Space has power. It either resonates with you, or it doesn’t. Like everything in life, the spaces around us are imbued with energy.
Have you ever walked into a room of people and felt the energy to be heavy, stressful or suffocating? In contrast, you might have walked into a temple or religious chapel and felt the very air vibrate with hope, praise or reverence.
Intuitively we sense that everything is energy, and everything vibrates at a certain frequency. While some vibrations are heavy and dense (these are associated with negative emotions like anxiety and hatred), other vibrations are light and airy (these are associated with positive emotions like love and gratitude). And even while we may not be consciously aware of it, the energy around us impacts us subtly on a physical, mental, emotional and etheric level.
Space either supports and empowers you, or it undermines and drains your energy. In other words, if the energy of a place supports the idea of sacredness, the person in that room will find it much easier to resonate with their own sacredness. Knowing this, it is easy to see why creating your own sacred space is important.
Sacred spaces make us feel comfortable, welcomed, supported and loved. Sacred spaces are also vital containers of positive intention and action.
If you would like to establish a regular spiritual practice and create your own special sacred space, the best way to start (in my opinion) is to create an altar.
This guide will provide you with simple but useful instructions on how to build your own altar for meditation, inner work, or general spiritual practice. You are free to follow it closely or pick and choose what information you need the most.
What is an Altar?
An altar is any structure on which spiritual/religious offerings, prayers, or rituals are made. The root of the word altar means “high place” which reflects how symbolically sacred and important it is in spiritual practice. Altars can be constructed of man-made or natural materials and they exist in almost every religion and culture.
In the spiritual, esoteric, and metaphysical sense, altars can be used for meditation, ritual, prayer, reflection, gratitude, or any other form of inner work. The spiritual altar can be small or large, fancy or minimalistic, traditional or non-traditional. The flavor, look and feel of your altar will depend on you and your own tastes and preferences. Most importantly, it’s essential that your altar looks and feels authentic to your unique needs.
How to Build an Altar For Meditation and Your Spiritual Practice
No matter what particular flavor or style of spirituality you’re attracted to, creating an altar will provide a powerful focal point for your energy.
Benefits of creating an altar include:
- Having a physical expression of your commitment, personal goal or desire
- Having a symbolic collection/meeting place of tools to enhance your spiritual practice
- Enjoying a sacred space dedicated to your spirituality
- Making your deepest spiritual needs a physical and actualized part of your life
- Gaining a ‘spiritual center’ in your life that you can return back to each and every day
- Having a source of positive energy that fills your home
- Feeling a sense of empowerment through self-expression (i.e. building and maintaining an altar)
Whether you decide to build an altar for meditation, for religious belief, pagan practice or simply to further your inner work, here is a simple step-by-step guide:
Step 1. Choose a place that looks or feels “right”
If you have a spare room, you might like to dedicate it to building a sacred altar. But not all of us have that luxury. If you have very little space in your house, you might like to consider a corner or quiet place that will give you privacy. I’ve seen beautiful altars in bedrooms, lounge rooms, offices, and even closets. When looking for a place, ask yourself the following questions:
– Does this place look appropriate?
– Does this place feel “right”?
– Do I have privacy here?
– Is this place quiet?
– Is the energy hurried, stressed or heavy here?
– Can I build an altar here without disrupting or inconveniencing anyone else?
The ideal place in your house will be “out of the way,” quiet and relaxed. It doesn’t need to be very large. In fact, due to space restrictions or simple preference you might like to build a “tiny” altar. Tiny altars fit within the dimensions of a dinner plate. Some people even prefer to keep their altars portable in a jar! Do whatever feels the most comfortable for your needs and your current life context.
Step 2. Cleanse the space
The act of emptying and cleansing space has been practiced by shamans for thousands of years.
Why not follow in the steps of these shamans and cleanse any energetic debris from the room until it looks/feels “right” to you? Make sure you hold the intent of, “I am cleansing this space” in mind as you carry out this process. An energetically clean space should feel clear, light and friendly.
To energetically cleanse the space, you could use sound (e.g. clapping your hands or using a singing bowl), scent (e.g. burning incense or a smudge stick), light (e.g. lighting a candle or opening the windows and letting the sunshine in), visualization, or even a simple dust and sweep of the room.
If the surrounding space feels energetically ungrounded to you, you may like to use a drum or an earthy stone such as black tourmaline to ground the energy.
Step 3. Begin to gather objects that are meaningful to you
When it comes to building an altar, there really are no rules. The practice is so personal, that it is imperative to listen to your heart.
