Could a personal altar add to your life?

For some of us, the search for balance and harmony can feel like a constant challenge. Juggling all aspects of our busy lives, we need to ‘schedule in’ or block out’ space for our well-being. Trying to fit ‘me time’ into our digital time lines has become the necessary norm. That’s if we’re organised enough to do so, and sometimes only after receiving advice from on high to find ways to avoid a formidable ‘burn-out’.

The idea of an altar may conjure up visuals of ancient sacrificial ceremonies or strange neo-pagan fetishism, relegated only to esoteric Wicca types. Whatever your association, throughout history altars have been used as places of worship and for connecting with something bigger than ourselves. An altar is the focal point for celebrating, blessing and invoking the divine.

If creating a personal altar at home may seem out of character, bordering on ridiculous, or stirs thoughts of a ‘cultural appropriation’ rant… perhaps you have never considered what kind of significant role making an altar can play in your modern, busy life.

Crystals altar

Could it help you carve out space for relaxation, mindfulness, focus and intention? Could it be a place where you can connect to the deeper truth of who you are? Could it help you define more clearly for yourself what is ultimately important to you, amongst all the shiny and even dull, must-do distractions?

In its simplicity, an altar can just be a dedicated place to sit and ponder, pray or meditate. A special somewhere that you have positioned treasured possessions, that can serve as a constant reminder to your value system, whatever that may be. A place where you can consider the things you would like to cultivate more of in your life.

Truth be told, there are long established traditions about what is to be placed upon an altar. Customary arrangements of sacred and symbolic objects can all be revealed with just a quick glance at Pinterest. Tradition aside, when creating a personal altar for yourself at home, it is more important that the things you include hold special meaning to you.

Your altar can be set up anywhere, indoors or outdoors, wherever feels appropriate. However, if space or a sense of privacy is an issue, you could consider making an ‘altar box’. It’s portable, so you can take it on adventures with you, and it’s easy enough to hide from your cynical, albeit high functioning, E.I. deficient flatmate.

If you do decide to devote an area to that display the things you consider to be sacred, the following 5 ‘how to’s’ may help:

Step 1: WHERE TO PLACE YOUR ALTAR:

This is entirely up to you. The most important part of this decision is how you are going to feel when you go there. Your altar may be somewhere central, communal and celebrated – or perhaps your needs are to create privacy and your very own secret hideaway. A hollowed out tree, mantle or any unused corner are all possibilities for establishing a new sacred space full of intention.

Step 2: WHAT TO ADD TO YOUR ALTAR:

Do some research. Discovering what has been traditionally used around the world and then deciding what feels right for you is a fun place to start. In any case, only choose items that invoke personal or special meaning! Everything that appears on your altar is a tool or device that serves to connect you to its significance. For example, if you decide you want to represent the elements fire, water, earth, air and metal, a candle which is connected to the fire element, can also be a practical way of creating light and warmth. Lighting one can also signify your time to commune has commenced and can become part of the ceremony you create for yourself.

Step 3: HOW TO ACTIVATE YOUR ALTAR:

Paying loving attention to your sacred space is the goal. Whether it’s a daily Outdoor Altarpractice or an occasional visit, the time you devote is essentially time you are carving out for yourself. Be sure to keep your altar activated by interacting and connecting with each of the pieces you have decided to include. The last thing you need in your busy life is another cluttered place that just gathers dust. Flowers can beautify and fruit and chocolate can be placed as an offering. Nothing tastes better than food you have taken the time to bless and appreciate. When you feel the time is right, you can eat your offerings in a blissful moment of sensual delight.

Step 4: WHY YOU FIND TIME FOR YOUR ALTAR:

Consider adding found objects like feathers and shells that connect you to a place in time. You may desire to cultivate more of these moments and their qualities into your life. An altar can be a perfect place to store mementos that personalise your space and prompt pleasant feelings with just a passing glance. Focusing on what you want in your life is good practice. We are all too often concerned with the things that are not working for us. Energy flows where attention goes, so you can use your altar like a 3D vision board. Meditate or just gaze upon your sacred space in contemplation. Each moment with your altar is an opportunity for you to dream and get clear about who you are choosing to be in the world. Then set a path to be just that! When we act like who we want to be, soon we ultimately become the way we act.

Step 5: WHEN TO USE YOUR ALTAR:

You decide what’s right for you. Just like life, engaging with an altar can be a dynamic experience that can change and shift according to our needs. In times of trouble it can be a safe place to seek solace, weep, and let go. When we are calling in the things we want for ourselves, playing music and dancing or singing may also feel right. There are no rules. You are limited only by your own creativity, desires and sense of freedom. All that the altar serves to be, is somewhere devoted to be with and enjoy oneself. A place to listen deeply to that inner voice that is always waiting patiently for you to find time. To develop and cultivate a deeper relationship to self and your connection to the world. So you can then take that out into your everyday and speak and act from an intentional place that is in alignment with the values of your heart and mind. So, perhaps allow yourself this gift to play. Light candles and embrace the feelings that are invoked. An altar is a magical place to celebrate the joy of being alive!

Natalie Bak
Shiatsu Therapist