9 ways to create a sacred space todayCredit: Getty Images
Our homes are our sanctuaries. They are places of warmth, light and love where after a hard day’s work we can come back, take a load off and shut out the noise of the outside world. Well, ideally at least, although chances are you might have kids or animals running around, two things on the stove at once, the television blaring in the background, construction going on next door or people popping by unexpectedly. Yes, our homes can be somewhat chaotic at times, which is why creating a dedicated spiritual and sacred space can help you relax and find calm, even in the busiest of households.
Whether it’s repurposing a spare room or just clearing the top of your dresser to make an altar, creating a space for your spiritual practice — in whatever form that may be — also helps you commit to a consistent routine and will make your practice more effective. But, before you can enjoy the benefits, you must think about your spiritual goals, as well as what space you have to work with and how to effectively use it to design something personal to you. No matter what kind of household or area you are working with, there are lots of ways to create a truly peaceful and relaxing sacred space at home.
Your spiritual space
Are you ready to get creative? First, ask yourself a few questions to help get a sense of what function or purpose your sanctuary will serve. Maybe it will be a place where you will actively practise yoga and meditation or a space for introspection and quiet reflection. Perhaps it’s simply somewhere you can switch off and relax or retreat to when you want to feel inspired and uplifted.
Creating a space for your spiritual practice — in whatever form that may be — also helps you commit to a consistent routine and will make your practice more effective.
Once you’ve thought about the purpose of the space, scout out an area you might be able to work with. Are you fortunate enough to have a spare room in your home? You have the opportunity to create an entirely private and separate oasis you can solely associate with calm and relaxation. That said, occupants of small homes shouldn’t feel left out. After all, a spiritual space has no bounds. If you don’t have much room to dedicate to the space, think about using the corner of the room, a balcony, a countertop or even a walk-in wardrobe. If possible, try to find an area that doesn’t get a lot of household traffic and has a degree of privacy. The last thing you want is lots of background noise or someone barging through while you are trying to relax and find peace!
Now that you know what you’re working with and what you want to achieve, you can start transforming the space into something truly sacred — a sanctuary you associate with peace, healing, meditation, reflection. Whatever your goal or spiritual practice, the space should be a retreat, an escape and an immediate reminder of the sacred, and there are so many ways to bring this essence out.
A multifunctional space
A spiritual space shouldn’t just be reserved for yogis or mediation lovers. You can also use it for a range of other mindful activities, such as:
- Stream-of-consciousness journaling can be very cathartic. Get your thoughts out of your head and onto paper. Your writing doesn’t need to be perfect or even grammatically correct; in fact, you may never read it again. Simply use it as a chance to clear the mind and find clarity.
- Making a gratitude list. What are you thankful for? Write a list of things or people for whom you are grateful. Writing and reflecting on this, particularly during difficult times, offers perspective and reminds us of the good things in life we can focus on.
- Reading inspiring literature. Keep some inspiring literature at hand to use or refer to during your practice or time spent in your sacred space. This could be yogic or spiritual texts, religious passages, poetry or anything else you find uplifting and meaningful.
- Reciting mantras or affirmations. Create an affirmation or mantra for yourself. This should be something positive that reflects your heart’s true purpose. Recite this not only in your space but also to yourself throughout the day. Alternatively, write a few affirmations and put them in a box. Each morning, pick out a new one and use this to set the tone of your day.
- Practising svadhyaya. This is the yogic practice of self-study and reflection, and could take the form of some of the activities above. It could also simply involve sitting, reflecting and acknowledging all layers of your being.
There are so many other options, from art therapy and mindful colouring books to creating your own Zen garden, ideal if you’ve been relegated to the outdoors or a balcony.
Make an altar
Whether you are working with a larger or smaller space, creating an altar is an easy way to establish a sense of spirituality in your home.
Altars can include religious symbols and objects, but they need not be faith-based. Instead, an altar can include personal items that are significant to you. This might include crystals, fresh flowers, candles and personal objects, such as photos of loved ones and sentimental pieces that have been handed down in your family or gathered during your travels. Just be wary not to go overboard and create a cluttered space (for more on the effects of clutter, turn to p36). Carefully select a few objects for your altar with meaning and significance behind them to create a true feeling of sacredness.
Once created, your altar should be actively used as a spiritual space, not just for decoration. Use the altar and create a ritual for yourself. It might be as simple as lighting a candle, saying a prayer, meditating or reflecting on each object with deep intention and reminding yourself what you are grateful for. Creating a ritual is symbolic; it also offers a moment to truly immerse yourself in the present and cultivate awareness of your surroundings and their energy while connecting with your spirituality. It is a chance to look inward and the altar should act as a reminder to honour, celebrate and reflect on the divinity within us all.
Make your altar the centre and starting point of your sacred space. From here, you can think about making additions to the space so it is truly conducive to relaxation and calm and allows energy to radiate outward.
Sage is known for its health and healing properties and has long been used by many cultures and in traditional ceremonies to purify and clear space and energy. One such practice is smudging, a traditionally Native American practice that involves burning sage leaves to bless and purify people and objects. Many people also integrate this practice before yoga and meditation or when moving into a new home.
Sage is known for its health and healing properties and has long been used by many cultures and in traditional ceremonies to purify and clear space and energy.
