As I started to dip my toes into self-care practices, the idea of “sacred spaces” and “altars” kept coming up. I liked the idea of creating a self-care space where I could reflect, be quiet, go inside, and get centered. I wanted to have a special place to renew my connection with myself and God.
So I did what any good millennial would do, and I consulted hundreds of Instagram accounts and blog posts. There were a ton of pictures of cool spaces or brief “how to” articles. Some seemed extremely religious-focused while others were super fancy and waaaaaaaaay out of my budget. I recognized several things during this research phase:
-My teeny-tiny, barely one-bedroom apartment couldn’t house a huge altar or separate space (so I needed it to be functional and/or transitional)
-I wanted to include a variety of different spiritual mementos, but they seemed to clash aesthetically
-I had an idea about things that I liked or wanted to include in my space, but I didn’t know exactly what I was going to be doing in this space
These realizations helped me get clear about my process for creating my self-care space. If you are a self-care newbie like I was, or a seasoned veteran who wants to recreate, follow the simple steps below to create your perfect space.
1. DEFINE “SACRED” OR “SPIRITUAL”
Objective: Understand exactly what sacred means to you.
Your definition of what’s sacred is uniquely yours and can evolve and change over time. This is a good time to do some light research. How do different faith backgrounds define these terms? What blend of spiritual feels right to you?
It’s important to get an idea of “your spirituality” so that you can infuse it into the places you live and work. This helps you stay in touch with your spirituality during the everyday part of your life.
For me, sacred means comfort, holy, and blessed. So it was important for me to explore what made things “holy” for me.
Tips: Think about what spiritual or sacred meant to you and your family growing up. Where there definitions, traditions or rituals that help define what it means for you to be in a sacred place?
2. DECIDE WHAT YOU WANT FROM YOUR SACRED SPACE
Objective: Determine your purpose and activities.
Before you begin, think about what you’re seeking and decide how you want to use it. Most people want to create a permanent, separate space to delve into a particular self-care or spiritual practice. Other people want to create a multi-purpose space for all things “soul related”. If you had to narrow down the purpose for your soon-to-be space, which statement below (or in your head) resonates most strongly for you?
- Create a separate sanctuary for meditation, prayer, or simply for quiet reflection
- Find serenity while you’re at home
- Designate a shared space for connecting with others, or for ritual or ceremony
- Co-create a family altar that continually evolves with spontaneous contributions from each family member
- Deepen intimacy through regular family time in a special place
- Connect to your body and soul through movement in a quiet and holy space designed for exercise
Tips: Think about why you’d like to create this space. If multiple things come up for you, rank them in order of preference or importance. Then see how you can incorporate the different ideas into one common theme.
3. FIND INSPIRATION IN WHAT YOU LOVE
Objective: Make your sacred space personal.
Choose what sounds, smells, and looks feel good to you. I add dragon’s blood incense (earthy fragrance infused with cedar wood, orange, and patchouli essential oils), “clean smelling” candles, and a chill playlist to help create my sacred space. Then choose objects that give you energy, inspire you or help you get into the ritual of your meditation, yoga, prayer or other sacred practice. I have a combination of oracle decks, rosary beads, crystals, and sacred texts for me to connect to myself and spirit.
Tips: Consider using a screen or curtain to separate your space and make you feel more contained and relaxed.
4. CONSIDER WHY YOU WANT A SACRED SPACE
Objective: Think about why the space is important (now that you’re clear on what you are going to use the space for).
Creating a sacred space can be something you do once in your lifetime or every day (like me). This might be for individual retreat and reflection or you may prefer to create the space with loved ones or friends. Sacred spaces are usually created to celebrate seasonal rituals, specific events, or continued daily use. Getting clear on the “why” will help you choose your location, look and feel of your space.
- Seasonal rituals to celebrate and commemorate: changes of season or movements of nature or special occasions
- Specific, one-time events: celebrate a relationship or a life success or clarify an important decision or change
- Daily use: praying and meditating, separating from the routine part of daily life, exercising and connecting to your body, making music or art or connecting to creativity
Tips: Many people create an altar of some sort within their space. It should express what’s sacred to you and reflect the state you’re seeking in your self-care practice. I didn’t want a permanent altar setup, so I created a metal basket of goodies that sat on a small table. I then set out different mementos or tools depending on that day’s practice.
5. PICK YOUR LOCATION
Objective: Consider possible locations and then pick the best place for you!
A single object can increase your awareness of your spirituality and connection with what is sacred to you. A set of materials can create comfort and change the look of space quickly. An entire room can invite you into your deeper self.
You can create your sacred space:
- Where you can see it — across from your bed, desk, sofa or kitchen table
- As a small part of any room or balcony or deck — whether it’s a single object, an arrangement or altar
- Wherever you have space — if not an entire room, then a corner of a room (screens can help create a temporary separate space) or even a closet (like a prayer “war room”)
When I first created a space, I did it on the rug next to my bed. I was used to praying there and my bedroom was the most comfortable non-shared space I had. When I moved into my next apartment, I made sure to look for one that had space for a potential “sacred nook”. Now I transform my living room area into a sacred space by moving a table and pulling out floor pillows.
Tips: Think about the time you will be using your sacred space. Are you planning to start your morning there or unwind in your special spot? Consider what else is going on in your household at that time. Will it be conducive for the type of activity (meditation, journaling, yoga) that you plan to do?
6. DETERMINE WHAT KINDS OF ITEMS SHOULD YOU INCLUDE IN YOUR SACRED SPACE
Objective: Choose your tools and decorations.
This is your personal space. What speaks to you, inspires you, moves you? Go crazy. Mix and match. The beauty of spirituality is that there are no limits. My space is a combination of faith backgrounds, natural elements, and a variety of textiles and smells. You can choose to create a permanent altar and include many of the items listed below. Again, I have a decorate box that houses my goodies so that I can create the space I need each day.
- Mementos: personal items that are meaningful to you
- Art: your own, your friends’, postcards of famous works
- Tools: journal, yoga mat, iPad and/or speakers, tarot, oracle decks, etc.
- Talismans: symbols of peace and safety
- Photographs: loved ones, ancestors, special places or landscapes
- Statuary: traditional symbols of divine and protective energies
- Nature: stones and shells that hold memories from special places, plants, flowers and other living things
- Aromatherapy: candles, incense, or wax burners
- Decor: color, light, texture, fabrics, carpets, mirrors, fountains, chimes
- Sound: musical instruments and favorite calming playlists
- Sacred texts: words of wisdom
Tips: If you’re using electronics in your sacred space (playlists on your phone or online video content) be sure to put them in airplane mode! Part of the sacred space is giving yourself time for introspection and tranquility, so you need to give yourself a break from the outside world for a bit.
Your space should make you feel welcome and comfortable. It should feel like your ultimate sanctuary and reflect your truest self. It should allow you the opportunity to get quiet, get creative, get reflective, get grounded and connected (to you, God, source, universe, source, love, nature, etc.)
Enjoy creating your sacred space. Keep it simple to start with, but allow it to evolve over time. xoxo Mo