However, as a general guide, here are some things people tend to include on their altars:
– Objects that represent one’s spirit guides
– Objects that represent one’s primarily revered spiritual teacher
– Objects that reflect yin/yang, light/dark, masculine/feminine
– Objects that represent the body, mind, heart, soul, and spirit
– Objects that represent the elements of fire, water, earth, air, and ether
– Objects that represent qualities that one most wishes to embody (e.g. freedom, love)
– Objects that represent one’s inner child or inner master
– Objects that represent the cycle of life, death, and transformation
– Objects that amplify energy (e.g. crystals, chimes)
– Any other objects that are inspiring, powerful or helpful
More specifically, objects you may wish to put on your altar could include:
– decorative stands
– inspiring quotes
– a journal
– written notes
– prayer books
– rosary beads
– skulls or bones
– alive plants
– flower petals
– oracle or tarot cards
– essential oils
Really, you can include on your altar anything you wish. Just make sure you design it the way you would like it, not the way you think it “should” look. You can find some examples of altar objects in the appendix at the end of this article.
When choosing objects for your sacred space, keep in mind the following questions:
– What will my altar be used for and what is its purpose?
– What do I want to reflect or express through the altar?
– Does my altar have a theme, or is it spontaneous?
Your answers to the questions above will help you decide what objects to choose.
Step 4. Arrange your altar
Once you have found your sacred space, cleansed it, and got an idea of what objects to include, you’ll need to arrange your altar.
You are free to arrange your altar in any way you wish, but ideally, try to arrange it in a symmetrical way.
Why is it best to arrange an altar symmetrically? Symmetry reflects the energy of balance and wholeness — something you definitely want to welcome into your sacred space. If your altar is cluttered and imbalanced, you might find it distracting or hard to work with.
Think of a mandala: the left and right side are both harmonious mirror images of each other. While your altar doesn’t need to be this precise, you can use the image of a mandala to help you out.
Depending on your purpose, your altar might benefit from having a central piece, or focal point. The focal point of your altar is right in the middle and it’s a place where your eyes most comfortably settle. Your focal point could be anything: a statue of a beloved deity or spirit animal, a vase of fresh flowers, a photo of an enlightened being, or even a large burning candle. It’s up to you!
Step 5. Maintain your altar
Keeping your altar clean from cobwebs, dust, and other residue is important: it shows respect for your practice. After all, it is supposed to be your sacred space. Do this as regularly as you feel necessary.
Finally, remember that your altar doesn’t always need to stay the same! You are free to change it, adjust it, add to it, or take away from it whenever you choose. As your inner work develops, you might find that certain items on your altar are no longer relevant or necessary. In the same manner, you might begin to feel as though something is “lacking” from your altar and so will need to adjust it likewise.
As always, allow your altar to be a physical place in which you can sit quietly, reflect, be still, commune with Spirit, thank your guides, show gratitude, and whatever other deep needs you have. Your sacred space is yours to build, alter, nourish and cherish every day. It is one of the most precious gifts you can give to yourself!
Remember, your altar is your spiritual workplace; your physical space of power. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to create an altar that is significant to you – look around your own home, in the natural world around you, or in a local thrift store to find special and meaningful objects. And finally, take care of it, nurture it, and spend regular time with it. Your altar is completely yours to shape, build, and transform!
Appendix – Altar Tools & Materials
Your altar is a sacred space; an outward expression of your inner feelings, thoughts, and beliefs.
If you are struggling with ideas, you can find some inspiration below. Please note that creating an altar is a deeply personal and significant process. You don’t need to purchase anything. You don’t need even need to make it fancy. This space is completely yours to build. The links below are simply ideas and examples to help your process*:
Here is a small clip of my current altar (I change it periodically):
As you can see, I use a variety of objects on my altar – some include smudge sticks, skulls, shells, feathers, statues, photos, statues, and various significant images relevant to me right now.
Note: as you can see, there’s nothing overly expensive or fancy on my altar. The table I got at a closing down sale and the rest of the objects were given to me, found in nature, or slowly collected through time. You don’t need to break the bank to create a beautiful altar. Many items you can simply thrift or gather from your house/natural surroundings.
To close this article, I want to reiterate again that your altar is unique to you. What is most important is the energy and intention you imbue into your sacred space. That’s all that ultimately matters.
Do you have an altar? If so, I’d love to read about your process and what role it plays in your life. Let’s share some inspiring ideas to motivate each other!
*Please note that this article has affiliate links. If you decide to purchase anything we link to, we get a small percentage to help with our work. Thanks!