How many different ways can you set up a physical altar? Only a thousand or so. Here are some examples to get your creative juices flowing. These are great for those who want to start out simple (highly recommended), as well as anyone who might lead a more on-the-go lifestyle. People who still have to be very closeted about their spirituality may find the helpful, too.
Repurpose a drawstring bag (the kind jewelry and other small items often come in) and choose a few articles that you’ll treat as sacred. The example above uses found items representing the four elements: earth (stone), air (paperclip), fire (acorn), and water (blue ribbon). When you take the items out and lay them on top, the bag becomes your altar cloth. Easy for travel and quick concealment.
Small travel altars and shrines have been used for many years, but they became trendy when the New Age movement came on the scene. This is a photo of my original portable altar that I used years ago when my life was much more nomadic and chaotic. I briefly mentioned in it the example I gave in the previous post.
I simply procured a few items from nature that I was drawn to during my daily walks. I don’t know what I would’ve done if I hadn’t had this little treasure to help me refocus on my connection with God and the Heavens.
This became my favorite option for a long time. Shoe boxes are very handy storage tools, but they make great portable / concealable altars, too! You can decoupage them, leave them as-is and cover with a small cloth when in use, or simply use it unadorned as the altar base while you pray and meditate.
I do recommend using an altar cloth for this one, though. For one, I feel it’s more respectful to cover the base. And it’s good conceal any images or lettering the isn’t suitable to have around when focusing on Heaven. You don’t want to spend time blocking out permanent advertisement for a shoe company while trying to relax in your outward sacred space. Try a draping a plain scarf, shirt, skirt, pillow case, napkin, or any other piece of fabric over it. You could even keep that fabric inside the box with your other sacred objects.
Stationary boxes are often beautiful little containers that easily lend themselves to this type of project. Thin, small, and unobtrusive, you probably wouldn’t need to cover as much artwork or lettering – if any. If it’s a nature print like the one seen above, you could probably leave it alone.
Store your items in the box, then take them out when spending quality one-on-one time with Heaven and use the box as the altar base.
Repurpose an old glass jar and fill it with stones. If you live near the beach, you can add sand and place the stones on top, or hit up the craft store for some sand. Pick up some shells from the beach or craft store or some river rocks (earth and water combined). This could be an on-going project; you don’t have to get everything all at once.
Once you feel you have a nice base, get a tea light candle and place it on top. Make sure it can’t tip over and that the heat won’t damage anything in the jar. Light it during prayer, meditation, or whenever you want to spend quiet time alone.
This is a great way to have a little sacred space on your bedside table, and watching the flickering light of the flame on the ceiling might help you mediate yourself to sleep at night. Try it and find out! It’s healthier than a cellphone screen or electric light, and the tea light will burn for a shorter period of time. If you do fall asleep before blowing it out, you don’t have to worry about it burning for too long.
- Make or purchase a terrarium. This not brings some nature inside the home but creates a great instant sacred space, too! Don’t just mist the plants and meditate with them, though. Actually study them. Read up on the proper way to care for them and keep them healthy. See if you can find any interesting trivia about the plants, their history, native habitat, mythology, medicinal properties, etc. This might even open the door to a new hobby or even a family activity. If you have family in the home, share what you learned with them. Don’t force them to be interested – just use it to change up the conversation.
- Use a houseplant or potted plant outdoors. Outdoor plants on balconies or patios help you get out of the house, even if it’s just for a little while. Caring for them and checking in on them can become part of your sacred time. We are supposed to care of all living things, after all. Again, learn as much as you can about the plants over time so you can improve your plant-rearing skills. Indoor plants can be just as good, and I have several of them myself. A few found stones picked up during a walk can be placed in the pot to make a visual altar space, harkening back to the ancient sacred sites.
- Keep a candle by your bed, preferably one in a jar. Use it as a focal point during prayer time. Having something to help quiet your mind can relieve stress, and there’s nothing more simple (or covert) than a candle flame. If possible, try playing some soothing spiritual music on a very low volume while praying, etc. If you have to use headphones to listen, then do so; but try to keep all electronics turned off and put away during sacred times such as this.
Alter any of these ideas to suit your needs. I used the elemental representations because it was the easiest thing for me to find and use at the time. However, your interests, connection, and needs may be completely different from mine.
Your physical altar or shrine is yours to create and change as you wish/need. It doesn’t and shouldn’t have to be ridged or stagnant. Let it come from your personality and love for Heaven. It’s not meant for anyone but you and Them. Have fun with it!