Today I read two articles. The first was about what I think of as ‘happiness engineering’ – about creating a personal environment conducive to happiness. The second mentioned that the most difficult thing about meditating is actually doing it. I’ll second that!
I like the idea of happiness engineering. To me it means making things flow. If an object is bothersome, I move it. I hang my keys on a hook so I can always find them. I remove small irritations from my surroundings because if that’s a hundred less irritated moments a week, I’m happier – and so are the people around me. I keep healthy foods in the fridge and pantry so it’s easy to eat well. Why struggle? Engineering good habits is made so much easier by engineering my habitat, and both are complementary. Organisation may look like hard work, but how much harder it is to live with chaos!
Likewise, meditation is hard work, but living with an unquiet mind is much harder.
And so, in my efforts to establish a meditation discipline I’ve created a meditation space. This makes it easier for me to meditate because:
• it’s a reminder
• it’s always there
• it’s beautiful
In this way I’ve modified part of my living space to encourage me gently and naturally towards a discipline that’s essential for my peace of mind.
As soon as I sit down in my meditation space I feel calmer.
And the constant presence of this space and its beauty make me want to sit there.
It’s very simple.
I have two cushions on the futon in a room which doubles as a sleeping area and my workroom (an activity not always calm-inducing!). The cushions face the window so I sit with my back to the desk and work clutter. The top cushion gives me height enough to keep a straight back, and the lower cushion offers padding for my legs.
The view from my cushions induces contemplation, gratitude and well-being. A bookcase made by my Dad in my long-ago schooldays sits framed by sheer curtains that let in light. In this bookcase are arranged many small treasures, each of which brings to mind a loved person, a happy memory, or a meaningful association. The centrally placed and serene buddha draws my gaze. Exactly at eye-level, at the buddha’s feet, is a coin-like object featuring the tree of life.
This tree of life, this serene buddha holding a pink hibiscus and slung with shining beads (gifts from loved ones); the light playing exquisitely on smooth shapes and gorgeous colours, the reminders of happy times and special people, sets my mind into an easeful state even before I begin to meditate. It takes only a minute or two. Then I close my eyes on this vision of tranquility and love, and focus on my breath.