Many years ago, I traveled with a friend to the Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
We viewed “The Angels from the Vatican” exhibit, which was breathtaking. We saw carved angels and tapestry angels. We listened to lectures on the rich history and rituals.
Before we left the museum, we browsed the gift shop and I ran across a book titled Altars and Icons: Sacred Spaces in Everyday Life, by Jean McMann. I started to read the book as we drove home to the desert.
I realized that my home, its surroundings inside and outside, were everyday altars.
At that time, I traveled quite a bit to teach my many yoga classes. My car was clean and on the dashboard was an angel and a small, dried flower arrangement. When I looked at this altar, I began to feel the inner sense of grace and gratitude!
As I pulled into my driveway, I realized my yard was a large alter, a place of worship for me. There was a wicker chair under the palm trees with a dove bird nest tucked neatly atop one of the fronds. Around the palm trees were three magnificent rose bushes with tangerine, bright red, and lavender blossoms, full and richly scented. My stone Buddha statue quietly rested among the portulaca plants, vibrant with color and succulent green foliage. I would sit on the wicker chair in the morning to meditate and drink my coffee and in the late afternoon I would reflect on my days activities as the sun set.
My back yard was lined with steppingstones which led me to my Japanese tea garden. The cacti were in bloom with large red and yellow blossoms. When I looked closely, I would find crystals nestled between the rocks and steppingstones. The atmosphere was soothing green and moist, peaceful, and tranquil. Another alter, I would happily say to myself, while sitting under the striped umbrella, resting my feet on the teak tabletop.
My home was small, and cozy-another alter so to speak! The living room had a small fountain which my cats loved to drink from. During sunset I would sit on my white overstuffed love seat and gaze at the recent framed Debonne monotype of the goddess Mahalakshmi, after whom I am named. She is the goddess of every kind of abundance, and her print was framed with my photographs if various lotus flowers photographed from across the country. I would rest back on the couch, while hugging my hand painted embroidered pillows, another altar for me to drink from the chalice of gratitude.
The kitchen was bright and functional, and every bit of counter space was filled with alters. Bowls of ripe succulent fruit and roses surrounded by incense burners and crystal votive candle holders of various sizes and shapes, colors and textures.
As on entered my bedroom, there was a sense of one vast altar with hand-crocheted pillows from Italy nestled on top of white wool and down filled blankets, oriental fans, and my two cats, Clive and Rose Bush, reclining for the day on their altar!
My bathroom was small and filled with lavender blossoms, dried rose petals, mirrors, rich forest green towels, and over 50 pairs of my earrings hanging on one of the walls. I would drop into the tub, rest my head back in rich mineral sea salts and bow to all of my external altars. I would feel eternally blessed.
My last altar was and still is, the temple for my spirit. I attempt to eat well, hydrate, rest deeply, play hard, and breathe rhythmically at all times through my nose not my mouth. I look to my inner altar, the space between my eyebrows, the third eye chakra, the place of meditation and contemplation. I slow down to rest and heal.
Al tar /’ôlter/ noun an altar is a structure upon which offerings are made for personal purposes. Altars are found at shrines, temples, churches, and areas of worship.
Where are your altars?