Many meditators have created a dedicated area in their home for their practice. This may contain an altar with relevant images or statues such as those of the Buddha, Christ, Mother Mary, favorite teachers, and ancestors. There are often meaningful readings available nearby as well. However, in today’s hectic world such an area is not always available: people travel, get stuck at the office for extended periods, or for some reason cannot set up a dedicated space in their home. With a few simple steps one can create a portable altar and spiritual reading area using an Android smartphone.
The first step in replicating this central meditation space on an Android smartphone is to dedicate one of the available home pages to this purpose. The number of home pages provided varies by device and operating system version, but it’s common to have at least three and sometimes as many as seven home pages available. Simply choose one of these home pages and remove any existing items from it. This will be the starting point for your portable altar.
The next step is to make sure you have the image you would like as your altar’s centerpiece downloaded to your phone. Again, this could be an image of the Buddha, Christ, one of your teachers, or simply a photograph of a beautiful flower arrangement. Once you have the picture you wish to use stored on your phone, then add the Picture Frame widget to the home page. This is a standard feature of Android. Press down on the home page until the “Add to Home screen” menu pops up. Choose the Widgets option, and then scroll down until you find Picture Frame. Press on this option and the phone’s image gallery will be displayed. From the gallery, find and select the picture you want to use as your altar’s center piece. A rectangle will be displayed over the image, allowing you to select the portion you wish displayed. Once you’ve moved and sized the rectangle to your liking, press the save button. Your picture will now appear on the home page. Depending on the size of your screen and how much other material you wish to place on your altar page, you may wish to repeat these steps for additional images.
You may also wish to have important texts available to read as part of your meditation. These could be favorite prayers, sutras, teachings, or poems. If you haven’t done so, you will need to install one of the many notepad applications which allow notes to be attached to the phone’s home page. Using this notepad application, create notes containing the texts you wish to have on your altar page. This may involve typing them in by hand or cutting and pasting text from a web page. Then, using whichever option the notepad provides, attach these texts to the home page you have designated as your altar. This may be done through the shortcut menu available on the home page or through an option inside the notepad application, depending on which program you are using.
Finally, move the photos and texts you have added to your home page into an arrangement that suits you. For example, you may wish to have a single picture in the middle of the page with texts above or below it. Alternately, you may choose to have two images at the bottom of the page and texts at the top. You can move items on the page by pressing on them for a moment and then dragging them to the appropriate place on the page.
One final thing you may wish to add to your meditation home page is a timer. There are many timers available for download from the Android Market. One which is specifically designed for meditation practice is Zen Timer by Spotlight Six Software. This application has a selection of several bells which can be programmed for various intervals. For example, one can configure it to start a session with three bells and end with a single bell, perhaps with a softer warning bell slightly before the final bell. Multiple bell sequences can be arranged in order to support extended sessions with a mix of activities, such as sitting and walking meditation.
When one cannot be near their preferred meditation space it can be helpful to have a portable altar available. As we’ve seen, it is easy to set one up using an Android smartphone and one or two downloaded applications. While it may seem strange to depend on technology to help create a peaceful meditation space, working with what life provides us is central to many spiritual teachings. These days what life often provides is the versatility of a smartphone.
Samantha Kerr has found that despite the latest mobile phones causing plenty of interruption to life it can also provide a great aide to rest, relaxation and meditation.