5 Accessories to Enhance Your Meditation Practice
There are many appealing qualities of a meditation practice - one being that you can do it any place at any time! Meditation doesn’t require fancy equipment, an expensive membership, or an expert trainer. It is often described as a state of mind or a heightened level of consciousness that provides you with a range of benefits such as improved sleep quality, reduced anxiety, and increased focus.
Meditation is an ancient practice that has grown in popularity and is now practiced worldwide. And although you don’t need anything to meditate, some accessories or tools can help enhance it. These tools, like a meditation pillow, can deepen your meditation, allowing you to meditate longer or reach your meditation goals, whether that be manifesting or getting more sleep on your millet pillow each night. The following five accessories can enhance your meditation practice regardless of your experience level.
1. Meditation Pillow
A meditation pillow is much more than an accessory, and if you only get one thing – this should be it! Meditation pillows have been used for centuries and continue to be widely used today for Zen meditation at home.
The zafu cushion originated in China as a Buddhist sitting pillow and gained popularity throughout Asia. The zafu meditation cushion is filled with buckwheat hulls that are firm, flexible, and comfortable. They provide enough support for an individual to sit, kneel or use behind their head.
Can you use just any pillow or a seat cushion to meditate? Of course! But it likely won’t give your back the support it needs to sit through a meditation pain-free. When you are uncomfortable or feel pain in your lower back, it is hard to focus on anything else. It becomes very difficult to clear your mind and turn to your breath. A comfortable yet supportive seat will allow you to assume a comfortable position that will keep your body in alignment, so you don’t feel pain or discomfort. Further, a meditation pillow is versatile and can be used for multiple postures and positions. You can place it between your lower back and a wall, under your head, between your legs, under your stomach or knees, and of course – under your bottom!
Before buying a meditation pillow, consider where you will be using it. For example, will you only practice indoors, or do you like to meditate outdoors, surrounded by nature? If meditating outdoors, ensure you get a meditation pillow made from fabric that can handle the dampness of grass or a forest floor.
2. Essential Oils
Aroma-rich essential oils can significantly affect your mood and mental state. They can uplift or ground you, make you sleepy or energize you – it all depends on the oil. When using essential oils for meditation, you need to use oils that help you relax and increase focus. In addition, the soothing scents can help calm you and improve your state of mindfulness.
Essential oil experts recommend lavender for meditation as it reduces anxiety and helps you let go. In addition, it can allow you to reach a deeper state of meditation by reducing judgment and becoming still, so when your mind is busy with nagging thoughts or criticism, you can simply observe and then let them go. Lavender essential oils are an excellent choice when meditating before bed; however if you meditate to start your day, try something more uplifting.
Ylang Ylang is an uplifting oil known to increase energy levels and improve mood. It can also steady your breathing and decrease blood pressure and heart rate. When using essential oils during a morning meditation, you can feel better mentally and physically throughout the day.
Set up a diffuser if you have a corner of your home where you like to meditate. An oil diffuser breaks down the oils into smaller molecules and dispenses them into the air, filling your space with a soothing scent. Alternatively, if you are meditating on the go or when you travel, simply bring a small bottle of essential oils with you and dab it on the inside of your wrists. You can also place a couple of drops in the palm of your hands and rub them together. Then, cup your hands over your nose and mouth and breathe in the aromas. This will give you a big boost of the mood-boosting scent. If you do this, just be sure you use high-quality oils and don’t touch your eyes before washing your hands.
3. Singing Bowls
Singing bowls are a great way to start or end your meditation and you can also listen to them during your meditation. There are various types of bowls that each have different sound qualities, yet they all work on vibration. Using an instrument, you can tap or circle the bowl creating vibrations that give off an entrancing sound. The practice of meditation and using singing bowls like crystal or Tibetan singing bowls is known as a sound bath. Although traditionally performed by professional sound healers, you can benefit from using your bowl at home.
The vibrations singing bowls give off lead you into a deeper state of relaxation. In 2016 a group of researchers gauged the emotional state of 62 adults before and after a meditation using singing bowls. The study revealed that following the meditation, there was a reduction in anxiety, tension, and negative moods.
Singing bowls can be expensive, often costing hundreds of dollars for a high-quality bowl that’s considered perfect pitch. But don’t worry, if this isn’t in the budget, you can still benefit from the sound of these bowls by listening to them on your phone or computer. For example, in 2018, research found that listening to Tibetan singing bowls with headphones reduced anxiety levels and heart rate in individuals undergoing surgery. The study consisted of 60 pre-op patients, half listening to Tibetan singing bowls and half wearing headphones with no music. The analysis concluded that the Tibetan singing bowls were relaxing and had both a physical and mental effect.
4. Mala Beads
Malas are traditional beaded necklaces with roots in Buddhism and Hinduism that are used to focus the mind during meditation. A traditional mala consists of 108 beads with one extra-large bead at the center. The large bead is known as the guru and is believed to contain the energy of your meditation or yoga practice. The 108 beads are the numerical version of “Om,” a spiritual meditation sound.
Known as Japa mala or mala, these beads have significant spiritual practice and share similarities with Catholic rosary beds. Today, many use mala for their mindfulness benefits and as a way to enhance their meditation practice. For example, you can help control your breath by holding the mala in one hand. Place two fingers on one bead and take one breath (inhale and exhale), and then move on to the next bead. Repeat until you have gone through all 108 beads. If 108 seems like too many for your practice, you can find smaller ones. For example, there are malas with 27 or 54 beads as well as smaller bracelet-sized mala.
Mala beads are also helpful when you use a mantra during your meditation. The word mantra is Sanskrit, meaning “mind release.” It is a phrase or word you repeat during meditation to help release your mind. Letting go can clear your mind and achieve all the benefits of meditation. To use mala beads with a mantra, hold a bead with two fingers and repeat the mantra aloud with a complete breath. Repeat for each bead. Mantra meditation has been found to induce a greater sense of calm, increase self-awareness and provide a more positive outlook.
Since the Babylonians and Ancient Egyptians, incense has been used for aromatherapy, meditation, spiritual ceremonies, and to repel bugs. Today, incense continues to be used worldwide. These sticks or cones are made of essential oils and dried plant material, giving off smoke and intense aromas when burned. In addition, many believe smoke to have cleansing properties, and by lighting incense, you can clear a space of negative or stagnant energy.
A common practice is to light incense before you begin meditation. The essential oils have a calming effect, and the smoke is cleansing. The smoke can also guide your meditation, which is especially helpful for those just starting. To use incense during meditation, get comfortable on your meditation pillow. Next, light an incense stick and ensure it is secure in the incense holder. As the incense burns, focus your attention on the trails of smoke. Watch them twirl and waft upwards until they disappear. Look for the patterns and direction the smoke is traveling. As thoughts creep into your mind, draw your attention back to the smoke. You can do this for only 5 to 10 minutes or until your incense is done burning. This is a great way to improve mindfulness and strengthen your meditation. Additionally, like essential oils, the scents of incense have calming effects.
As you can see, you don’t need a lot to deepen your meditation! However, a good meditation pillow, essential oils, mala beads, incense, and the sound of singing bowls can increase mindfulness and enhance your practice.