For me, an altar has always represented a place of worship. Having attended a religious school, I am reminded of the daily chapel services I used to sit through staring up at a colourful stained glass window. Underneath it was a large cross standing on a high wooden bench. The Christian faith never truly resonated with me but I wasn’t opposed to religion, or to the chapel and I actually found being there quite a peaceful experience.
I first came across a ‘spiritual altar’ when I started having private lessons with one of my yoga teachers. I walked into her living room and saw a table with a picture of an Indian man, an image of a goddess, a crystal and a candle. She kindly said this was her altar and went on to explain each aspect. The picture was her teacher, Swami Sivananda; the image was the Hindu deity Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and prosperity; the crystal was for protection and spiritual growth; and the candle was there to remind you of the light within you.
By setting up an altar in your own home, you are establishing a sacred place. A safe, comfortable and personal place for you to come to each day to remind you of your spiritual work. It provides a place for morning/evening rituals, meditation, yoga or just the space to pause and connect. In the midst of a busy day, or busy period in life, an altar can remind you that your practice is always there for you.
Setting up your altar can be as simple and personal as you want it to be. Here are some things you may want to consider.
- Deciding where your altar will go will depend on your living space and situation. Choosing a room or a specific area of a room. Altars are usually created on a raised surface. It could be on it’s own small table or on a shelf or a windowsill. Whether you make a small altar or a large one, try to keep your space clean and dedicated to its purpose.
- There are many things you might like to bring to your altar;
- Pictures: Of others who inspire and encourage you. Spiritual leaders, teachers, loved ones.
- Spiritual Figures: Maybe you follow a particular religion or tradition, or are interested in the qualities they represent.
- Treasured Items: These could be things you’ve collected, or been gifted that are special and meaningful to you. Jewellery, cards, poems.
- Crystals: To reinforce intention and invite particular energies/qualities into your space and practice.
- Incense: To purify and cleanse your space and your practice. We love white sage and nag champa.
- Candle: To remind you of the bright light within you.
Take time to think about what you want to place on your altar. What you want to remember and cultivate in your practice. Choose items that you will feel connected to and will inspire you. Have fun, be creative and remember its your own unique and sacred space.
Spiritual Figures: At the centre of the alter is a bronze triton. This is representative of the Hindu goddess Durga, known as the protective mother of the universe. The trident is one of the weapons she uses to alleviate physical, mental, and spiritual suffering. I am not religious, however I like the strong feminine energy of this figure. There is also a small Ganesha — the remover of obstacles, given to me by Hay.
Treasured items: on the right side of the alter I have a small heart carved from wood given to me by my dad. This piece reminds me of the grounding presence he has in my life and I get him to hold it whenever I go home. To the left is a small silver silhouette pendant given to me by a dear friend. The banksia pod i found while on one of favourite days in Sydney, doing a long bush hike with some buddies.
Crystals: The clear quartz is present for clarity and to amplify communication. The cracked geode was a present from a loved one. A small reminder to foster ones inner strength and beauty.
Incense: I light incense whenever I am spending time in my space. I find the flame and smoke meditative and the scent makes me feel as if I have arrived. As I work in a busy emergency department, this acts as a gentle reminder to wind down and move away from anything full on that happened throughout the shift.