Devoted souls have been making space in their homes for spiritual retreats since ancient times. The tradition lives on in places like Mexico, where shrines and altars grace many homes and the altarista (altar builder) holds a position of spiritual power. In the United States, however, we seem to have forgotten that an important function of objects is to remind us of the intangible.
But that may be changing. The altar is emerging as an important focus of many U.S. homes, reports Yes! (Winter 2006).
In today's world, we need personal places of sanctuary more than ever, and creating one for yourself needn't be complicated. A simple altar tucked into a closet, bookshelf, or its own corner of the backyard can bring mindfulness to everyday life. People who are not religious can dedicate an altar to an intention like peace or strength, or to serve as a material reminder to take a breath and collect your thoughts.
To be your own altarista, first decide on your altar's purpose. Choose objects that inspire all your senses -- figures, colorful fabric, candles, incense, chimes. Let it remind you daily to meditate, daydream, write, practice yoga -- whatever revitalizes you.