- It's helpful to work with patients, students, and ourselves to establish a set routine in the "where" and "when" of practicing meditation.
- In terms of time, one's own preferences—such as an attitude-setting a.m. time, or reflective/settling p.m. time, or both—are "all good."
- In terms of "place," consider simplicity and a minimum of external stimuli to "optimize" the practice.
The technicalities of working with patients—and ourselves—in starting and sustaining a fruitful meditation practice are important, maybe daunting to some. The distractions of body aches, emotional flow, discursive thought loops, and even awareness itself wavering like the sketchy Wi-Fi at a cafe, all of these may need some understanding and tactics that care professionals may need some direct experience ourselves in dealing with. (Some handy references to offer to patients can help, too.)
But aside from that stuff, let's focus on a more mundane, but curiously potent subject: The "where" and "when" of meditating. Mundane, because it's about conveying some information that informs but doesn't generate much passion. Potent, because said information may help keep a newbie to meditating from face planting and quitting a few strides out of the starting blocks. Chapters 3 and 4 in my book Practical Mindfulness walk through this in greater detail, but here are some cues. I work in some deliberate decision-making with patients in-session to set these expectations, or at least to consider them, and experiment at home.
Mundanity #1 (of 2): Let's talk about time. When should we plan to meditate?
The short, sweet answer is a question: "What works best for you?" Attitude-setting morning sittings work for some, even if that means rising a little earlier than usual. Post-kids-to-bed or email-to-clear evenings can work as an easing into the good night, a mindful capper to whatever the day wrought.
I advise picking a time, but then riding it a bit and see if it sticks, feels fruitful; if not, fiddle with the day's flow, other to-do's, but don't give up. Especially in navigating the early struggles of grooving in a sitting practice, finding a regular time, one that promotes repetition and ultimately a conditioned, "it's sitting time," is optimal.
Mundanity #2: Let's talk about space. Where to sit?
This one should be obvious in concept, but isn't always in the implementation. The easy answer is "a place of minimum distraction." So a boring but quiet, secluded end of a hallway or even a bedroom closet (mind the shoes and dust bunnies) may be more practical than an elaborately set-up sitting space near the kids' bathroom or a room in sonic proximity to those frisky neighbors in the adjacent apartment.
This decision obviously also leaks into mundanity #1. A certain space may be a zone of calm at 7 a.m. but a sensory Grand Central Station at 7:30.
I personally opt for simplicity over complexity in terms of the accouterments around me in the setting. A bare wall or stretch of carpet in front of me to rest my view on reduces my squirrelly tendency to look around, without having to close the eyes and battle snooziness.
(My spellcheck just corrected that word to "snazziness," then "snootiness" ... a ghost in the machine?)
If some meaningful article can help one's practice, whether secular (i.e., a candle) or a spiritually-reinforcing item, it's all good. But take care that your setup doesn't force a battle for your attention-building with the scenery.
Nevertheless, it can be helpful in reducing suspicion to convey the reality that meditation, a secular training in our capacity of directed awareness, has its place in most every spiritual tradition.
Above all, we can be curious and flexible with our patients, students, and about what works in time and space.
Sazima MD, G.(2021) Practical Mindfulness: A Physician's No-Nonsense Guide to Meditation for Beginners. Miami, FL:Mango Publishing.