Day 16 of the Yoga Girl Challenge is “The Altar.”
I walked around my apartment today looking for a place to set up a “proper” altar and found no space to spare. Then I took a second lap around and realized that actually…I had little altars everywhere.
Actually, my home is full of sacred spaces that are incredibly meaningful to me. The writing wall next to my desk has a bulletin board overflowing with notecards on which I’ve scribbled facts, quotes and ideas for the James Dean play I’m writing. It has cards from loved ones that are particularly inspirational to me, photos of loved ones who are no longer with me, but continue to inspire me, my running medals and quotes that turn my heart each time I read them.
On my bookshelf, I have my baby Buddha and sage incense. I burn that all the time, when I’m practicing yoga, when I’m writing to cleanse and purge energy and thoughts that are no longer conducive to the journey I am on. The baby Buddha is sentimental because it’s a gift from my beloved aunties who support me so wholly that I feel their love thousands of miles away.
My living room wall has my street art collection, a concert poster from my favorite band, my signed copy of Bug by Tracey Letts and the show poster from my thesis performance in Bug. The wall in my bedroom is my Playbill wall that serves as a constant and persistent reminder of where I want to be and the work that must be done to find the caliber of performance that each show achieved.
Then there’s my Tibetan singing bowl filled with my precious mala bracelets, each set of stones serving a different purpose, healing in both their beauty and energetic properties. That bowl sits next to books that are sacred to me and have made the “cut” each time I’ve moved and purged.
Finally, in the corner of my bedroom is my Buddha statue. I found this Buddha in Maui, on what was meant to be an amazing vacation with my then husband and aunt and uncle. Since our marriage was in the beginning stages of complete and total disintegration, the time we spent there wasn’t as happy as it could have been. I saw this Buddha on the day that my husband decided to cut our vacation short and head home to do “homework” and for whatever reason, in the throes of anger and tears and hurt, I knew I needed to have that statue.
I bought it and had it shipped back to Honolulu where it sat taunting me for the remainder of my time there. What you think you become it continued to say to me and it’s true—I became paranoid, insecure, angry, jealous, devastated, bitter and tired very quickly and remained that way for a long time. It’s one of the only artifacts of our marriage that I haven’t purged, even though it still reminds me of that time.
Sometimes I wonder if the reason I haven’t gotten rid of it is not because it’s a beautiful Buddha but because I still haven’t quite learned the lesson it’s been trying to teach me. And that’s the thing about spirituality for me, about altars. I don’t believe spirituality is to be learned from a book interpreted by man as the word of God or preached to you at church, but how you think, speak and live your life. Spirituality for me is finding the space in your day to be reverential not only to the experience you are lucky enough to have (for good or for bad) and for the experiences others are having as well. Spirituality is finding the grace to learn from those experiences and to grow into a more understanding, compassionate and patient person.
That’s what the little altars everywhere in my apartment are there for. To serve as sources of inspiration, reminders of love and to lessons to be learned.