This week I had the unique pleasure of attending an experience that was called, The Beloved Souls Altar Building Workshop. When I saw the invitation for the event, I felt suddenly and inexplicably drawn to it. I marked "going" right away, with very little thought. It seemed to to be a happening that I had been waiting for, and it is unlike me to feel so oddly compelled to attend. Fast forward to the day of, finishing my responsibilities barely in time and kicking myself for committing to go to an event that evening. Too busy, too tired, too occupied, you know the story.
I arrived a few minutes late, wondering what on earth I was doing there. Some religious ceremonies evoke in me a feeling of less connectivity, not more, and suddenly I wondered if this would be no exception. I entered the room as the facilitator, Laura Frank of Inner Space Yoga was cleansing the room with incense. I joined about 15 people, in a tight circle on the floor. I was able to relax as Laura, calmly and with good humor led us through the process of building an altar. As directed, we obediently tore flowers off their stems and arranged them in groups by color on a rug in the middle of the circle. All the while she led us through an explanation of the ritual we were participating in. As we arranged the flowers, Laura spoke to us about the practice of honoring six directions, and I will share them here to the best of my memory.
The Six Directions
The color of which is red.
The Element of which is Air.
The Totem being, Birds of Prey.
The Strength of the East: Sight.
Stage of Life: Infancy.
The Altar Element: Incense / or a feather.
The Prayer of the East: When we orient to the East we watch the smoke rise or listen to the wind. We meditate on new beginnings and the birth of new ideas, new projects, and the early stages of life. We pray for any healing we might need from our childhoods. We pray for clear vision and openness.
The color of which is yellow.
The Element of which is Fire.
The Totem being, pack animals.
The Strength of the East: Passion, Willpower, Family.
Stage of Life: Adolescence.
The Altar Element: Candle.
The Prayer of the South: When we orient to the South we gaze at the flame and meditate on our adolescence and pray for healing from that time. We pray for health, strength and peace for our families. We pray to bring the passion of our youth into our current life.
The color of which is black, purple or blue.
The Element of which is Water.
The Totem being, the black bear or water dwelling animals.
The Strength of the West: Healing. learning, teaching.
Stage of Life: Adulthood.
The Altar Element: Water.
The Prayer of the West: When we orient to the West we slowly drink a glass of water and meditate on the qualities of water. It moves around the rock. It moves to stay clean and pure. We think about our current stage of life. Healing, learning teaching. Trying to understand the flow of life and the necessity of difficulty and the joy of triumph.
The color of which is white.
The Element of which is Earth.
The Totem being, the white buffalo or the dove.
The Strength of the East: Peace, wisdom, and abundance.
Stage of Life: Elderhood.
The Altar Element: Crystal.
The Prayer of the North: When we orient to the North we connect with the crystal. We meditate on this final stage of life, elderhood. We pray for peace, abundance, and wisdom. We are thankful for all the teachers and elders in our lives.
Cosmos, Sky, Heavens: When we orient to the Sky we pray for our loved ones who have passed. We contemplate the configuration of the stars and the planets that day. We pray to have patient and generous hearts.
Earth: When we orient to the Earth we express our gratitude for all earthly things, plants, water, the land, animals, food, humans. We remember to go through our day, saying thank you for all the little gifts and forgiving others when necessary.
The Beloved Altar Building Workshop was inclusive, enlightening, uplifting and surrounding. I left with a restful awareness of six directions which can be universally honored, and an invitation to allow myself a moment to reflect on the tangible and intangible things in life that are of value to us all. I am grateful to for what I learned, and I hope to make it a part of my own personal practice.