The online meditation class was ending. The teacher told us to gently flutter our eyes open and focus on an item or area in the room that we appreciated. I looked over at the small black table beside me. It once belonged to my late cousin Charles, who was dear to me, and had slowly evolved into an altar grouped with objects of beauty and special meaning.
The grouping started with a ceramic statue of a woman, seated and meditating, a cherished gift from my mother. I then added a beautiful candle. Joining these over time: a tiny cairn, a stack of stones that for me represented balance, direction and intention; a small Himalayan salt candle; meditation prayer beads; crystals; a natural fragrance diffuser; and a bundle of sage. To the side of this table, I now keep a basket with everything I need to enhance or complement my meditation or restorative exercise experience, from a lavender mask to essential oils.
Creating the altar made me feel good. For one, it is in a cleared area where I now place my yoga mat and meditation cushion, and therefore celebrates the accomplishment of making a nice, clutter-free space for myself for growth and physical wellness. Studies have shown that clutter in the home can trigger stress hormones. And now, all I have to do is look at the items on the table and I feel a sense of ease and calm. It signals me to slow down, be still and feel emotionally nourished. The area also seems to have a unique vibe.
“Always express gratitude when entering and leaving your space.”
Mindfulness educator/yoga instructor Linda Lopes feels me on this. She has a corner in her living room where she created an altar. It’s where she meditates, teaches yoga and sits to read. “I swear it feels different than other areas in my apartment,” she says.
That a place or a space can take on a certain energy might not be scientifically proven, but a space that helps you unwind and destress can have health benefits. Studies have shown that stress has a role in chronic disease and things that help relax us, such as prayer, meditation or yoga, may also help us reduce stress thereby reducing cortisol levels and upping the feel good hormone oxytocin. This supports our overall well-being by increasing clarity, focus and improving sleep, among other things.
I use the term sacred space, but the area/room can be called a meditation space, relaxation room or mini-sanctuary depending on its purpose. It doesn’t have to be spiritual or religious. It can be a place for self-care. It can be for prayer, meditation, reflection, journaling, special rituals, setting intentions, reading, relaxation or unwinding at the end of the day. For me a sacred space is a place to go when I need healing, inspiration or peace and to help me journey to a serene destination within myself.
“I started creating altar spaces in my home about eight years ago,” says Lopes. “However, this is the first time that I have created a sacred space where I designate a spot in my home that is for my meditation, yoga practice, journaling, reading, and/or a space to sit and think. I created this space this past June. A dear friend of mine, who I consider my mentor and spiritual teacher, taught me how to clear and create a sacred space.”
Lopes started by deciding where the space would be and created an imaginary line or border around it in her apartment. Right now it is located in the corner of her apartment in front of a window she loves, she says, “because I see and connect with nature and the birds that pay a visit.”
To create your own sacred space, Lopes suggests finding “a corner, nook or even clear out a closet to sit in, anything! Bring in all the things that you connect with, remind you of who you are and inspire you.”
Once Lopes decided on the location of her sacred space, she says she “decided that everything that I brought into the space would have to mean something to me.” She filled her space with items to which she felt connected, like a photo of her late grandmother (“it symbolizes connecting to my ancestors”), candles, incense, singing bowls and tuning forks that she uses for meditation, including a mandala that she created and drew following a deep meditation, and that she uses to meditate on from time to time.
Some individuals perform rituals before using a sacred space. One idea that Lopes shares is having “a conversation with everything that you bring in by thanking it, honoring it and asking it for support and guidance.” She also advises to keep the area or room clean and clutter free. “Always express gratitude when entering and leaving your space.”
You can create a routine or ritual for using your space, or just use it during the times when you need it. It’s your space, so do what speaks to you.
“This space means a lot to me. It is where I come to feel, connect and explore beyond this 3D world,” Lopes reveals. “It is where I seek wisdom, guidance, love and support. It means that I get to remember who I am, continue to show up and do my work towards self-healing and create a path for others to heal.”