"Anything you place on the altar is then altered." Author, teacher, amazing human, Marianne Williamson said that on her social network feeds the other day. I love how she cuts straight to the heart of the matter.
It made me think about my own, many altars. I'm sure that would sound odd if you knew that I do not practice a form of organized religion. I was raised as a Roman Catholic back when masses were in Latin and seemed very mysterious and important. I'm certain the theatrical quality of Sunday mornings was enough to keep me mesmerized until I was older and started asking questions that got way too many answers that didn’t ring true and right inside of me.
When I look around my house I see that there are altars of a sort in every single room; the top of a dresser, the space in front of books on a shelf, the top of a towel cabinet in the bathroom, a fireplace mantle, a sideboard and the one I love the most, the shelf over my kitchen sink.
As I look at my kitchen window sill, I see a small diorama of my life as woman, wife, mother, friend and all the other titles that stream out invisibly behind me as I walk through life. There's a little olivewood bowl of salt that I keep there that feels like a commentary on the preservation of life's deliciousness and to the simplicity of goodness. There’s a little ceramic otter that reminds me to play. There are beautiful pieces of star anise spice with their apple like seeds in the perfect flower of their seven petaled pod and they remind me to add some spice to everything I do. There's a palm sized Kwan Yin- Goddess of Mercy, who was too serene to leave on the dusty store shelf and she and I have a deal to watch over my loved ones when they're out of my sight. There are teeny pine cone buds that remind me where we start from on our way to becoming towering trees, and small vases that hold blooms from anywhere I can find them.
On the phone this morning, I was talking about altars with a friend. She happened to be at her sink and laughed as she looked around at her carefully placed dragonflies and wind chimes that she loves and the cardinal that reminds her of her late mother and stars that remind her of her daughters. She had also created an altar on her kitchen window sill as well without even trying.
Is it just women who do this over their kitchen sinks or do men also place things there, with love and care, and while they settle into the meditation in motion of washing away mess and making their lives clean again, do they stop and realize what they were doing?
All over the world, outside of the structure of religions and officially sanctioned sacred spots, there are prayers going out and altars being built and voices asking for help with whatever challenges we face. Faith isn't a word that belongs to churches. Faith is a word that means I trust that there is an answer and it will be found. Faith is a word that should mean that you have asked already and it is now being handled. And faith is a word that means you have the patience to live your life while the pieces come together. It has nothing to do with buildings or job titles or words in a book or adherence to a strict ritual of behavior. It's trust, confidence and patience; three things we must have in order to reach our goals whatever they may be. .
So today I'm making a tiny scroll and tying it with a small piece of ribbon and on that scroll I am putting down my request for assistance everyday with my judgment when I am faced with choices that will affect my health and well being. It's going onto one of my many little altars around my home and I am going to walk away from it because I know that my request was heard and my own alterations began the very second I wrote the note.