Committing to a spiritual practice can lead to big changes in your life, including better health, drastic stress relief, greater mental focus, and healthier relationships. No wonder doctors are actually starting to prescribe meditation and various yoga/yoga-inspired practices to reduce symptoms related to disease and injury. In fact, Harvard research shows there is a scientific link between meditation and the ability to shift stress and boost immunity.
Should you go to a class?
Guided spirituality is a wonderful thing, because you also benefit from inclusion in a community, which also has its own benefits. However, pressed for time or working with may life demands, you might have to go solo and practice when you can. Create a space in your home. It doesn’t take a big room, but if you have a dedicated place for self care - whether it's meditation, asana, studying Ayurveda recipes, pranayama, or chanting mantra in the corner in a tiny apartment - you’ll honor and feel the benefits of immediately.
Here are some simple ideas to create that sweet spot for calming and centering yourself:
Find a Seat. For meditation, you need to be comfortable sitting for a bit, so whether it’s a cushion, yoga blocks, or stacked blankets, choose something that will help you sit upright with ease, and dedicate the seat for meditation only. Back trouble? Sometimes it helps to have your back against the wall (that's what I do for longer sessions).
Create Warmth. If you’re cold, your body will get tense, and you'll also be focused on the feeling of being cold. Use a special space heater or turn up the room heat just before you meditate, practice asana (especially restorative), journal, or anything else in your spiritual practice to make sure you’re comfortably warm (but not too warm, or you’ll fall asleep).
Build An Altar. Anything that inspires you helps you find a better headspace for practice. On a clean, beautiful cloth (on a small table or even the floor), place objects of emotional and spiritual value, such as a picture of an inspirational person, a mini-deity statue, or a bamboo plant signifying both strength and flexibility, for example. Your alter is the focal point of your spiritual space, and it can bring you right into practice just by being near it. Don't worry to much about how you're designing it. Start by putting a few items on the table and go from there. It will evolve and change with you. A long time ago I had Tiger Balm on the altar, because it was the only thing helping my back. Now, feeling much better and with access to much more through aromatherapy, my featured altar potions are less about physical pain and more about energy support.
Choose Helpful Essential oils. You can enhance your practice through the use of plant medicine when you integrate essential oils. They have physical benefits, but also energetically can shift your mood and vibe so you are more present and available. You can diffuse oils in the room or add a drop to a lava rock that lives on your altar. Try diluting oils so they can be applied safely on your skin (wrists, neck, behind the neck, chest) with a dropper or roller.
These oil suggestions, below, are to move you from where you were to being present for your spiritual practice, whether you're journaling, reading poetry, or doing nadi shodhana pranayama.
Emotionally Overwhelmed - Rose, Ylang Ylang
Anxiety and/or Stress - Rosemary, Hinoki, Bergamot
Fatigue - Peppermint, Citruses (e.g. wild orange, lemon, lime, mandarins)
Frazzled - Sandalwood, doTERRA Balance grounding blend
For almost anything - doTERRA Breathe respiratory blend
Have A Mala. One form of meditation is Japa, a repetition of a chant or prayer, often with the use of a 108-bead mala (string of beads). The mala should be yours and only used by you, since meditation is so personal. You can keep it on the altar as a symbol of your practice even when you aren't using it.
Unfold a peaceful screen. If privacy is an issue, have a foldable, clean screen handy to define your space.
Whether you have one thing, all of the above, or none at all, the most important thing about is that you bring yourself wholly into the practice. Just starting out? Check out my beginner's guide to meditation, for example, as a way to support your spiritual practice in the comfort of your own home when space is limited (or not). Just start. You'll be doing something wonderful for your spirit.
Please reach out if you have questions about how to use oils or want to attend a future workshop with me!
(I produced the original version of this article as Editor of NYC's Vie Meditation in 2014.)