One of the first things Sarah and I did in this year’s Museflower Soul Bliss Writing Retreat was to ask our retreat participants to setup an altar dedicated to their creative process during the writing retreat.
An altar does not necessarily need to be something religious in this case. It is a sacred space where we can put objects of the outer world that remind us of what we experience in our inner world and imagination.
We can setup a sacred altar to dedicate to our meditation practice, to our creative writing process, to our ancestors and spiritual support team, or even to our dreams. In this blog, I use the word “spiritual practice” to mean whatever allows you to connect with your Higher Self, your soul, your inner wisdom, or the sacredness of Life.
For anything that we’d like to honor and respect, an altar becomes a sacred space where we can connect to what lights us up, what nourishes us on a soul level, and what calms us.
During the Soul Bliss Writing Retreat, Sarah started by guiding one of her Soul Writing meditations where we met with our soul writing guide. After we met with our soul writing guide, we would imagine inviting our guide to have a walk in Museflower’s garden with us, and asking our guide to show us what we could bring back from the garden to our altar.
I walked into the garden with my guide, and picked up a few rocks, leaves and a small flower. I placed all the objects onto one big leaf and thanked them for being on my creative altar for the next few days.
The next morning after setting up my creative altar, I found a spider inside, hiding behind the smaller leaf under my big leaf altar. I am quite scared of spiders, and even though it’s not something I would personally like to be on my altar, I know it’s part of nature’s way to show me something. I thanked the spider and left it to be.
On the same day, we had lunch in silence as part of a soul writing exercise to awaken our senses. It was one of the highlights for me during this retreat. Suddenly I had a realization about besides accepting the good and the bad, we must also accept the ugly if we were to embrace beauty fully. The ugly was represented by the spider on my altar.
After lunch I went back to my altar to thank the spider. Guess what I found? A dead gecko, about a foot away from my altar. That was really weird because it was not there before lunch. One hour later, it seemed like it appeared out of nowhere!
I thanked the dead gecko for showing me something, even though I did not comprehend fully yet. Somehow I feel that through death and transition there is also a lot of creative energy involved. We usually think of giving birth to a new project or to a baby as using a lot of creative energy. But how about death? When a flower dies, doesn’t it also transform into something else, that later feeds and fertilizes a new seed to sprout afterwards?
I am grateful for my creative altar of showing me insights. On the last day of our retreat, we gave thanks to our altar and dissembled everything and returned them to the Earth and the lake.
So how can we setup a sacred space for our spiritual practice, or anything that we’d like to dedicate to, in our daily life?
1 – Dedicate a space at your home for your altar
Find a space at your home that won’t be disturbed by other people or animals. Traditionally religious altars are setup in higher areas of the home. During our writing retreat, each person set up their own creative altar on the floor around the meditation pavilion, usually in a private corner. There is no right or wrong or any fixed rules. The most important thing is that it is an area where you can access to relatively easily.
Go with your intuition and feeling. Use your body as a compass, and allow your feeling to guide you to where you’d like to setup the altar at your home.
You may want to clean the space physically and energetically (such as smudging with sage) before setting up your altar.
2 – Choose your objects with your intuition
Now that we have a space for the altar, what objects shall we put on it?
You may already have some objects in mind that you’d like to place. Anything that reminds and connects you with your spiritual practice would do.
Traditionally people place statues of deities that they believe in to connect with their spiritual practice, as well as some kind of offerings like flowers, water, food, etc.
I find that it’s always easier to start simple with the altar, and you can always add more objects if you like.
You can start with any object that reminds you of your dedication. Perhaps it is something from nature, like a flower, a stone, a leaf, or a piece of wood. Perhaps it’s a crystal stone, a Tibetan singing bowl, or a bowl of incense. Perhaps it’s a photo of a country you’d like to visit, a drawing of the book cover you’re writing, or the logo of your business.
Again, go with your intuition and listen to your inner wisdom. You can ask your inner teacher to show you in your meditation, in your dream, or guide you around the house. You always have what you need. There must be something at your own home already that you can start with placing on your altar.
3 – Assemble your altar
The fun begins when you assemble your altar. There is no fixed rule, since this is something that you are doing for yourself personally.
Go with your intuition. Have all of the objects you’d like to place on your altar by your side. Start with the object that attracts your attention the most, and place it wherever you like on your altar. Then you can place the other objects around based on your feeling. Altars are ever changing, so you can always move the objects around. The movement of the objects is also a reflection of what is unfolding in your inner world.
4. Connect with your altar from time to time
Your altar is all beautifully set up now. What next?
I suggest that you connect with your altar on a daily basis (morning or evening, depending on your routine). Use it as a base to connect with your meditation or spiritual practice, your writing practice, or your dreams.
The time when you connect with your altar is sacred, because it is the time of the day (whether it’s only 1 minute, 5 minutes or 20 minutes) when you take time out of your busy day, and use this time to connect with the most important thing in your life – yourself.
As you connect with your altar, allow the elemental and natural forces to chime in. Maybe the wind blows, and the objects on the altar move. Maybe your pet cat walks through your altar, and knocks off something. These are all reflections of what’s going on in your inner world. You can also add, change or remove any objects from your altar anytime you like.
Be present. Notice the movements around your altar, and any thoughts and feelings arise. Sometimes you may even have new insights coming through.