Today let's talk about altars because, whew, can they be helpful in hard times!
As I've written in previous posts, I'm not one to shy away away from out-of-the-box interventions in my work with clients. Altar-making is included in that, both a psycho-spiritual intervention, as well as an expressive arts practice. It's rooted in the use of metaphor, imagination and ritual, but the use of altars can also be coupled with cognitive behavioral therapy or any evidence-based practice that helps clients shift behavior and thought patterns.
While we always use the client's goal to guide us, the use of altars is commonly used to support clients in creating sacred space within their home or office. The space can be used to 'get grounded,' meditate, pray, set intentions or just be - and who doesn't need a place for that these days?
Also, I want to mention that altars are used across cultures to honor those who have passed on. This year , 2020, has certainly brought collective loss to the forefront. Those of us on the West Coast are not only grieving the losses brought on by COVID, but also the epic wildfires induced by climate change. Altars can help externalize and hold the grief and loss we feel.
There is no right or wrong way to make an altar, though certain cultures a/o religions have specific traditions. Below, I note the importance of not appropriating other traditions, but beyond this baseline of respect, designing an altar space for yourself can be as creative as you like. Some folks make multiple altars for various purposes. Some are elaborate and free standing, while others are made for your wall, erected on bookshelves, or next to your computer. We make what feels right and what is useful.
If you're called to this practice, here are a few questions to ask yourself as you get started:
1. What do I need now? Do I need a place to feel grounded and safe? A place to grieve? A place to visualize what I want to create in my life? A place to focus on hope or gratitude?
2. What objects, colors, scents, sounds, textures represent or meet my need? What inspires me and makes me feel comfort? If I am drawn to a symbol or deity associated with a culture/religion other than my own, do I have explicit permission to work with it?
3. Where should I place my altar and what materials do I need? Do I want it visible to others? Is there a spot that is particularly meaningful?
If you're interested in learning more about about altar-making or other psycho-spiritual and expressive arts practices, please feel free to contact me. Also, please know, every Thursday I use Instagram to share expressive arts prompts, and this week will focus on simple wall altars -- connect with me there!
Till Next Time, Wishing you Health & Ease,
Clients often ask me for practices to support their self-care and well-being and without a doubt my favorite practice is rooted in appreciation and gratitude.
These days it can feel exhausting, if not impossible, to focus on what's going well in our lives, but I want to emphasize that the purpose of this practice is NOT to gloss over the grief and struggle that so many are experiencing right now. It's doesn't require us to "just think positively" - ugh.
Gratitude practice helps us hold a fuller, more nuanced view of all we experience instead of falling into the everything is all-good or all-bad binary.
Here are some ideas to get started:
1. Start a dedicated gratitude journal where you write daily about what you are grateful for or appreciate. You can write in list form or go into detail. This is great to revisit when you're having a hard day.
2. Use your time on social media to share what you're grateful for or appreciating, and invite others to share what they are grateful for or appreciating.
3. Verbalize your appreciation directly. This one is so important. Often we think about our appreciations, but don't share with our communities. Make a call, text or zoom session to let someone know how they've impacted you.
As with any practice consistency is key. I suggest picking a time of day to set aside and review your day or week. What went well? What made you smile? Who or what brought you joy? Are you grateful for your body's ability to heal? Your best friend's laugh? Your resiliency? The smell of your morning coffee? Be authentic to your experience and try to be specific, including sensory detail. Watch how this practice can shift your perspective (and mood) over time.
For many, focusing on what's going well is a new way of thinking, of noticing. It can feel challenging at first, but that's why we call it a practice.
Till next time, wishing you health & ease,