For thousands of years, altars have been a physical and spiritual focus of religious sites and holy places. Today, though, many people are embracing and benefitting from personal altars in the home for their own inspiration and self-care.

A Personal Altar Celebrates You and Your Dreams

Creating sacred space and altars in my clients’ homes has been one of the most satisfying and rewarding joys of my design practice.

Personal altars often reflect and celebrate religious and spiritual traditions. But I believe a private altar should also reflect and celebrate who my clients are at their deepest level – their beliefs, personality, hopes, and dreams – in a creative and powerful way.

The Latin root word of altar is altare, which means “high place.” I like to think of a personal altar, then, as that special place we have to connect to our higher self and our highest good.

Altars are meant to nurture and energize us, to illuminate the dearest desires of our heart and re-light the path for the life we want. This is where we can go to find the courage and inspiration to touch our dreams.

A Fancy Vision Board?

I’ve been asked if a personal altar is just a fancier version of the popular vision or dream boards. These boards are typically collages of images and affirmations that inspire and motivate a person to achieve a particular goal. While an altar can powerfully influence a desired outcome, what it offers is so much greater.

Altars remind us of the sacredness of our everyday life. When we look at life through a sacred lens, everything changes. Altars are where we can “hold space” for ourselves. This is where we go and let all our rawness show.

It’s where we’re able to brush off the accumulated negative dust and leave behind all the self-judgment and disappointments. We reconnect to our higher self with all those dreams of the life we desire and deserve.

Truly, as Joseph Campbell wrote, “Your sacred space is where you can find yourself again and again.”

The Ultimate Self-Care

Of the many tools I have in my spiritual toolbox, my altar is the number one way I have found to take care of myself. No matter where I live, or how unsettling life feels around me, my little altar is my safe place.

It’s where I feel my deepest sense of belonging and complete acceptance for all that I am. I can sit in front of it with 100% assurance that I don’t have to swim upstream any longer. It keeps me in the gentle flow, bringing me back home to the sacredness of life.

Designing Your Own “From the Heart” Altar

Creating an altar is a fulfilling, creative, and deeply personal process. My best advice: keep it fun, simple, and from the heart. There is no right or wrong way. Here are few steps and suggestions to help you get started.

Where Should You Place Your Altar?

Get the idea of a large church altar out of your head. You don’t need a spare bedroom to create an altar. A windowsill, a small shelf, or a corner of a table will do nicely.

My first altar was a small stool with room for only a candle and my journal. The important thing is that the space “feels right” and allows you private, uninterrupted moments for peace and nurturing.

Set Your Intention

The purpose and intention of your altar will be as personal and varied as your dreams and desires. We create intentions as we target our thoughts to change our physical reality. Your altar can help you focus and support an aspect of the life you want to create or change.

If your intention is to invite greater financial abundance into your home and life, create a prosperity altar. If you desire greater physical well-being and vibrancy, set up a health and wellness altar.

You can change the intention and focus whenever your intuition guides you to. Perhaps your next intention will be for a relationship, career enhancement, greater creativity, increased spirituality, or assistance in major life changes.

What to Place on Your Altar?

Your altar will come alive through color, textures, and objects that touch your heart and hold special meaning and beauty. Candles. Photos. Crystals. Flowers. Jewelry. Inspirational quotes. A piece of fabric. There’s no limit to what you can use.

But keep it uncluttered. This is not where you want to display all of your beloved figurine collection. Find objects that elicit the feelings you want to experience and support the current intention of your altar.

Acknowledge the Natural World

I design according to the ancient science and wisdom of Vastu, also known as yoga for the home. A key principle of Vastu is acknowledging the five elements of nature (air, water, earth, fire, and space) in the home and on an altar.

As you choose objects for your altar, think of which element they could represent. Possibilities and location of their placement could include:

  • a feather, bird figurine, or small bell to symbolize air and placed in the northwest corner of the altar;
  • a clear vase with living flowers for water in the northeast;
  • stones, crystals, wood items, and living plants for the earth symbol in the southwest;
  • a candle or incense to represent fire placed in the southeast corner of your altar.

Leave the center of your altar clear. This represents the final element of space, as well as the space you are leaving open in your life to welcome the new.

Nurture Your Altar

If you nurture your altar, it will nurture you. If it begins to feel lifeless and uninspiring, it needs some fresh love. Find new objects that reflect who you are now and what you are feeling and desiring. As you change, so should your altar.

Personal altars have been described as doorways to the unseen. The more time you spend at your altar, the wider the door opens to your desires and possibilities. Visit it frequently to get the full benefits. Let it bring you home to your sacred life.

Have you created a personal altar in your home? What items have you placed on it? What does it symbolize to you? How do you feel when you spend time there? Please share with the community.

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