Maybe I need to stop dipping my toes in the pond and instead jump right in to the depths of my mind, noise and clutter and all. The principles of meditation are ones that, I hope, I’d be able to use in my daily life when I’m not on the cushion. Setting myself farther apart from that is maybe not the best way to go.


And yet it seems strange to just plop my zafu down on the rug in any old spot on my bedroom floor. This practice that we do is an important one, and I’d like to use it as a way to nurture myself. I put care into preparing a meal. I have meticulous dental hygiene (I hope – I’m going to the dentist next week so we’ll see if all that flossing has been paying off). Shouldn’t I put thought into my meditation space as another way I take care of myself?

I’m curious how other people have set up their meditation spot in their home. Is there one spot in your room that you use? A particular rug you sit on? Do you have a picture or a shrine there? is it a permanent set-up, or is the act of setting it up part of your process? Are the lights dim or bright?

How do you set the stage?

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posted July 7, 2009 at 4:35 pm

It’s far from ideal. I have a pretty full-on shrine, but it’s on top of a dresser. and my cushion is way squeezed in to the bedroom at the foot of the bed. but what can you do in ny?

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posted July 7, 2009 at 10:35 pm

I’m married with children, so don’t even have my own private bedroom. I practice daily, early in the morning before the others wake up, sit on the end of the couch in the living room. I made a portable altarout of a wooden box with a latched top, keep the candles, etc inside till I need it, but usually don’t have time to set it up. Bare bones, just sittting daily, in the relative quiet and inner stillness of early am’s, its OK.

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posted July 8, 2009 at 11:06 am

I have a zafu in a clean, finished part of my basement. I would love to have my own meditation room, with natural light and comfortable (and with a door to cut down noise) but we have no spare rooms above ground. Zen style, I face the wall downstairs, and that works well enough. Biggest problem is that if I’m home alone my cat wants to be snuggled and sit in my lap (and he’s too big for a lap). Though the meowing, needy cat is my best teacher in that moment – correct?

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posted July 8, 2009 at 6:26 pm

I have a second bedroom that I use as my own little zendo. I strongly recommend it if you can make it happen.
Unfortunately I’m moving, and won’t have the space anymore!

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posted July 8, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Oops! Sorry about the URL.

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posted July 9, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I too would love a meditation room. Mine, in the middle of the woods, with a pond at my feet, or a gentle stream gurgling near by. But the fact is when I’m home in the country, the trucks barrel down the county route outside my door and the crows caw incessantly, lawn mowers and snow blowers too. My meditation seat is a futon in the midst of my almost always cluttered art studio, brimming with creative energy. And here in the city, my couch is my seat, directly across from the tv set. And while it’s off, the sirens outside the window never are.

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