August 30, 2008

Building a Place to Meditate

By Margaret Slaby

Patricia Lewis likes to start her mornings with meditation. The 20 to 30 minutes it takes, she says, sets the tone for the entire day.

"It's just sitting and quieting yourself and going within," says Lewis, 66, who uses a spare room she and her husband, Eldon, designated for meditation when they built their Clovis home six years ago.

"I find that if you meditate every day before you do anything, your life goes so well," Lewis says. "It puts you in the now."

Lewis and others are discovering the benefits of having spaces in their homes set aside for meditation. And it's not that difficult to do. It can be as simple as a corner of a room with a place to sit and a few personal touches such as a photograph, candle or vase of flowers.

Diane Dimon, who's been meditating for 40 years and teaching it for 24, describes a meditation space as "a nourishing place that beckons you to come and be rather than do."

Lewis' room includes a futon, a Buddha statue, assorted stones and an incense holder. Books, candles and seashells fill a curio cabinet. There also is a CD player so she can listen to soothing music and chants, and Eldon installed rope lighting behind crown molding along the ceiling.

If you can't devote an entire room to meditation, don't stress, Dimon says. A walk-in closet, a chair in the backyard under a tree or the bathroom will do. "If it's the only place you can get a calm space, it works wonderfully," Dimon says.

Jeannie Patrick, 58, uses part of the living room of her 1,000- square-foot Fresno home for meditation. A library table sits against a section of wall; statues of Buddha and Mary, a photo of her guru and a picture of Jesus are among the items on the table. A 16th century hand-carved oak chair with an Asian tapestry seat faces the table; this is where Patrick sits while meditating. Her space may be small, but it works just fine, she says.

Dick and Pat Wolk of Fresno, however, went large. Two years ago, they erected a 10-by-12-foot meditation house in the backyard of their home. All the pieces, including the pitched roof, carved wooden posts with lotus blossoms and a 6-by-12-foot deck, were handmade in Indonesia from recycled teak, then shipped to the United States.

The Wolks use the house for many things. "We have concerts out there. It's a guesthouse. It's a meditation house. It's a silent space. It's just warm and fuzzy," Pat Wolk says.

Lewis says it's important to find an area free from distractions and interruptions for meditation. She says it's also essential to "carve out that time for yourself."

"It's all about focusing and letting go and breathing," she says. "It's about living in the moment -- being aware of the moment because you can't control what's going to happen in the next five minutes, and you can't control other people's dramas."

Originally published by Margaret Slaby , Fresno Bee.

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