How can meditation help with the stresses and strains of everyday life? Experts recommend a dedicated space at home to help you disconnect and practice
Originally featured on Christie’s Luxury Defined Blog.
It’s estimated that between 200 and 500 million people meditate. According to research-based site The Good Body, meditation is now almost as popular as yoga in the United States—more than 14 percent of adults have tried it at least once, a threefold increase in a decade.
“Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly helps people to self-regulate the reactive emotional patterns, automatic thoughts, and behaviours that tend to crop up in stressful situations,” says UK-based teacher and practitioner Claire Griffin at Mindfulness Web.
“Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), which I teach, ‘does what is says on the tin’ as adverts put it. It helps people to reduce stress. In essence, it strengthens their emotional resilience to life’s challenges—and the counterpoint to that is that it also makes them happier.
Designed to blend into the landscape, the facades of Atherton Pavilions in California are wrapped in naturally weathering Alaskan Yellow Cedar that shroud each end of both structures, while screens form trellises on the front and back. Courtesy: Adam Rouse
“Our natural stress reactions, and something called the ‘negativity bias’ that we all have as humans, often narrow down our perception so that we can only see what we don’t like about life.
“Mindfulness helps to widen out that lens to allow in both the pleasant and the unpleasant aspects of our experience. Research seems to point to the fact that having a regular practice can create new neural pathways in the brain, so that it becomes easier to worry less and easier to notice our pleasant moments more often,” Griffin says.
The Challenge of Being Present
The mindfulness meditation that Griffin teaches involves focusing one’s attention on a particular object—the movement of the breath for example, or a particular sensation in the body for a period of time; anything from five minutes to an hour.
“When people first start to meditate, they are often surprised by how challenging it is to be present,” Griffin admits, but adds, “the key is to meditate regularly. You could think of it at a basic level as a type of exercise for the mind—and just like any exercise, you need to repeat it frequently over time to experience the benefits.
“For establishing a regular practice and for practicing safely and deeply, I would recommend taking some classes or a course with an experienced and well-trained teacher,” adds Griffin.
And while you can meditate pretty much anywhere, regular meditators say it helps to have a dedicated space at home where you can disconnect and practice. Architects are increasingly receiving briefs from clients who want homes with meditation and yoga spaces.
The wooden screens serve each space in contrasting ways, introducing privacy into the exercise and meditation pavilion, and a feeling of openness in the kitchen pavilion. Courtesy: Adam Rouse
A case in point is the Atherton Pavilions, added to a family home in California, by Feldman Architecture. “These jewel boxes have two distinct functions: one serves as an outdoor kitchen and dining space, and the other as a meditation or workout room,” says Feldman’s Anjali Iyer.
“The pavilions are delicately placed amidst the existing landscape of redwoods and other mature trees—the clients desired the boxes to be transparent and discrete to blend in with the surrounding softscape.” As they are surrounded by nature, the pavilions lend themselves to sound meditation or “sound bath”—where sounds around you are the object of your attentions—as well as other practices.
Hidden Cove’s Japanese garden is designed to showcase a priceless collection of bonsai and specimen trees. The garden works with the home’s modern Japanese-influenced architecture and includes a stream that is crossed via floating stepping stones. Courtesy: Land Morphology
Practicing mindfulness meditation regularly helps people to self-regulate the reactive emotional patterns, automatic thoughts, and behaviours that tend to crop up in stressful situations
—Claire Griffin, Mindfulness Web
Another project that has nature as a backdrop is Hidden Cove by Land Morphology. The house was designed as a showcase for a collection of sculpted trees that were previously in containers, and as a place from which to admire them.
“In many ways it is a meditation garden,” says Richard Hartlage, principal and owner of the Seattle-based practice. “The clients wanted somewhere calm and pleasing. The house is arranged as a square donut with the naturalistic garden in the middle.” Hartlage’s clients wanted tree views from a guest cottage and a painting studio, while the living room and office have “very specific view lines with a feature tree at the heart as a focal point.”
He recommends paying attention to these focal points when commissioning a meditation space. “Simplicity and a strong focal point [are necessary] so you can focus on one thing without the surrounding area detracting or distracting.”
Wallsauce.com, established in 2013, creates made-to-measure feature wall murals using environmentally friendly inks, which are supplied with wallpaper paste made from renewable potato starch. Courtesy: Wallsauce.com
Amy Stansfield, interiors writer at Wallsauce.com, agrees. “It’s a good idea to keep your space free of clutter, so you’re not distracted by random objects. And keep the color scheme neutral: soothing tones such as off white, pastel grey, or light coffee brown.” And if nature appeals but isn’t always available, Stansfield suggests a custom-made “natural feature wall”, with nature motifs such as birds or plants.
A High-Tech Way to Meditate
A more high-tech version of that feature wall was recently unveiled by LAYER, which has designed LightVision—a meditation headset for US start-up Resonate. The headset features an LED light matrix that translates videos of the natural world, such as fish swimming underwater, or trees swaying in the breeze, into an ever-changing sequence of biomorphic patterns that are visible through closed eyes and proven to activate the brain’s frequency-following response.
During a 20-minute session, the light effects in combination with the synchronised vibrations of the headset and a soundtrack of monaural and binaural beats and isochronic tones are said to guide the user’s mind to deep meditative states. “Resonate takes you out of your head and back into your life,” says Benjamin Hubert of LAYER.
“In this world, mindfulness and meditation are more relevant than ever before. Finding the time to practice . . . however, is no easy task. Resonate LightVision allows you to quickly reach a deep meditative state effortlessly,” says Benjamin Hubert, founder, LAYER
Meditation spaces are also increasingly being found in the workplace. Office of Things has been constructing “restorative spaces and meditation chambers” throughout Silicon Valley since 2016.
“Fundamentally, each space is divided into three components: the Entry, Ground, and Sky. The Entry sequence focuses on shedding the literal and figurative ‘noise’ of the outside world; it’s a compressed path that resets the sensorial reverberations in the body,” says the company’s principal, Lane Rick.
“Beyond the Entry, the Ground emerges as a landscape of soft textures, rounded edges, and dark colors, reaching above eye level and priming our senses for quiet and meditation. Here, the user is invited to rest against the wall, floor, or bench—to get comfortable and relaxed. The Ground anchors the body while the Sky hovers above, an ephemeral space for the mind to roam and explore. The Sky of each room is unique, tailored to creating an expansive and transformative space that seeks to elevate the user’s well-being. In contrast to spaces of everyday life, these chambers feel both surreal and sublime.”
The meditation chambers provide an intense immersive experience—a concentration of color, light, and sound in spaces made specifically for workplace escape, both physical and mental. Courtesy: Johnna Arnold, Impart Photography
“Each client brings a new set of requirements and expectations to the immersive spaces. As architects, we respond by considering each project as a singular expression of the series. We spend time better understanding our clients and their desires, as well as investigating the potentials of the location, site, and context,” says fellow principal Can Vu Bui.
“While there are fundamental processions that guide the experience, we embrace the uniqueness of each iteration, and the contribution that the client brings to the project. In this sense, every immersive space that we build is different, and able to push the body of work as a whole.”
And while some people, like the owners of Atherton Pavilions, like to meditate while overlooking nature, others prefer to do it while immersed in it. If you would like to incorporate your meditation practice into your outside space, British garden designer David Bracher advises considering where the sun will be when you use your space. Is full sun desirable or not, for example. He also advises “softening the edges of borders, bring in some perennial grasses and architectural leaf structure… water features are also great, and can help with meditation and concentration.”
Banner image: Atherton Pavilions designed by Feldman Architecture. Courtesy: Adam Rouse