An altar is a place for spiritual reflection, a focal point for remembrance or gratitude.
I often see altars of one kind or another in client’s homes. They may be as simple as a cluster of family photos, a statue or picture of a deity or religious teacher, a devotional book on a small table, or a vase of flowers. I am always touched how much these spaces mean to my clients. I would like to share some thoughts about how you can create an altar in your home or garden that reflects the deepest part of you.
In China altars to the family gods or ancestors were often placed in the kitchen – the heart of the home. Today, it is not unusual to see an altar in a place of honor in Asian restaurants.
“…the primary function of altars and shrines has been to provide sacred and holy places amid ordinary life.” – Denise Linn.
A wonderful book that will inspire you to explore having an altar or special place in your home is Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life by Denise Linn. Denise is a woman of deep connection to heaven and earth who draws on many spiritual traditions. She is one of my favorite teachers. Her book is filled with beautiful color photos of altars and dedicated spaces and many creative ideas on how to create and use a home altar.
Denise Lin writes about “subliminal altars.” This may be a grouping of personal treasures that remind you of the people, places and events that you love most. It can be family photos, both old and new; heirlooms to remind us of where we come from and who came before us; or beautiful objects, natural and manmade, that touch our souls.
Conscious altars are for meditation or spiritual exercises. It is a sacred space in the midst of our everyday lives. It is a reminder to connect with the sacred within and around us. It is a site for celebration and manifestation. When an altar is consciously created with love and attention it can be a reminder of what we are seeking.
The objects on an altar “give form to the formless” according to Denise Linn. The images on the altar and their personal meaning are imprinted on your subconscious which has a powerful influence on our feelings. The physical objects represent a belief, idea or relationship. They touch the inner knowing, the inner spirit within us all.
When time is spent at your altar meditating, praying, lighting a candle or incense or simply touching the objects placed there, that space accumulates positive energy. Any ritual you may do at your altar connects you with all the beings, past and present, who have done similar rituals. You are not alone.
Denise Linn writes about many kinds of altars, among them are altars for healing – physically, emotionally and spiritually; life-transition altars – recognizing that life change is not a single event, but a process that needs time to unfold; and manifestation altars – a space to seek deeper clarity on your dreams. Once you have this clarity, then you can place objects and pictures on the altar that represent your wishes.
Where to put your altar? It can be in a quiet place where you can be undisturbed. One client had her altar in an emptied closet. Another had hers in the bedroom overlooking a still lake. The altar itself can be a small table, shelf, or a desk or bureau top.
A funny thing happened on the way to finishing this article. I inspired myself! I jumped up from my computer and rearranged some photos in my bedroom and added a few new things. Grouping together images of those I love the most and making that collection a conscious altar gives a whole new meaning to those objects for me.
Although Denise’s book Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life is out of print, it is available at Amazon.com.
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