As I prepare for next week's Altar Making Workshop, I've been asking myself this question: what's the importance of sacred space? I know that without my mini-altars, I feel unsettled, not at ease. But why?
When I moved to San Francisco one year ago, I found myself in a cozy (read: tiny!) apartment in the heart of the city, with no space for my meditation cushion or a small, permanent altar. I felt slightly panicked. I've always had a space, even if just a corner, to dedicate to my sitting practice and a home for my sacred objects - stones, pictures, a talisman, quotes, photographs, feathers.
Pulling my meditation cushion from behind a chair, digging for a candle and matches and finding a quiet space to sit felt tedious. Not exactly the experience I was going for. It wasn't long before I realized I was the one making the experience tedious.
Soon I began building tiny altars throughout my space - stacking stones on the dresser, placing collages and feathers on the stereo, tucking pictures of my ancestors behind plants. As I intentionally placed the objects, my experience of my living space shifted. I felt a sense of peace and groundedness. These mini altars remind me of the sacred, both in me and in life, and show me the intentions I've set for myself and for my community.
The mini-altars are ever-changing. Kitty 2, tapping into his hunter-spirit, finds and chews up all my feathers. The stones get knocked down and the photos - well the plants protect those. As the feathers disappeared and the stones were strewn across the floor, new and fresh items showed up to take their place. It felt right, reflecting the changing cycles of life. It offers me an opportunity to keep my intention fresh, focused and relevant to where I am today.
In the shamanic perspective, all things are infused with spirit. When shuttling between our obligations and commitments, it can be hard to connect and experience the sacredness and spirit in life. Creating sacred space - whether in permanent or temporary form - offers us an opportunity to slow down, connect in a deeper way and acknowledge the beauty in life.
Now, I only occasionally create more complex, longer term altars to honor ancestors or life changes, like this altar my family made last Thanksgiving honoring ancestors who have passed. And, I now look forward to pulling out my cushion and digging for the candle and matches, as I've found a way to honor sacredness of the space as it is.
May you create and honor sacred space wherever you are, in whatever way feels right and true for you.
Eleni Livitsanos is a shamanic practitioner, shapeshifter and consultant dedicated to providing individuals and groups tools for self-healing, clarity and empowerment.