If you read my bio, you may know that I was raised within the Nichiren Buddhist tradition. Amongst the various practitioners within our organization, the creation of an alter was consistent throughout most homes and community centers. Our alter was always clean and freshly dusted with a beautiful Budsadon made of fine wood with doors that opened to our Gohonzon, a mandala of sorts. We always kept fresh fruit, white candles in brass candlestick holders, a closed incense burner, and usually a framed inspirational quote from my parents' sensei. I am of course over-simplifying the beautiful alters created by some Buddhist members but I wanted to give you some sort of idea as the the "type" of alter that was typical to the tradition of my upbringing. The alter in my parents' home rarely changed aside from the fruit offered. Today I still create alters throughout my home, with a similar intent in cultivating sacred spaces, but with much more creativity involved.
All throughout my life I have been a lover of beautiful crystals, tapestries, clothing, fresh flowers, plants, handmade cards, and candles. I love surrounding myself with beautiful things that reflect the places I've been or even feelings I'm currently experiencing or have experienced. I enjoy creating sacred spaces with intentions and items that inspire the whimsical aspect of myself. My alters throughout my living spaces are not necessarily a place to worship deities or cast spells. The creation of the alter itself is an artistic expression of the combination of my intentions as well as the energy that certain crystals or natural items inspire out of me. Sometimes I have up to 7 alters throughout my house (depending on how big)! Since I like collecting natural objects and save most handmade cards ever given to me (hehe), I have lots of material to work with. Creating alters is kinesthetically a great way to focus your intentions while creating them and then a beautiful visual reminder to you later of your inner magic.
This past year has been unbelievably busy with changing careers, working, starting a business, and going back to school. My alter creations have gone to the wayside, UNTIL NOW! Thank you COVID-19! With all my time and space to feel my inner magic, I am re-inspired to re-create my mini alters throughout my house. New intentions are of the essence these days and change is brewing! Re-creating my alters is a great activity for me to reflect that. This activity feels so good to me, I feel compelled to share.
This alter was created before our yoga practice.at my dear friend's Bachelorette party. It was the Full Moon where I asked others to co-create as well as take a card from my Vision Quest deck. Photo Credit: Lydia Stern
Creating an alter is completely personal with no real prescription for how it should be done, but if you're a bit more unfamiliar with this sort of thing I've laid out a few steps to get you started.
REMEMBER: Alters can be created anywhere and with anything. They can also be created for anyone and for anything. The sky is the limit!
How to Create an Art-FULL Alter
1. Gather your items
It can be as few or as many items as you please. What inspires you and ignites your magic? How would you like to be inspired? Who has inspired you through art or cards given to you? What would you like to be reminded of?
2. Find your space (large or small)
This could be a small spot on your bookshelf or bedside table. It could even be the centerpiece to your kitchen table, OR BOTH!
3. Meditate for a few minutes with your items and let your intentions arise.
What is arising within you? Notice. Don't Rush. What is going on in your life and the world? What is important for you to remember right now and on a daily basis?
4. Get Creative
What items feel the best together? Use your intuition. Is an image coming to mind? Move things around and switch things in and out. Experiment!
5. Burn something.
Our sense of smell is most tied to memory; therefore, burning incense, sage, palo santo, resin, or your favorite candle can help this experience have lasting affects, bringing you back to your current state of being.
Have fun and remember to switch your alters around and re-create as necessary!