Bear's Blog

Personal Altars - Our Link to the Divine

Oct 22, 2020

Let’s get personal…

What is an altar? It brings a connection to spirit into everyday life. Whatever the context - whether it’s an altar in a specific religious location, or one in our homes, people have always naturally been drawn to create these reminders.

In fact, you may have an “altar” without labeling it as such. Whether it’s small or large, placed on a bedside table, fireplace mantle, windowsill or kitchen counter, it’s a collection of items that are meaningful to you. An altar is an invitation to pause; to celebrate a fond memory, fuel an aspirational intention, or make a call for healing. It can be as simple a picture of a loved one with an item connected to them. Maybe you have Saint Christopher on your dashboard for safe travels, or a dream catcher above your bed. These are examples of how we manifest our link to the divine amid the mundane!

Your altars are unique and personal, an expression of your connection to something greater.  An item that is placed with care and significance counts. There are traveling altars, outdoor altars, altars in the workplace (think of the elaborate ones that grow in cubicles!), public and communal altars. They can be intuitive or based on a form like Chinese Feng Shui, Indian Vastu, and the Native American Medicine Wheel.

An altar can also be a place of formal spiritual practice. I have an antique “home altar” mass-produced by the Catholic Church in the 1940’s. It has a plaster statue of Mary, Joseph and Jesus encased in a wooden box, with places for a candle and (plastic!) flowers. There’s a little pull out shelf that holds a bottle of holy water, a doily, and a prayer card.  Tibetan Buddhists have an elaborate altar for a specific daily ritual that involves 7 small bowls of water (notice the water element.) My main altar is omni-religious. I have draw from many rich and lively traditions, as well the personal, in my daily practice.

Altars in my home are organic and tend to multiply and grow on their own (an overgrown altar, like a garden, needs to be weeded once in a while). There is at least one in every room in the house! They serve to remind me of helpful deities, places in nature, people (and pets) I have loved. Some are temporary – I love making huge altars for classes , and everyone is invited to share a contribution. It enhances the energy of the room, and the objects themselves get more “juicy” from our healing work.

Tibetan Buddhist monks make sand mandalas as an offering, and then  – destroy it! With some altars, just the process of creation is what’s important. It speaks to the impermanence of all things, and an emphasis on the now – another spiritual reminder of the true nature of reality.

Do you ever pick up stones, feathers, or flowers as you take a walk? Maybe you collect shells from the beach (sandcastles are another reminder of the temporary nature of existence!) I have always made little spontaneous altars outdoors – it’s a moment of appreciation and pleasure.

So, no matter how small, improvisational, or fleeting, you are marking a moment of connection. 

Catch yourself in a reflective moment of the divine, everyday...

- Bear

Here is a list of altar elements to inspire you; gather whatever speaks to you of spirit!

Subscribe to receive my newsletter with commentary and great resources about personal development, healing, and spirituality.