Creating Sacred Space
Why is it Important to Create Sacred Space?
When I work with clients who seek to develop an ongoing spiritual practice, I always suggest creating a space in your home that is dedicated to your work. Whether your practice is based on Tantra, Tarot, Mindfulness Meditation, Soul Healing, or anything else- this tangible manifestation of your inner world is hugely important for grounding your practice in the outer world.
The basic research behind meditation and subtle energy practice cites that the more we can include external triggers for our deep meditation, the easier it is to use those triggers later on when we need to revisit a calm, centered energy. Not only does a sacred space strengthen your practice, it serves as a physical reminder to keep up with it!
What is an Altar? How Do I Make My Own?
Historically the term "altar" has been associated with both traditional churches and nontraditional occult practices... and depending on your spiritual or religious background, both of these lineages can be a little off-putting. However, as global traditions become linked through the melting pot of modern day spirituality, "altar" has come to mean a personal expression of one's unique blend of practices.
Typically an altar is created using some sort of shelf or table. Some traditions use a mesa, or an important cloth spread out on the ground. If you spend a lot of time outdoors, you can create one from the earth itself.
Not to fall back on an old cliche, but size doesn't matter! It is the quality of your sacred space that is important.
Making your own altar is so much fun. No one else gets to say what goes in, on, or around it because this is a pure expression from your heart. No two people will ever make an altar that is exactly the same!
All that being said- please read below for some tips on how to get started.
Gather the Belongings that Are Sacred to You
Look around your home, your yard, and inside old dusty boxes to bring out the little tokens of your life that carry deep meaning. It doesn't matter how trivial these items may seem to other people, because once again, this is an expresssion of your heart, your life, your passion, and your purpose.
Have you had this one little stone since you were a kid? A little statue from your grandma? A necklace from your best friend? Consider your ancestry here... do you want to include a piece of family history?
If you don't have something that is obviously connected, get creative. A paintbrush can represent your love of art, a seashell can connect you to the ocean, or a special coin can connect you to abundance.
Linking in to the animal kingom is also important to most people. Don't forget to find a way represent your animal totems!
Call Upon All of Your
As I mentioned, the more senses that we involve in our spiritual practices, the more our body and mind can sink into the experience of meditation. This is a very Tantric concept that is often echoed in other lineages.
Scent maybe the most powerful for keeping us connected to our true nature. If you use a particular incense or essential oil at your altar, you can bring a bit of that smell out into the world with you. Anytime that you lose sight of your peace, deeply smell that scent, and your heart will be transported back to your sacred space.
Mind your sight by keeping your altar beautiful. If it doesn't please the eyes, then something probably needs to shift!
The right sounds can be essential to quieting the monkey mind. Whether it is meditation music, singing bowls, chimes, or seed sounds, the right "noise" can trigger the body into a relaxed state.
Like the others, touch is a powerful bridge between our inner and outer world. A soft seat, a cozy rug, or a good set of prayer beads can go a long way towards fine tuning your space.
For taste I have two words: Dark Chocolate. But hey, that is just me! Lineages of old have made a practice of offering delicious foods to the Powers That Be. Consider making your own offering.
For the sixth sense.. I suggest taking a deep dive into your inner world to find out how to best represent this unique quality in your space.
Include Representations of the Elements
Creating an altar is about more than just connecting to your inner self. It is also about giving reverence to the Powers That Be. And whatever that means to you is perfect. The vast majority of cultures find some way of honoring the natural elements that give rise to our world. It is good measure to include these in your sacred space.
Cultural references to the elements vary, but they all include Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. Some also include aether or metal. The decision to include these should be left up to your heart.
Water can be a fountain, or a bowl of water that you change daily as a ritual. Earth can be a plant, or stones, or soil itself. You can even have both by including a plant that lives in water, like a stalk of bamboo.
You can include Fire through candles, incense, or an oil burning lamp. Maybe Air will be windchimes, or feathers, or simply an open window.
Keep it Alive
and Keep it Clean!
A truly powerful altar receives attention everday.
In much the same way that our muscles, our blood, or our minds become stagnant without use, the energy of our altar can suffer a similar fate. If we don't stay connected to this space, it will not be as funtional a tool as it could be.
This can be as simple as sitting down in front of your space, burning some incense or sage, and rearranging your items until they feel "right". If you are already sitting down in front of your altar, you may as well take a few minutes to meditate.
Personally, I recommend keeping your altar from getting too cluttered. If your sacred space is messy, this if often a reflection of your mind or your inner world as a whole.
I have a small box of overflow items that no longer want to be directly on my altar, or that don't yet have an obvious home. I typically keep this box under my altar so that those items are still honored without cluttering up my space.
I also use the space under my altar to keep things that are important, but painful, like my Mom's ashes. This "lower realm" of your altar is comparable to the soil of the Earth, which recycles and transmutes energies that are typically considered negative. (Contact me to learn more about that..)
Every few months, or more often if you'd like, remove everything from your altar and clean it with a moist cloth. This helps to keep it fresh, and to keep any heavy energies from lingering beyond their welcome.