Some years ago, my husband and I bought an old lacquered Chinese cabinet and turned it into an altar. At that time, we’d been doing yoga for a couple of years, and had started doing pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) and short meditations in the mornings. We would light a candle and burn some incense sometimes before starting, as a way to focus our practice.
We still have and use this altar. It has one main compartment and a drawer, and we keep in-cense, candles, an assortment of textiles, our three Ganeshas, candle holders, small vases, a couple of bells, our mala beads, and other various objects or mementos inside of it. From time to time, I clean the top of it off, and make a new arrangement with different objects.
If you’re thinking of making a personal altar, I recommend keeping an open mind about it, and just trying it. It will likely evolve, so just get started and see what happens. One way to begin is to start with an intention. At times, I have had gratitude as my background intention for my altar, and placed objects or symbols of things or pictures of people for whom I am grateful. I arrange objects that I have received, small or large, like a coin I found, a picture from a child, a present from someone, winning lottery tickets I haven’t cashed.
Another theme that I often use is the seasons or cycles of nature. I might put a shell collected from a beach trip during the summer, or an orange leaf picked up on the sidewalk in the fall. I also like to include items that appeal to the senses, like a bell, incense, a candle, fresh ﬂowers, a smooth stone.
All and all, our altar is based on a combination of a lot of things, and it changes as I mentioned, and I’m sure it means different things to me than it does to my husband. Of course you can use your faith or religion as your springboard and what that means to you, but it doesn’t need to be religious if you don’t want it to be. It could be a personal collage of objects about dreams or inspirations. It could be dedicated to a person or a goal. It could simply be a sacred place in your house for reﬂection, contemplation, peace and quiet.
I’d love to hear your ideas and inspirations about personal altars.