Book Club, Chapter 7: Making An Altar

“A home altar is a way to pay respect to our ancestors and the world around us. It reminds us that whatever we love is also within us.”

These are the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, as read in chapter seven of his book Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice. As I allow myself to drink in the wisdom of spiritual teachers more and more, I notice a common reoccurring theme that everything we truly need and love already exists within ourselves. Although I admit I’m not yet at a point where I can fully grasp this beautiful concept, I love the notion that an altar can serve as a reminder of it.

In recent years I’ve found that I love creating altars. I find so much joy in collecting bits and pieces that I feel a connection to – stones, flowers, candles, bells – and arranging them in a designated area until everything feels just right.

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An altar can also include photos or statues of ancestors – whether blood, spiritual, or both – allowing us to feel rooted.

When you touch someone who authentically represents a tradition”, Nhat Hanh says, “you touch not only his or her tradition, but you also touch your own.”

He also adds that placing statues and other objects on an altar does not mean we’re worshiping these things. Instead, they are to serve as a reminder of that which they represent. For instance, a statue of the Buddha can serve as a reminder of “our own capacity to be mindful, awake, loving, and accepting.”

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In East Asia, as Nhat Hanh explains, a family altar exists in every home – and each family member is able to contribute something whenever they like. This way, everyone in the home feels a connection to the altar. Whenever an important family event occurs – be it a birth, a graduation, or a return from a long trip – the family offers incense and announces the news to their ancestors.

By mindfully placing hand-chosen objects in a specific area of the home, suddenly a connection portal is born. And as we re-connect with ourselves, with our ancestors, and with the world around us, we’re able to find peace, ease, and stillness at once.

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+ Do you have an altar in your own home?

This post is part of our Book Club series, featuring Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice by Thich Nhat Hanh.

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Comments

  1. I love altars…..they infuse a space with an ethereal light and a sublime feeling of peace and harmony….they transform a simple room into a sanctuary.. I’d love to fill every nook and cranny in our home with them….time to get busy! : ) Thank you for you beautiful post!

    The Weaver Of Words…..give me 15 words and I’ll tell you a tale
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  2. My family is all about the alters mostly because of my mom she’s alwahs setting one up, it’s a np big part of African tradition too. Lovely post, so glad to see Bridgette still contributing one of my fav free people bloggers!

  3. Beautiful post! Thank you for sharing and giving incredible inspiration! I have been itching to add something to my life with meaning and I think I found it.

  4. I love your altars, especially the live plants and candles. This chapter was another great one full of advice on how to create an altar in your home. I like the advice from Thich Nhat Hanh to add motivating or inspirational words to your altar; things that will stay with you easily throughout the day.

    Since I have many altars in my home already, I took this opportunity to make one in my cubicle at work. I think most of my coworkers think I’m a bit cuckoo but I love my work altar! It’s a good reminder during the busy day to stop and breathe.

  5. Love this blog about creating a sacred space in your home. I totally believe in a relaxing corner to meditate and decompress. If anyone is interested, I just opened up an Etsy shop totally related, check out: https://www.etsy.com/ca/shop/Petalsoflotus for our new art collection and home decor. Includes tons of gorgeous wall hangings that a perfect for your wellness or meditation room.

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