Wellness Wednesday: Sacred Space

Here is our beautiful group altar from the Women's Dance Retreat Gillian and I facilitated over Equinox weekend. Each participant brought an offering that spoke to our theme of renewal, and we opened the retreat by placing the offerings on the altar. Over the course of the weekend, participants spent time at the altar, brought new objects to place on it, took pictures of it, talked about it... by the time this picture was taken, towards the end of the weekend, the altar was overflowing and fairly humming with energy. To close the retreat we each took home an offering from the altar - but not the one we brought. The offerings were distributed randomly, and there was some serious magic in the gifts each participant received!! I love this ritual, and am so happy that we have been making it a part of our recent retreats. I find it so beautiful that women coming from truly diverse spiritual backgrounds (this group had devout christians, buddhists mahayana and zen, neo-pagans, as well as women who didn't identify as "religious") can come together with apparent ease and create shared sacred space. Many people seem to have a natural sense of how to do this, and why, yet in our culture it is not the necessarily the norm to create household altars, temporary altars for events, etc... the word itself evokes something grand or exotic or ancient or somber, not something homey and familiar! I am all for reclaiming the word and the practice of altar making for our daily lives! Your practice can be as simple as lighting a candle to begin your work for the day (or your yoga practice, or your dinner-making,) as a reminder to yourself that your actions have meaning and worth. Here are some more ideas for creating sacred space within you or around you to enhance your daily life:

  • Place fresh flowers in your entryway weekly as a symbol of life and beauty to all who enter your home (including you!)
  • Take some extra care and time with your daily bathing routine, and honour yourself with special oils or perfumes or a candle lit shower or bath.
  • Take a moment before you cook a meal to think about the people you are cooking for and what kind of energy you want to impart to the food - I like to light incense when I do this, and let the fragrance mingle with the cooking smells.
  • Create a personal altar - this can be as simple as a candle and a picture on your bedside table! Start your day by lighting the candle on your altar and setting an intention for the day. Remember to put out the candle when you leave the house, but keep carrying the flame in your heart!
How do you create sacred space in your daily life? Do you have a personal altar? I'd love to see it. If you'd like, post a picture of your altar on your blog, and leave a link in the comments - or send it along to me, and I'll post it here.


Cheri said...

I love the idea of bringing personal treasures to create a collective altar, and then dispersing the treasures to new owners. It speaks of sharing rather than owning.

Altars. Hmmm… a concept that is deep and old.
My mind goes to the dim recesses of city cathedrals where random candles flicker in the gloom. Perhaps a woman, sequestered by her scarf, is lighting one now.
I recall from childhood the fearful picture of Moses in a rage smashing stone tablets as his people shrink back from their altar of choice.
I see the drum of ocean waves beating along the shore, where the edges of forest have been sculpted by wind. That is the altar I usually seek.

In my house there are a number of altars, one might say, although I have not thought of them as such. They are clusters of treasures that have taken up habitat here, seeming to want each other's company. One of these is a gathering of November berries, still bright red although shriveled, sitting in a graceful earthenware jug. Beside them is a little birch bark basket, a gift from years back, now holding my keys. On the other side is a wee cut glass vase, from which plumes a colorful array of feathers found on various walks I have taken. A little clay owl watches over this tableau, all of which sits on a pine jelly cupboard built in New Brunswick by my great grand father. The cupboard top is draped with an old needlepoint tablecloth. There is a candle - a small tea light, like a little campfire, in the center of things. Soon now, the berries will go out to the spring birds and pussy willows will find their way into the wonderful old jug.

As I write this it occurs to me that I build altars around meals that I serve. I adore choosing and arranging food with care, and making the table invite its guests - flowers, candles, colorful linens, interesting condiments, a fresh loaf on the breadboard, bottles of wine. Music. Friends. The stillness of time.

I had never stopped to count this multitude of altars!

Bronwyn said...

Thank you so much, Cheri, for sharing these beautiful images of the sacred in your own daily life.
I want to come to dinner at your house!

Anonymous said...

I love it! Very creative!That's actually really cool.



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