In these times of uncertainty, it is imperative to find a spot in your home that is all your own to go deep inside, reflect and process what is happening around us. Consider finding a comfy chair or cushion to take with into different areas of your home to sit and feel into each area for a short time to find a spot where you feel most connected. This may be based on the lighting in that area, the quietness, the color, the view or the vibe. Wherever it is, when you sit there, you feel calm, undisturbed and focused. If you already have a spot you like to sit, go there.
Now, think about your current situation and all that may be happening to you, those around you and the world. Start with yourself. This will help us see what we may need to bring into our mediation space and altar to help ourselves and those around us.
I’ll be an example of this: My current situation is I live in California, I am raising two kids, homeschooling, making time for my work projects, cooking meals, trying to keep the house tidy, clearing away any objects in our home that no longer serve us, reading books, watching shows, prepping seeds for the garden, making lists for spring projects, calling/video chatting with family and friends, organizing, spending time on my phone, walking, riding my bike, researching and playing with my kids. I am feeling for my sister as she just had a baby and is still in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at the hospital with him for over 3 weeks, my nephew who is home without his mom with cystic fibrosis and my parents who continue to work through this while my father has COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). I pray that they all stay safe and healthy. This is also the birthday season in my family and trying to make it special when we cannot host the normal celebrations. In the world, I feel that there are so many questions in people’s minds about what it happening and a turning to seeing what is most important in our lives. I tried to include everything on my mind in this example, as to determine what areas are most important to me at this time to add into my altar to create intention and support.
This process is also helpful so that we can see where we are at and how we are feeling with the situation we are in. I find myself feeling anxious at times, unsure, restless, and at the same time, a new more fuller acceptance of where I am at and who I am. The most useful tool I know to really finding ourselves in this moment while the world may be feeling quite surreal, is to focus on the things that we can do to take care of ourselves to the fullest. For me, self care is a place I am working diligently and to finding all the ways to really nourish myself better. When our cup is full, we can be so much more effective to helping others. The best way I know to fill my cup is to meditate.
Meditation has shown to be an effective tool for calming our busy minds, improving rest, healing, reducing stress and anxiety, improving our emotional health, finding self awareness, controlling cravings and addictions and perhaps most importantly, developing loving kindness and awakening to our full potential. So lets find our spot and begin.
Now that we have found a spot, which can be kept quiet from the other spaces in the home during meditation, we are ready to set an altar or area of focus for our practice. It is also nice to check that we have appropriate light, comfortable temperature and proper ventilation. We can make this a permanent spot to set our altar or a place that you bring your altar items to and store in a container. It’s good to be creative, like setting up a bookshelf that you can slide the items into neatly. What is important is that we can keep this spot consistent. As we train the mind to be quiet, having a familiar space helps.The altar is a focal point of our practice space. It helps us anchor our energy, and in many ways, represents our intentions. As such, it can be very personal, and what we bring to it gives special meaning as we practice with it. There are no rules for setting an altar, but I will give you a general layout and then go back to my example to show how adding personal touches will help you in fulfilling your intension(s). A home altar should reflect your own needs for achieving your goals and intentions.
The first and most important thing is to have a table, shelf or stool that is sturdy and will not fall. I would recommend that your altar consist of a main object or focal point, 3 candles and incense or room spray. The center object is typically a statue or picture of the main object you are drawing your attention to. In my tradition it is the buddha. This image should be placed at the highest level and ideally above heart level. The three tea candles are placed one to the left, one to the right and one in the center of this focal point. An incense burner or room spray is placed behind the central image. If you don’t have space behind you can place it in front but behind the central candle. To the left are typically the teachings, books or teachers that inspire you. To the right is the protective elements, offerings of flowers and the stupa (an object that reflects the mind.) The focus of the offerings is to appeal to the five senses—form, sound, smell, taste, and touch. You can place an offering of form such as a precious object or gift, sound such as a bell, smell with a bouquet of fresh flowers or incense, taste with a piece of delicious fruit and touch like a soft feather or smooth stone. We also offer to the 5 elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water.
To add to my personal altar in this time, I am adding pictures of my family, seeds for the garden, books I am reading or want to read, medicinal herbs and oils, my meditation mala beads, crystals, wood, shells, a copper flower, a Himalayan salt lamp, sage spray, a rosemary bundle and a picture of the medicine buddha to heal all of the people who may be sick or suffering.
May your altar help you stay more deeply connected to yourself in this time and to find inner peace. Anything that brings you joy is an excellent addition as well!! Find something that makes you laugh! Let the sacred and joyful around you reflect the sacred and joyful within.