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Creating a Space for the Soul
by Michele Ritan

The desire to build a personal altar or sacred space in the home is an ancient tradition found in every culture. In the whirlwind busy-ness of our lives, we need to find a place of refuge, quietness, and peace where we can touch our sacred center. Everyone needs spiritual comfort and inspiration each day, a place to retreat from tension and to-do lists, a special place to rejuvenate our spirits. It doesn’t matter what your particular religious background may be.

Sacred space can be found anywhere: indoors or in nature, the city or meadow. Building sacred space is intensely creative—it engages every aspect of ourselves. Your sacred space can be as small or large; a little shelf or an entire room. It can help focus your intentions or recall your goals and hopes. You can pray or meditate here; you can connect with the holiness of life, your ancestors, and those you love.

Your special place will reflect your uniqueness. The objects you place there are symbols of your spirit and life journey. A sacred space can spring from the simple wish to create beauty, or it may originate from the universal desire to touch the Holy. The choice of objects, colors, placement, and decoration are expressions of our soul, and should be done with care. You can display your personal treasures here, or things that change with the seasons. The sacred space is your work of art in progress.

My personal sacred space is a small room on the upper floor of my home. I had a skylight installed because sitting under a beam of light or looking up at the stars from the safety of my house connects me to the Holy. I have a meditation mat on the floor under the skylight. There is a shelf nearby that holds many small, loved objects, mostly statues and figures given to me by important people in my life. A prominent theme is the Holy Mother, and several images of her are found there. I have a medicine bag given to me by a loved one, and an amber rosary hanging on a hook near the mat. There are inspirational books near the mat. I move things around, depending on what I want to focus on at a particular time.

What makes such an arrangement of personal objects different from any other decorative accessories in the home? The difference is in the intention and awareness of sacred purpose. As we build an altar, we tap into our inner truth and make it manifest in a physical way. We bring the sacred into our everyday lives. The use of statues, things from nature, incense, candles, or pictures engage all our senses.

After the altar is built, you can energize or activate it by using rituals that have meaning in your life. You might bring a small offering, such as a fresh flower; you can light a candle to begin your prayers. Burning a smudge stick or sprinkling water on the altar can help to focus your energies.

There are a multitude of details to building an altar—placement, colors, symbols, offerings, rituals, and so forth. There are many books on altar creation and feng shui, which discuss these notions. Remember, however, not to get too involved with complicated details. Go with what speaks to your soul—the colors, images, and symbols which instinctively ring true. The essence of creating sacred space is a spontaneous impulse to acknowledge and celebrate the core of our lives, our souls, and the Divine.

Helpful books:

Altars Made Easy
by Peg Streep

Altars: Bringing Sacred Shrines into Your Everyday Life
by Denise Linn

Quiet Places: How to Create Peaceful Havens in Your Home, Garden, and Workplace
by Vinny Lee

Altars and Icons: Sacred Space in Everyday Life
by J. McCann

The Inward Garden: Creating a Place of Beauty and Meaning
by Juliet Moir Messervy

Michele Ritan has studied world religions for many years and majored in Bible and Religion in college. Her particular interests include universal themes of worship in many cultures, both ancient and modern.



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