The Home Altar—Finding Sanctuary in Today’s World
edited: Wednesday, January 10, 2007
By ike West
Rated "G" by the Author.
Posted: Wednesday, January 10, 2007
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This assignment was for Health And Happiness Magazine in the UK. The request was for an article about stress and its relief.
‘The times, they are a changing.’ Everywhere these days, there’s evidence of this old adage. It is interesting that the Maya Indians of the Americas tell legends about the times in which we live. Their oral legacy is complex and puzzling, but one thing is for sure: they posit that time itself now passes at a drastically faster rate. Modern physicists say pretty much the same thing. But science shrouds the speed up of time in mathematical equations and quantum theories. It’s much easier to understand in Mayan terms.
To the Maya, time is like a river and we are currently nearing a waterfall that western astrologers refer to as the Aquarian Age. Just like a river in nature, the closer we get to the falls, the faster the water flows. While we catch inklings of this dynamic in our busy lives, the larger impact can be easily overlooked. We may soon head over the falls so that whole chunks of time, years and decades, may cascade by in the same instant, making a compressed passage through our lives. Suddenly the time that once took many hundreds of years to pass gets woven tightly together, giving us a new sense of what we might call “quick time.” We end up with centuries of inventions and creations appearing over night; the same achievements that once would’ve developed at a much slower pace.
In the midst of such drastic change, the stress of daily life mounts with incredible speed. Many of us feel a heightened sensitivity to the hectic activity around us. We need a refuge to protect an endangered personal commodity: peace of mind. Traditionally, our homes offered the quiet and solitude required to step out of the flow of time and nurture our spirits. Today, most family dwellings are fortified with wall-to-wall electronics, like television, radio, CD players and computers. Our homes are wired to the hilt. In order to de-pressurize, it is essential to find a place that offers quiet and solitude. And the best way to mark such tranquil territory so that everybody in the family respects it is by setting up an altar.
Altars may take many forms, from simple rocks to intricate shelving with various memorabilia on each tier. Often we gain comfort from the beauty of the objects that make up our altars. But we mustn’t let aesthetics lull us into forgetting the reason for establishing an altar in the first place—to distinguish the sacred from the mundane. This is important. Traditionally altars are set up as an offering to ancestors or the spirit that guides us. This sacred enclosure is in fact an instrument of attraction. At the very core, the altar invites forth the sacred to bless the surroundings. When an altar works for us in this ancient way, we truly establish a place to sit and re-nourish our souls.