For a variety of reasons (that I didn’t realize were related until recently), I have been researching “home altars.” There are large varieties of home altars that are in use. Nearly every religion or belief system that requires a kind of daily practice (prayer, meditation, offerings and so on) encourages their believers to have an altar in their home. The idea is to bring the sacred close and make the practice of certain rituals a part of daily living and not reserved for special days or locations.
Many people have altars in their homes that they are not even aware that they have built. When we have a wall that we group our family photos on, or shelves were we keep our souvenirs – we have constructed altars to desire.
Now, I know that using the word “desire” is going to throw a few people but desire means much more than lust or sexual want. Desire is also used to describe the psychological state of wishing, longing and…missing. To miss someone is one of the most powerful desires a person can experience for it also embodies wishing and longing. While we may desire to gain spiritual awareness, contentment and peace and build our altars to hold our desire for these things – when our desire is based in missing someone we once had near – is can be as if the soul is weeping and we kneel before our altars and ask for whatever is out there to hear us, grant us our wish, answer our petition to return to us that which made our souls sing. The phrase “I miss you like sin,” is a way of acknowledging the strength of the passion involved. Sin, after all, tends to arise from passion. It is a …turn of a phrase. Some people prefer to say, “I miss you like air” to express how necessary the person is to the other’s existence. “Without you, I cannot breathe.”
Now, these types of phrases are powerful, evocative and quite true. They are not a version of co-dependency or anything like that. The absolute power of the desire of missing someone (a lover, a god, a friend) is something that has been acknowledged throughout history as a life changing experience. The power of the emotion can tear you apart or, rightly channeled, build you into a new being. Codependency just kind of sits there in a puddle. It has adopted many of the phrases of desire but it lacks the discipline of worship, practice and ritual. When I miss someone like air, I find myself seeking out small things that bring them closer to me – often they are not even related to the person except that when I am there – there is a feeling of closeness and connection.
For a few decades, more than a few, society has worked to dismiss the power and validity of passion, desire and love. We are taught it is a sick, sick thing to say, “You complete me.” But think about it…which is the healthier relationship? The one in which the presence of the other does not change much at all about the soul of the other? Or the one in which the presence acts like a key to release the soul into a new experience? Which would you rather have?
People are not interchangeable or replaceable unless you never really created a passionate existence between the two of you. If someone does not bring you a sense of a broader completion to your being than yes – anyone will do and when the going gets tough you will get going in a heartbeat. But when the other person’s presence is as necessary as air to this larger life, you will stay – you will suffer to grow to move past differences, you will love and worship and discover that everything you knew about those things was barely the kindergarten lesson.
Altars do not have to be complicated but often we go right ahead and dress them up as if they are off to a coronation ball. When I was imagining building an altar to help me focus with my meditation, I had an image in my head of a portable Vatican. It was all gilt and glamorous with candles, incense and all sorts of fabulous things. I even went to the store and found everything I would need to make my very own little Basilica.
But I didn’t buy any of it. I had it in my basket and it just felt wrong. So I put it back on the shelf and walked and walked around the store and just listened. I wound up picking up three bowls or various sizes and materials. The largest is brass, then I found a wooden bowl that nests perfectly in the brass bowl, and then I found a strange glass votive candle holder (in the shape of a bowl) that nests in the bottom of the wooden bowl. When they are placed together and the candle is lit, the glass comes alive; the wood is warm and brass bright and beautiful. Three circles nested inside each other with a flame at the heart. Three bowls that can hold anything. Three forms of life and consciousness. Three forms of existence.
Now if that doesn’t keep me busy while meditating for a while in the sheer contemplation of the Universe within this altar I have made, I don’t know what will.
I miss you like sin.
I miss you like air.
I miss you like a pulse.
I miss you and long to be there.
c.2012. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.