The practice involves using a large bundle of dried white sage, which you can DIY or buy. First, open the windows and doors, then light the sage and allow it to burn until it starts smoking. Use your hand to wave the smoke into all corners of your space while repeating a positive affirmation. The sage smoke is believed to attach itself to and clear negative energy and allow peace, love and happiness to fill the room.
Quick tip: If smudging isn’t for you, there are lots of other ways sage can be incorporated into your practice. Sage in any form — whether incense, dried leaves or tea — allows you to still experience its healing and wellness benefits.
Feng shui 101
If you have limited space and use a multipurpose room for your spiritual retreat, consider implementing some basic feng shui principles to keep energy pure and flowing at all times:
- Cover your television when it’s not in use. Unsurprisingly, a TV is disruptive to the calming energy we should cultivate in a spiritual space. Drape a shawl or your favourite fabric over the television or technology that you can’t easily move out of the room to keep the energy pure and give the space a whole new meaning.
- Get rid of dead energy by clearing and cleansing your living space. In a clear and organised space, energy can flow freely. Decluttering also creates “space” where there wasn’t any before.
- Let the sun shine in. Open your windows to let fresh air to circulate. Allow as much natural light into your home as possible to create an uplifting and inspiring space.
- Use crystals. Feng shui crystals help focus and adjust the flow of energy to create a more harmonious space.
While you shouldn’t overload your space with too many items, there are some essentials — depending on your practice — that you can keep nearby or packed away if need be:
- If you’re a yogi, invest in a good-quality mat for your space. This yoga mat should be one strictly reserved for home practice. Remember to wipe down your mat after use.
- Keep a throw rug close by. This can be used in yoga practice to add some extra padding to your mat or during meditation or relaxation to keep you warm.
- Have a meditation cushion or rug to keep you comfortable during practice.
- If your practice involves reading, writing or reflection, add a small table and conformable chair.
Music for the soul
Adding music to your space creates a more soothing atmosphere if you live in a busy household or on a noisy street. It helps block out background noise and aid concentration.
Write a few affirmations and put them in a box. Each morning, pick out a new one and use this to set the tone of your day.
Over the years, various studies have found music to be very beneficial for relaxation and concentration. Studies around listening to classical music in particular have reported a range of benefits, from reduced anxiety, improved concentration and memory to lowered blood pressure and changes in the brain, which indicate greater levels of relaxation. However, as uplifting and inspiring as music is, it can also be a distraction for some. So, if you do decide to integrate music, remember this is a sacred and calming space and, instead of playing your favourite bangers, opt for something soothing and calming that sets the tone of your spiritual practice. Chanting, classical, ambient and nature soundtracks are great options to aid relaxation and focus.
Quick tip: Create your playlist beforehand or make sure your music selection is long enough to last your entire spiritual practice so you don’t need to keep changing the track and getting distracted.
Bring the outdoors in
Indoor plants offer not only an injection of colour and life into the home but also have a range of other benefits. Houseplants are an easy and effective way to purify the air. A range of studies have found that the simplest addition of plants in the home boosts calmness and productivity and even reduces blood pressure while adding a whole new energy to the space. Plants such as lady palm, dwarf date, peace lily and Boston fern, to name a few, are particularly effective at improving the quality of indoor air.
Quick tip: Working with a small space or don’t have a green thumb in the slightest? Succulents require next to no maintenance.
Essential oils are a valuable addition to any at-home spiritual retreat: they balance energy and add the element of air to a space. Our sense of smell is also so closely linked to memory, which means that certain scents can immediately evoke a feeling of relaxation. So, even in times when you are outside of your sanctuary and perhaps in a more stressful environment, these scents can induce a feeling of relaxation and take you back to your sacred space.
There are so many essential oils to choose from but here are a few known for their calming, restorative and healing effects:
Symbols & signs
You can also include a range of symbols and signs in your spiritual space. These act as points of concentration and focus during your practice and are also beautiful, inspiring additions. If you choose to integrate a symbol, use part of your spiritual practice for study to read more about the power and significance behind them. Here are some options to consider:
- Religious imagery. This might be based on your faith or include symbols from other religions that may have resonance with you. For instance, in many spiritual spaces, a cross, Virgin Mary, Buddha and the Hindu god Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, often make an appearance.
- The sound of the universe. Om can be chanted during practice or the symbol itself can be visualised during meditation and yoga asana practice.
- The lotus has great spiritual significance. The lotus bud grows in mud and, in fact, thrives in it: these conditions enable it to grow into a beautiful flower. The lotus symbolises purity and rebirth and is often visualised in meditation, commonly when focusing on the heart or crown chakras.
- Mandalas are full of symbolism and meaning. They are beautiful geometric figures that represent the universe and can act as a point of focus or be visualised during meditation. You can even draw one yourself.
A technology-free zone
It might go without saying but your spiritual space should be a technology-free zone. While technology plays a very functional and practical role, particularly in our professional lives, it also constantly invades our downtime and personal space. Giving your mind a break from the overstimulation of technology truly has a cleansing and rejuvenating effect. Your spiritual space should be a place where you can disconnect and relax and not have to worry about answering emails or what your friends are up to on social media. So, before entering your sacred space, leave your phone at the door and use this as a chance for a technology detox.
The key to creating a spiritual space is to make it personal and meaningful to you. It should be somewhere you feel completely comfortable and at ease, so you can truly relax and look within. Remember to start small and focus on a particular area for your sacred place and with time, and if space permits, you can create a peaceful and spiritual feeling that will radiate throughout your entire home.
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