Preparing to meditateWhen you meditate at home, you should have a corner of your room which is absolutely pure and sanctified — a sacred place which you use only for meditation. Here on your shrine you will keep a picture of your spiritual Master, or the Christ, or some other beloved spiritual figure whom you regard as your Master.
Before beginning to meditate, it is helpful if you can take a shower or proper bath. The purification of the body is absolutely necessary for the purification of the consciousness. If you are unable to take a shower or bath before sitting down to meditate, you should at least wash your face and your feet. It is also advisable to wear clean and light clothes.
It will help if you burn incense and keep some flowers in front of you. There are some people who say that it is not necessary to have flowers around during meditation. They say, "The flower is inside; the thousand-petalled lotus is inside." But the physical flower that you have in front of you reminds you of the inner flower. Its colour, its fragrance and its pure consciousness can give you a little inspiration. From inspiration you get aspiration, and from aspiration you get realisation.
It is the same with using candles during meditation. The flame from a candle will not in itself give you aspiration; it is the inner flame that will give you aspiration. But when you see the outer flame, then immediately you feel that the flame in your inner being is also climbing high, higher, highest. And when you smell the scent of incense, you get perhaps only an iota of inspiration and purification, but this iota can be added to your inner treasure.
When meditating, it is important to keep the spine straight and erect, and to keep the body relaxed. When the body is stiff, naturally the divine and fulfilling qualities that are flowing in and through it during meditation will not be received. The body should not be uncomfortable either. When it feels uncomfortable, automatically it will change its position. While you are meditating, your inner being will spontaneously take you to a comfortable position, and then it is up to you to maintain it. The main advantage of the lotus position is that it helps keep the spinal cord straight and erect. But it will not necessarily keep the body relaxed. So the lotus position is not at all necessary for proper meditation. Many people meditate very well while they are seated in a chair.
Some people do physical exercises and postures. These exercises, called hatha yoga, relax the body and bring peace of mind for a short period. If someone is physically very restless and cannot stay still for more than a second, then these exercises will definitely help. But hatha yoga is not at all necessary. There are many aspirants who can just sit and make their minds calm and quiet without doing any hatha yoga.