Creating an Altar

Ok, so granted this photo is of a Mexican altar created for the Day of the Dead.  And certainly, your altar doesn’t have to look like this.  But they do a great job here of creating an entire mood, theme, and purpose behind a home altar.

A sacred altar in your home can serve as a focal point for meditation or simply a refuge where you return when you need a spiritual boost.  It provides the space to lay down the burdens of your everyday life and just BE.  By dedicating space in your home to spirit, you coach your mind…and your loved ones… to believe that peace, serentiy, and connection with the Divine is an ever-increasing priority.

Here are five tips to help you create an altar for meditation, prayer, and spiritual focus.

1.  Clear a space

The importance of this cannot be overstated.  You have to create the space for the altar to exist.  Clear and consecrate a dedicated area of your home such as a room, a corner, a table, or the shelf of a bookcase that will be solely used for this spiritual purpose.  This is important because you are committing to allocating a percentage of space for Spirit.  It helps you to create the time within your life for Spirit as well, because you are committing to the idea behind it.  Clean it thoroughly, preferably with natural cleansers.  You may also choose to burn sage or incense to clear the energy of the area.  If you are going to use an altar cloth, lay it down with reverence and create the location for your altar with a sense of ceremony.

2. Decide your theme

Altars can be created for many reasons.  You can just do an all-purpose altar if you’d like, which is perfectly acceptable.  You can also theme your altar, such as creating an altar for healing (you might use the color green, crystals for healing, images of saints such as Guru Ram Das  or Mother Theresa, a sprig of echinacea, and the symbol of a bear, an animal with tremendous healing power). You could also create a seasonal altar, dedicated to symbols of spring or winter for example, and using elements from that time of year.  Or you could choose a spiritual tradition that speaks directly to your heart (or a combination of traditions).  If the Hindu path has helped you find yourself, you might choose to ornament your altar with a statue of Ganesh and some marigolds.  You may also choose to put up pictures of people you love and/or spiritual teachers you resonate with.  Let spirit guide you to the right altar to create for your own needs.

3. Select sacred items

Choosing items for your altar should be done with great care and consideration.  My own altar has sprigs of lavender plucked from outside the cave in Lebanon where Jesus turned water into wine, water from the sacred pool around the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a quartz crystal blessed by John of God, pictures of the Dalai Lama, and a statue of the goddess Lakshmi. There are no wrong things to put on your altar.  You might choose pinecones that you picked up on a walk with your grandkid, shells from the beach vacation you took with your beloved, photos of your spiritual teacher, a beautiful crystal, feathers, statues of Gods and Goddess, or a photo that inspires you.  Create and play. Have fun with this.  Your altar is uniquely you.

4. Arranging your altar

There are many ways of arranging your altar.  You could arrange it in a more Native American style based on the four directions/four elements (North/Earth, South/Fire, East/Air, West/Water) and place symbols or elements that represent these in each place.  You could create an altar based on chakras, and place things in line or in a circle, corresponding to the chakras.  You could also create a feng shui altar, placing something in the middle, such as a crystal or figure, and radiating the rest of your items out around in circularly according to the principles of feng shui.  Or you could simply place things on your altar in the position and way that it appeals to you.  Your altar doesn’t have to please anyone but you, so make sure that you are choosing how to set up your altar based on what YOU like.  Place everything with intention.  Intend for each item to represent the spiritual realm and for the altar itself to be a powerful, sacred place for you.

5.  Maintenance

It’s important to keep your altar clean.  Don’t allow it to become a catch-all.  Its not there to hold cups or your keys or spare pieces of paper.  Don’t allow dust to cover it.  Keep your items clean.  You might choose to burn sage periodically you keep the energy fresh.  Dedicating that space solely to spirit is a powerful tool to keep YOU reminded to keep your spirit clean too.  If you are neglecting your altar, ask yourself if you are neglecting your spiritual life.

Once you’ve created your own personal altar, use it!  You might meditate in front of it, bring flowers to brighten it up, or just look at it on your way out the door for an extra lift, smile and prayer before you start your workday.


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