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Preparation

Mindful Reflection Tip #1

The state of mind you’re in when you begin meditating — whether it’s for two minutes or an hour – establishes the quality of that time spent. My teachers emphasized the importance of preparation so much that they often spent more time on that than on the ‘actual’ meditation. This entailed sweeping the room, dusting and arranging the seat, setting up props (candle, incense, statues, chime) and settling themselves down comfortably.

We usually disdain household tasks like this. When you consider them a waste of time and hurry you end up with a huffy and dissatisfied state of mind. “I should be meditating, dammit!”

The point of meditation is to understand the mind and how it works. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting like a perfect Buddha or down on your hands and knees reaching for a cobweb; what matters is clarity and focus. Take the time to wash and brush your teeth as well as to prepare the room. Anticipating what you’re preparing for turns those activities into meditations in their own right.

Cultivating this attitude also has profound long-term benefits: when you’re scattered, angry or anxious, meditation is a very distant option; you can’t just turn on sustained mindfulness. Being able to deal with strong emotions in a real-life situation depends on the way you’ve prepared your mind in advance. Watching your breath doesn’t directly help calm emotions, but it does strengthen your meditative core, enabling you to withstand the onslaught of unexpected feelings when they actually arise.

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