The quieter you become, the more you can hear.~Ram Dass
If the daily stress continues to build up, it is good to develop a daily practice that will help you disconnect and can be an anchor to get you through difficult times.
An altar is a wonderful way to create a sacred space and de-stress or disconnect from daily activities. It is also a great way to unwind at the end of the day. “Altar” in Latin refers to a raised, sacred space like a table that a person uses in times of reflection. It can be used in a religious setting or help inspire meditation and visualization practices. I like to think of my altar space as a safe space where anything is allowed, without judgment or fear. It is a place where I can be completely honest with myself about how I feel and what I need to do in that moment.
Using an altar in this way can help you better understand how your inner landscape ticks. You can begin to recognize emotions and thought patterns that were previously hidden from you, develop creativity, find clarity, and find solutions to problems.
Step One: Finding an Altar Space in Your Home
Step one in setting up your personal altar space is to think about your home and where it would be best to set up your altar, based on the activity and location of the space. It is best to choose a private area, perhaps by a window where natural light can enter, or by a door that opens to the natural world. If you have a space in mind, try it out to see how you feel there. Tune into your breath as you sit there to reflect on the space. What could you bring to the altar to focus on your mission? What do you need from your altar to show up on a daily basis?
When you are sitting here, pay attention to all the emotions or visualizations that might arise. Is there a message about the space you need to hear? Is there any color associated with the space? Is there any stone, plant, image, or object that your altar needs? What size table do you need? Over time, you can adjust and shift the energy on your altar as you learn more about working with your sacred space.
Remember to be kind, compassionate and gentle with yourself. There is no wrong or right way to set up your sacred altar space. There is only one rule of thumb you should keep in mind when setting up your space: Clean up the clutter. This is a place where magic can happen, but to support this process, it is important to clear up the clutter. A 2017 study published in the journal Current Psychology found that clutter and chaos in your physical environment could be linked to life dissatisfaction.
So clutter be gone! And you are well on your way to creating a beautiful transformative space that nourishes your soul and brings abundant blessings to your life.
Stones: The Bones of the Earth
Stones, crystals and precious stones are the bones of the earth. They have been used here in healing methods to convey a sense of well-being, insight and wisdom that can help change people or certain situations. They are considered timekeepers of the earth and in some cultures are called grandfathers. Just like us, each stone has a unique gift or power that we can share with ourselves when we allow them into our hearts.
They can also serve as a representation of something specific you want to work with or cultivate in your life. For example, Jet helps dispel negative thoughts and provide a protective shield around its user. Rose Quartz is known as a heart stone that brings about a deeper healing of the heart through unconditional love, trust and compassion. It is a great stone when you feel isolated from others and are unable to move past heart issues. Clear Quartz can bring balance to your altar. Citrine helps absorb negative energy and is associated with joy and positive possibilities.
You can also take a medicine walk in nature to see if any stone is calling out to you. Stones are happy to help us at different stages of our lives. Before you walk, say a prayer and make an intention about something you need in your life. During your medicine walk, pay attention to the subtle voices in nature. You can hear these whispers with your heart. If a stone is tugging at your heart or talking to you, ask it if it is okay to take it home.
How can you tune into a stone? Place the stone in your left hand, your receiving side, calm your mind and listen with your heart. You can ask the stone questions such as: "What is your gift?" "Where do you come from?" "How do you want me to work with you"? "Do you have a message for me?" "Where do you want me to place you?" The answer to these questions will help you to begin working with stones on your altar and in your life.
Plant Medicine: Soul Nourishment
Plants occupy a special home in my heart. They carry sacred and powerful medicine, which can help to cure illnesses of a physical, mental, emotional and spiritual nature. As with all sacred things, the key is to open the mind and heart to their healing powers.
Some plants are considered "Master Teachers" and are to be regarded and used with great reverence. Many of these plants have been used for thousands of years in sacred rituals. People were dependent on them to have visions, to lead their people, to heal their sick and to communicate with the spirits. Keep in mind, all plants hold healing powers and valuable teachings.
Obtaining plants from your region is a great way to integrate herbal medicine into your life. Feel free to explore the healing properties and stories associated with the plant of your choice. Learning to make herbal teas from them will add an extra level of connection when you begin to feel how the plant interacts in your body. As an herbalist and plant lover, I am primarily reliant on my plant medicine remedies for my personal healing and to potentiate my altar space.
A word of caution: research the plant you are taking thoroughly for its contraindications and make sure it is not toxic; some plants are not meant to be ingested, or should be taken under proper guidance; and other plants may have specific contraindications.
Meditation and Visualization: Soul and Mind Work
Meditation means calming the mind from the outside world, opening up to your inner landscape through mindfulness and peace. Breathing techniques are a valuable tool that can help calm the mind and create silence. They have been used over time by many ancient cultures to connect with “spirit”, "creator", or your "higher self."
Breathing: Connection to Self
Breathing can attune you to your inner landscape, where you can find peace and acceptance for yourself and others. This alone is a powerful reason to set up an altar space. Studies have shown that breathing can relieve anxiety, improve sleep, improve mental clarity and mood. Some even claim that certain breathing techniques can help manage chronic pain.
The beauty of breathing is that there is no wrong way to do it. Start by tuning into your breath as you inhale and exhale. Pay attention to where your breath feels blocked in your body to bring more awareness to this area. You can experiment with slow, fast and intermittent breathing to see which one you prefer. If you need to start with some guided breathing exercises there are plenty online that you can find beneficial.
Language: Honey for the Soul
Keeping an inspiring book close to your altar is a great way to focus on positive messages. Language is known for its powerful effect on shaping your perception of the world and what kind of input you can bring to your world. Selecting a poem or quote at the beginning of your meditative time in front of your altar can help set the right framework and intent, so you can inspire and nurture your soul.
While setting up an altar can be intimidating at first glance, it can be a fun activity. Collecting objects in nature, remembering things you have forgotten, finding new inspirations and making new resolutions is a good medicine for the soul.
I hope this will inspire you to either reignite your relationship with your daily practices or to get an exciting new practice started in your life. Life with everything, the more you practice the more it will become a part of your daily ritual and you will gain more benefit from it.
Be patient with yourself. Be kind. All is good.