June 5, 2019

Creating an Altar and Sacred Ritual in Your Home

Having altars in my childhood home was commonplace. I remember “A Ma,” my paternal grandmother who helped raise me and my five siblings, doing her daily offering and paying tribute to our ancestors by saying a little prayer, lighting incense and sometimes offering fruit on the altar. It was believed that the incense would lift our prayers and worries to the spiritual world. Often she would take a deep breath and sigh a breath of relief as she let go of her worries and prayed for our family’s health and protection.

My Altar in My San Francisco Home

I’ve carried on this sacred tradition in my home by creating a small altar at the entrance of my home. If you’re interested in creating an altar in your home, here’s some easy things you can do to create your own sacred space to pay homage to folks who are important to you.
1. Get an end table or shelf.

2. I place my altar facing the entryway. It’s believed this will protect your home from unwanted spirits and bad energy. The incense and aesthetically pleasing altar is a spiritual reminder that it’s going to be OK, to be in the present moment and as a reminder to take a deep breath and breathe every time I enter my home.

3. In the center of the shelf/table, put a bowl filled with rice or incense dust (my mom gave me some, otherwise, I am sure you can ask your local temple where to get some). This is where you’ll put your incense and all the dust left over will fall neatly into the bowl.

4. Place fresh flowers.

5. Light a candle if you’d like. It’s optional, but adds additional light.

6. A Ma used to have plug-in red lights that she’d turn on until the incense burned out.

7. Talk to the altar; it’s a gateway to the spiritual world. I put a small statue of the Buddha and Ganesh (A gift from my friend. People in India believe Ganesh removes obstacles you’re facing).

8. I occasionally light incense and talk to my ancestors when facing the altar. I can literally feel the presence of my ancestors with me.

Maya Angelou’s quote, “I come as one, but I stand as 10,000.” Maya was talking about all the ancestors who paved the way so we could physically and spiritually be here, living the life and experience we are adventuring now. I always think of this quote when I’m going through a huge challenge in my life and when I’m doing a speaking engagement, serving others with my words and the wisdom and legacy that was bestowed upon me from those before me.

What rituals, traditions or tips do you have in creating a sacred space for you, your loved ones who are here and those who have transitioned into the afterlife?

Please share in the comments below.

Happy altar-ing!
Toan

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