"Wherever an altar is found, there civilization exists." - Joseph de Maistre
This weekend in our Summer School we encountered an essay on building an altar of our own. This idea isn't new to many of you, but stay with me - let's refresh it. The essay described the purpose of an altar this way:
"I like to think of altars as a three-dimensional expression of a collage. You will most likely find that you already have everything you need to create your altar. Choose items that are consistent with what you are intending to invoke in your life."
Again, "Choose items that are consistent with what you are intending to invoke in your life."
The topic of our weekend was Find Your Center, which I retitled as Create Your Center because I believe our center - our Self in the moments when we experience how steady and steadfast we can truly be in any setting - is always there, it just needs the right context to help it flourish.
First, we considered the things that trigger us, what knocks us OFF-center: poor sleep, unproductive food choices, the wrong company at the wrong moment, chaos in our personal space, financial worries, feeling hurried, unresolved conversations or conflicts etc. I'm sure you have a list of your own. Think for a moment, what last threw you off center?
From there it is easy to determine what nourishes our center and then get detailed and personal: good sleep (8 hours for me in a cool, dark room at a consistent time each day), good food (requires regular grocery schedule with a solid list prepared in advance so vegetables and snacks are in easy reach, time set aside each day to set my space to rights, a time each week to look over my schedule and be sure that what is vital is listed there and I feel accomplished as a result.
If, by doing these things we are coming into closer, more consistent contact with our own centered Selves, then these are divine actions.
Our true self, our Sat Nam, is our connection to the eternal; to the deep quiet where our own company makes great, healing sense. Every choice we make to order our lives and reconnect to our selves can then be perceived as an act of devotion.
Putting it together, what if we were to consider the altar of our refrigerator to nourish our day? Or the altar of our schedule to prioritize what's vital? Are these things invoking what you would call into yourself to feel more connected, more divine?
Ayurveda reminds us that true wellbeing establishes us in our Self. When our wellbeing suffers, we can repair ourselves - physically, emotionally, and spiritually - through what we EAT, what we THINK, and how we ACT. Consider the mundane tools you use to manage these aspects of your life: your pantry, your inbox or your playlist, your schedule, your bank statement. This is your means of divinity - in the very dailiness of everyday decisions.
The word pūjā comes from Sanskrit and means reverence, honour, homage, adoration, and worship. Puja is done to "spiritually celebrate an event." It is the state of mind we have when taking action that moves the mundane to the sacred, turning food and gestures into offerings. We can do this with each meal, as we unpack food from the market, as we fold the laundry, as we sit in traffic. In so doing, we can find being in our Center not to be an occasional occurrence, but an everyday inhabitance.
Remember to honour your altars. Any and all forms.
Much love and many thanks,