by Ishvara Pranidana Om
Altars are always present in Holy places. Altars are by definition a place where sacrifices and offerings are made, but are also physical reminders of Divinity. It is good to keep an altar in the home because it serves as a reminder to hold sacred space for the spiritual realm, which is increasingly difficult in our busy world.
There aren’t any particular rules about the appearance, location, or use of the altar, and they may range from elaborate to simple, large or a windowsill, inside or outside. Here a few points to consider when you create your home altar:
- Location, location, location: Designate a spot that is out of the way, yet visible. An altar in a busy location, like the counter right when you walk in the door, might be subject to clutter like house keys and mail. Alternately, if the altar is not visible, the flowers may wilt and the area could become dusty and neglected. Also, consider the height, as down low may not be a good option if you have children or small pets.
- Size: Small spaces may call for a windowsill or shelf; however, a larger area may support the use of a lovely table or the top of a piece of furniture. If you have an outdoor space, you can make one out of rocks or wood.
- Purpose: Decide what purpose the space is being held for. Is it a temporary situation, like the celebration of an upcoming birth or prayer for a sick relative, or long-term general use? Keep in mind, the use of the altar can change as life itself is constantly shifting and changing. However, determining a purpose in advance will help to decide the following factors:
- Content: Pictures or photographs of a Guru or other holy people, inspirational texts, flowers or plants, crystals or stones, altar cloths, incense, symbols (such as the Pranava) statues or figures or candles are examples of a few. And simplicity is good if you are just starting out. Your altar is also an ideal location to keep your mala or meditation shawl safe.
- Upkeep: An altar free of clutter denotes respect, as does freshly watered flowers and plants. Keep the area dust free and change the contents as necessary.
Once you create your altar, it is preferable to use it regularly as burning incense and offerings of prayers and flowers done repeatedly increase the potency of vibration in that spot. And creating or continuing a ritual at your altar is also an excellent form of daily discipline, or Tapas. You may pray there or light incense or candles with intention. Or, you can just pause there and express gratitude or mentally send love to someone.
(Pictures by Ishvara Pranidana Om)
Ishvara has been a devoted student of Sri Dharma Mittra since 2009 and has completed the 200, 500 and 800-Hour Dharma Yoga Lif of a Yogi Teacher Trainings in New York City. She is also the mother of three children ages seven, six and 2 months. She lives in Jefferson City, MO.
The lesson of Hanuman: Skill arises from devotion.
Sara Schwartz lives in Queens, New York with her husband Yancy. She currently teaches at Yoga to the People, where she received her 200-hour certification in 2010. She recently graduated from the Dharma Yoga Center Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Teacher Training. “Offer up the fruits of your practice” is her favorite advice from Sri Dharma Mittra. She is very grateful for the guidance of Sri Dharma and all of his teachers.