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Turning Your Journal Into an Altar: a How-To Guide

Photo of 3 candles in jars on a tray, text above: Turning your journal into an altar- a how-to guide

In difficult days, self-care can feel like a luxury that we cannot afford, delicious journals or artful altars can feel ever-so-far away. But it doesn’t have to be this way. And painful times are when we most need compassion.

I believe self-care is a way of including ourselves in our compassion (credit: Karuna training)

My favourite self-care activities are non-aspirational, they are in the moment, accessible for those of us on the front lines, those fighting to help or suffering at the sharp points of this world.

A challenge for many of us is making self-care accessible. I don’t know about you, but I have spent far, far too long scrolling through the #altar tag on Instagram. And while there are some beautiful creations there, I am literally never going to make an ombre mandala of roses and then meditate in front of it.

And my journal looks far from the gorgeous pages I see displayed online. And I’m ok with that, because my journal is sacred and it’s mine. A space in this world I can tend to without expectations. A space I can tend to myself, without expectations.

For those of us who need assistance, have carers or are living in shared spaces, setting up a physical altar space can be difficult to improbable. Small children, rambunctious animals (I’m looking at you, Doris), or overly interested/critical family members can make it impractical to set up a physical space for our dreams and devotions.

I’ve had altars on window sills, bookcases (no candles – fire safety!), on dashboards while driving over the darkening mountains. I’ve built altars on a hotel dressing table, over a bathroom sink (hot-pink lipstick prayers on the mirror and feminist postcards NSFW), on my hospital table and…in my journal.

Yes, our journal can be our altar – let me show you how…

Firstly, let’s shift our image of an altar from a photo-ready space – all too often full of culturally appropriated items – to what altar means to us.

My body can be an altar, my wheelchair can be an altar and my journal can be and is a beautiful, sacred, portable altar.

How to use your journal as an altar:

  • Write your prayers there
  • Set your intentions – with pretty ink and colouring in
  • Make and record card readings (this is my current fave daily spread and this is the inclusive card deck I cannot.wait to get)
  • Use the journal as a God Box, or a Pensive to hold your worries/fears.
  • Use it as a place to honour celebrations – as you write them you add them to the journal altar.
  • What we place on our altar…is altered. Place/write in your journal that which you need to be transformed.
  • Use it as a space for reflections
  • You may be able to work with a journal to come back to yourself
  • And to connect to greater Divinity, should you wish
  • Can you ground yourself with exercises, photographs and artwork a journal can hold?
  • Can you fill it with magical things; from sacred images, found leaves, pressed flowers. Pro tip: washi tape is your friend here.

How to start?

Dedicate your journal as an altar. Try it for a specific amount of time; a day, a week, a month. Check in and see how it works for you. This is anti-perfectionism work.

If you are looking to dive deeper into using your journal for healing, I wholeheartedly and enthusiastically recommend Esme Wang’s Rawness of Remembering course – using the power of restorative journalling to survive, heal and grow through difficult times.

P.S Check out my Trailblazer Interview with Esme on using our journals for healing here.

How do you use your journal? Let me know in the comments.

 

{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Grace Quantock March 5, 2018, 8:15 am

    Thank you! I have an altar too but I love making my journal a portable altar. I hear you on perfectionism. I have tried keeping a ‘pretty’ journal where I kind of make a scrapbook or a summary of a section of my journey. And then my daily journal is beautiful, messy and very anti-perfectionist. For me, perfectionism came not in journalling but in making notes in class. So this term my class notebook is a cosmic smashbook – http://cosmicsmashbooking.com/ so good! Sending hugs.

  • Chase February 14, 2018, 10:25 pm

    What a beautiful article, perspective, & food for thought! I am lucky enuf to have the space to keep a small altar that is sacred to me. It is, however, not portable, and of course my journal is. I love my journal but do definitely struggle with perfectionism within its pages and love the idea of “anti-perfectionist” work as a kind of holy, sacred offering to myself within its pages.

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