Altars aren’t just for nuns and priests and uber-spiritual yogis. Remember the nature table in the back of your classroom as a child? That was an altar, of sorts.
And you don’t need to be a bit of a hippy to embrace and benefit from the practice of maintaining a small altar in your home. By dedicating a space as an altar, we provide ourselves with visual reminders that ground our connection with what we hold dear. And with the Divine, if we wish to feel that connection too.
It is made sacred by the dedication of the space, and by consciously choosing what elements of our lives we wish to honour.
If you have that kind of practice, your altar could be a focal point during meditation. Or it can simply be a visual tool to remind us to be mindful of aligning with our own highest self, and highest calling.
To set it up, choose a place where you will see it every day. Use a raised surface like a small table, a shelf or even a window sill. Or you could use a tray or cloth to cordon off an area on a larger surface. Then gather some pieces for placement, that represent what is sacred to you. Of course this can include statues of spiritual deities, but these aren’t necessary if that’s not your thing.
Choose some elemental items that you feel drawn to, such as stones, shells, feathers, fresh flowers and live plants. Collect these from places that hold special meaning to you, or that remind you of special people, places or experiences in your life. You could also write out an intention for yourself and seal it in an envelope.
With everything gathered, start by cleaning the area with a clean damp cloth. Light a candle – it is symbolic of engaging in a conscious ritual. And if you have a bell, a singing bowl or anything that creates a nice chime, sound it over the space. (If you don’t, then don’t worry about that.)
Then intentionally place each item on the altar, being mindful of the reason you have chosen it for this sacred space.
Don’t crowd the space with photos of your nearest and dearest, as hopefully you already have these placed around your home. But during times of crisis, do move a photo of someone in need to your altar, light a candle and send them your best wishes (including prayer, if that’s something you practice).
Use your altar as a daily reminder of what has the greatest meaning to you. Attend to it regularly by dusting it, changing out dying flowers for fresh, lighting a candle or incense, and sounding chimes if you have them.
And allow it to be ever-evolving, just like your life.
Every altar is extremely personal and when we attune to it on a regular basis it becomes a space that helps us connect with our highest self. It can help to influence our mood and outlook, reminding us to hand problems beyond our control over to a higher power.
It can remind us of our own personal intentions for how we want to be in the world. And it can remind us to simply slow down for a minute or two and connect with the present moment through our breath.
The possibilities of how to use an altar are endless. It’s up to each of us to decide where to put it, what to put on it, how to use it, and what intentions to activate through it.
But creating an altar in our homes, and taking a moment or two to pause there each day, brings the sacred into the mundane everyday. And over time these sacred moments build up into a more mindful approach to how we live our lives.