When we think of someone meditating (Meditation Practice), we may call to mind an image of them cross-legged or even in full lotus position. If you have grown up accustomed to sitting in chairs the chances are, sitting in such a way is either not possible or quickly uncomfortable. As I said in what is meditation, a fundamental of meditation is the ability to allow the body to deeply relax. Obviously, if the position we are meditating in soon becomes uncomfortable or painful for the body, such relaxation will be harder to develop.
Most of the meditation postures traditionally associated with meditation come from times and cultures that did not widely use chairs. As a consequence, as it still is in many developing countries, people sat on the floor. As a result, their pelvis was naturally conditioned to sitting in this way without discomfort.
The full lotus posture, cross-legged with the foot resting sole upwards on the opposite thigh had a specific and practical function. When yogis, for other meditators practiced it could often be for very many hours, and outside in nature. In full lotus, the position of the legs creates a very stable base. In this position, even in very deep meditation with no conscious awareness of the body, the body will not fall over. This stable base allows the spine to remain straight and erect. In addition, full lotus and other similar cross-legged positions facilitate openness in the base chakra and some assistance with grounding.
For those of us then who have grown up sitting in chairs, as chair might be the more appropriate place to sit to meditate. The two primary things to consider the ability to relax deeply, and keeping the spine straight. The reason there is near universal emphasis on keeping the spine straight is to facilitate the flow of subtle energies rising up the spine. This is a subject that requires more attention and we can give it to here, at this time. Generally speaking, it lying down is not considered a good position to meditation. The reasoning here is that the strongest association and imprint in your nervous system and subconscious is lying down means sleep.
For a beginner then, the posture of the meditation should be manageable and comfortable, offering the least distraction for the mind. There are benefits to later adopting a more traditional posture. Primarily it conditions the body to associate the posture with meditation, which has the effect of making meditation easier. With time the appropriate muscles are strengthened, and the body opens to allow sitting this way without difficulty.
The use of a cushion is highly advisable, if not essential in the beginning. This needs to be a cushion specifically for meditation, a type that is filled with millet or pellets of some kind. This gives it a firmness and allows it to mold to the body shape. The position of the cushion should slightly raise the back of the pelvis tilting the front slightly downwards. This helps the spine to stay straight and erect with the least muscular effort.
The best time to meditate is usually said to be first thing in the morning. First thing in the morning is the hour before dawn. For those of us who don't live in a monastery, it's a pretty big ask. that those of us who don't live in a monastery and have young children it's just not going to happen.
The reason that this hour is specified as the best time to meditate is probably not applicable to most of us. The reasoning is, because most people are soundly asleep at this time the psychic space of the collective consciousness is not busy with their thoughts. At least in your immediate environment.
But are any of us really so sensitive that we would really notice the difference? I think not. We have to remember that these directions on spiritual practice were written down a very long time ago. Before the advent of electricity, most people's daily rhythms were much more attuned to nature. Meaning they tended to get up with the sun and go to bed not long after it went down.
Considering then these things, and the many diverse demands on our time, let's reconsider pre-dawn as the best time to meditate.
Personally, I don't think it really matters, but there are different factors to take into consideration.
Those who are new to meditation what is important is consistency. This means that the time of day you meditate should be a time of the day when you consistently can meditate. And then do, of course.
Those who practice yoga asana, an ideal time to meditate would be immediately after finishing your practice. There are those that believe that yoga asana practice is primarily a preparation and meditation. Whether this is true or not, it definitely is good preparation. For one thing, yoga asana practice opens the body and allows a free flow of prana or energy. It subsequently softens and opens our consciousness. By this, I mean that we become more present in awareness, and less caught up in the chatter of the mind. Yoga asana, when done correctly directs our awareness into the body, into a more direct and kinesthetic experience of ourselves. As such, yoga asana is in itself a form of meditation.
Another factor to consider in the best time of day to meditate is the type of meditation to be practiced. If the practice involves a dynamic activation of your energy system it's really not a good idea to do it at night. This type of meditation would include things like, chakra meditations, and any form of meditation when you are bringing energy into your body, or circulating energy within your body. These type of meditation it is definitely more appropriate to do in the morning.
In conclusion, I feel the most important factor in deciding the best time of day to practice meditation, is when is the time it works best. If during your meditation practice you are not really yet awake enough, or conversely are already too tired, it's not the best time to be meditating. Equally, if your time feels pressured and you are trying to squeeze meditation in, it's unlikely to be very satisfactory.
The most important thing about your meditation practice is that you enjoy doing it, even when it's challenging. So the best time to practice it is a factor in the equation creating consistency and ease, and limiting resistance to sitting down and meditating.
From a completely different point of view, the best time to practice meditation is when you are upset. Once your practices deep enough that you can be present with yourself when there is the internal turmoil of one kind or another, you know that you are really making progress. There is a too tremendous benefit to be gained from being able to practice meditation at such times.
Learn a meditation that teaches you how to use the understanding of the principles life as a spiritual process to gain liberation.