891 words // 12 min. read
Back in the day – and by that I mean like, 5,000 years ago – humans placed great emphasis on their shrines. Having a shrine or altar meant that one could access God in the daily human experience. It was understood as a central part of one’s daily life, as the foundation of one’s prayer or spiritual practice. In Feng Shui, altars are considered the place where God force comes in to your home. So if you have no altar? God hesitates to come in!
On the individual level, this common custom meant they had altars (or “courtyards”) at the heart of every home, often with sacred items representing their ancestors, deities, and perhaps energy of different forces like love or money or health. On the collective level, this manifested as temples at the heart of every city, often with a sacred “inner sanctum” at the core (a shrine within a shrine if you will).
I mean think about it. What if, instead of TVs being what our “living” rooms are centered around, what if every home in America had an altar to their spirituality at the center?
My blood boils when I think of how cities are built now, with everything so jarring and grimy and soulless. Very little is sacred in big cities, with the only nature being in parks which are (typically) not well maintained. This extreme lack of intention in our environment sets us up for confusion, scatteredness, and self-fractioning as we pass through these spaces with energetic difficulty.
A classic book on the topic I have yet to read all of but which has profoundly affected me nonetheless is one called A Pattern Language. It’s written by an architect with a divine understanding of the subtler implications of buildings, and the arrangement of buildings, in terms of how it affects our human experience. This is a field called “environmental psychology” which is FASCINATING. But my point in bringing up this book is that in one chapter he talks about the effects of a city with a courtyard in the middle, in stark contrast to a city with a dump in the middle. You can imagine the dynamic differences in energy these scenarios generate for the whole.
On a more practical level, I think of my altar as an anchor of my spiritual and psychic energy. Every day, I wake up and sit down and make an offering there, which connects me to my source. It is a centralization of my spiritual force – my willpower, creativity, passion, and divinity accumulate there into a reverberating orb of energy that envelops my whole house in a glorious state of nurturing and upliftment. This makes it easier for me to maintain higher vibrations.
With a well-loved and well-tended altar, your home can become a temple.
And besides the obvious benefits of accumulating high-vibrational energy in one place, it also encourages a habit of prayer or meditation practice, as it is designed for engagement and relishment as one gazes over their most sacred objects.
As simple as it is, I believe this is a huge way to shift consciousness quickly, for not only individuals but whole societies! And it’s really simple to start one. Most people have everything already lying around.
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First, designate the place and form it will take – this can be with a piece of furniture such as a small shelf or table, or it can be more simple such as a cloth on the floor. Next, find or purchase some sort of pillow/rug/blanket to place before the altar. This will be what invites you to the practice so make it enticing – fluffy & cushioned – go PLUSH on this! Luxuriate!
Then the fun part – you get to go all over your house collecting the most sacred things you can find. Crystals or stones, musical instruments, photos, representations of deities, objects representing something sacred for you, anything goes. Ideally you cleanse and “bless” everything you choose with concentrated attention (and sage or holy water). Typically you want to include at least one candle, an incense or oil burner, a bell or chime if you have one, and some kind of plate and bowl (one to hold sage bundles etc, and the bowl for giving offerings).
Activities you can participate in at your altar: lighting incense, anointing yourself with oils, charging your crystals with Love, chanting, singing, and/or playing music, lighting candles, giving offerings to deities (wine, fruit, coins, etc), expressing gratitude, setting intentions (or using EFT aka “tapping” with affirmations)… often you’ll end up just plain meditating no matter where you start out.
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The creativity is up to you. There is no right or wrong! (Unless you spell it “alter.” That is WRONG.) I like to have several altars around my house, all working out or “holding” different things. Most of the time I am working with a deity or two in particular (see the picture above for my current!). Of course, I always emphasize the central altar though, as the “hearth” of your home and centerpoint to your practice, and ultimately, the place where God force is invited in.
I hope you take this as seriously as I do and MAKE ONE! And then you can make one for your parents and your friends and your gatherings….
Life will never be the same. And why should it, anyway? 😉