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Bhakti Yoga: Creating an Altar

Honoring loved ones lost.

Bhakti yoga is the yogic path of devotion. Traditionally speaking this means focusing your love and devotion on a specific deity, with a goal of forming a deeper and more personal relationship with the Divine. Bhakti yoga has no attachment to religion and thus there is no right or wrong way to think about the Divine. The Divine/spirituality is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about over the last almost two years, but more on that in a future post.

There are a number of ways to practice Bhakti yoga, but the focus of today's post is creating altars or shrines. The pictures below are snapshots of the shrine I have honoring my loved ones who have passed on, Leo and my grandparents.

Archaeologists have found evidence of shrines, altars, and other sacred creations in any place that humans have lived. It's a natural part of the human existence. Think of all the memorials we have in the United States, the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the 9/11 Memorial... the list goes on. The Day of the Dead shrines in Mexico are built to honor the dead and invite them in for that special celebration. On a smaller scale, memorials are created at the sites of fatal car accidents or outside other important locations. These spaces can be considered sacred and used for worship, prayer, reflection, or meditation.

My altar serves as a space for keepsakes that remind me of my loved ones who have died. In the first picture, you can see a glimpse of Leo's blanket and onesie. The second offers a close up of items I was gifted after loss. These include a carving of an angel boy holding a puppy, a Rosary made with dried flower petals from my Grandparent's funeral roses, a blessing ring given to me for my first Mother's Day by the NICU, a stone from a sound healing session (the other one was placed on Leo's headstone), and finally the heart shaped coin whose twin resides buried with Leo in his casket.

For me, I keep this altar as daily reminders of my loved ones. I use it as a prayer space, keep some of my most favorite spiritual guide and prayer books, and sit in front of it to meditate frequently. Often at night, I give Leo's onesie a little rub as a way to tell him good night. These things bring me comfort and help me feel like I am holding my loved ones close.

I challenge you to consider building an altar or sacred space in your home. It can be big or small, even so small that it's something to be carried around in your pocket. Altars can be permanent, semi-permanent, or even temporary nature shrines. Think about what feels best to you, what does your heart tell you? What is the space that immediately pops into your head when I ask you to consider creating a shrine? To me, that is your intuition telling you what your soul needs for healing.

There are no right or wrong ways to do this, but the book Yoga for Grief and Loss has some good ideas to help get you started:

  • Make a list of words that come to mind when thinking of your loved one

  • Make a list of objects you associate with your loved one

  • Write down words of wisdom, favorite expressions, or funny/loving things they have said

  • Write down nicknames or pet names

  • Write down their favorites (color, food, song, etc.)

  • Find images associated with these things, they could be images you've taken yourself or images you find on the internet

I hope you share your shrine/altar/whatever you choose to call it with me.

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