I’ve always been highly inspired by beautifully appointed and thoughtfully designed spaces. Those spaces make you slow down and feel a sense of wonder and contentment, and it feels like a true expression of who we are and where we want to be. Once I realized that I could create that same feeling in my inner world through intention as a daily practice, I opened myself up to an entirely new beauty.
Creating regular rituals invites magic, openness, and presence into your life. Rituals are a time to intentionally slow down and be with yourself. To create beauty for yourself.
A ritual I love practicing is that of altar building. An altar is an area, space, or object that has been placed mindfully and represents some sacred importance to the builder.
Most wisdom traditions utilize some kind of altar or offering space. The puja table in the Hindu traditions, the shrine or Butsudan of the Buddhist tradition, or the altar or offering space of Wicca.
The intention here is to build a beautiful and inspirational space where you can come to remember what matters most to you. I see altar building as a moving meditation that combines mindfulness and creativity. Altars can be on the dashboard of a car, a dining room table, a bookshelf, or a meditation table or area. Roaming Barefoot makes these small, handmade altars that are beautiful and fit just about anywhere. Altars are the creation of sacred space, and really they can be anywhere! The sky is the limit.
Begin by deciding on the spot for your altar. You might want to cleanse your chosen space, and I like using water with a bit of cedar essential oil or a spritz of Rose Quartz Hydrosol. You may want to include the smoke of an incense or palo santo to cleanse the space. My favorite is Copal with its sacred white smoke.
Find a few things that are meaningful to you to place on your altar. Some ideas for these items can be a photo of a loved one - either living or passed, a small plant, a crystal, shell, or rock, a flower, a clipping from an outdoor plant or tree, a small sculpture, a photo of a place you love, a meaningful book or writing, a candle. Really whatever is calling to you.
Gather your items on a tray. Sit down in front of your altar space. Close or lower your eyes and settle into your body. Begin to notice the breath within the body. Witnessing the small movements of the body and the sensations within the body. Can you feel the aliveness in your hands? Your feet? Your heart space? You are filled with aliveness. You are connected to something so much deeper than you could imagine. Sitting in this presence, you may take a few more breaths, then open your eyes.
From this space of heartfelt awareness, you may be placing your items on your altar space. Seeing each one with real presence and offering gratitude as you handle them.
Once you’ve placed your items, you may want to light a candle, say an affirmation or prayer, or continue a more extended meditation.
Just as we tend to our inner world through meditation, therapy, journaling, affirmations, and somatic practices, we also tend to our altar spaces. Keeping them fresh and alive by regularly cleaning, rearranging, and adding items that spark our creativity and joy.
Building altars doesn’t have to be a solo project. Creating altars as a group can be an intentional way to begin a weekend trip with friends or a celebration like a birthday or a holiday.
I love creating little altars with my children and letting them pick their favorite leaves or branches from outside. Then, allowing them to arrange our chosen items in the way they want. This adds a special element to our holidays and celebrations together.
I will always hold dear the memory of a retreat I was on with friends a few years ago, where we started the weekend by building a large altar and then stood up one by one to talk about the importance of the items we had placed. Even though most of us knew each other very well, it was an intimate space to share our creative hearts.
Altar building is a form of movement meditation and a way to show love and care for our homes, offices, or any area we spend time in. It's a fun way to express creativity through spiritual practice. And these unique spaces remind us of our deepest cares and dreams, nestled in the hearts of our homes and workspaces.
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