Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Finding an Altar That Was There All the Time: A Guest Post by Nirmal Chandraratna

Nirmal, a composer who divides his time between Boston and New York City, is also the New York coordinator of the Body Electric School. Above, Nirmal connecting with a friend.

Until two years ago, I’d never considered building a personal altar at home. Growing up Catholic, I always longed to feel a strong sense of spirit in Mass and the other sacraments, but no one around me in my church seemed to feel true passion in practicing our religion. Over the years I gravitated towards Eastern philosophy and experiences involving ritual like those I encountered in workshops with the Body Electric School. I soon began to understand how an act or object can be imbued with personal significance, and how I can recall the act or the object to renew my spirit in a specific manner.

I finally approached the project of building an altar after my life coach Collin Brown suggested I create one. At first I was reluctant, but as I scanned my apartment, I realized I already had an altar of sorts: I collect drums, and I’d arranged them in a corner and placed on some of them statues of figures important to me--the Buddha, a cellist, and Shiva. A conga at the center of the arrangement added a vertical element. I didn't need to change much to actively use that space for meditation. After some minor rearrangement, I placed a pillow to sit upon and added some candles: I had my altar. The more I meditated in front of it, the more important the objects became to me. I sometimes spend many days without sitting in front of my altar, but it’s always there when I need it and has aided me in times both of appreciation and of need.

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