She was the most beautiful of all Olympians — the goddess of love, grace, and beauty. You may remember that when young Paris, Prince of Troy, was asked to award the Golden Apple “To the Fairest,” he handed it without hesitation to Aphrodite.
Her name in Greek is derived from two words, Aphro (foam) and Dite (born), which indicates that she originated from the sea. Actually, there are two different stories concerning her origin. In The Iliad she is the daughter of Zeus and the Titaness Dione. Most poets after the time of Homer tell how she was born from the combination of the sea and Uranus’ body pieces. After Kronos threw his father’s parts into the sea, the waves swirled a mass of foam to create this goddess.
Aphrodite had a marvelous quality. As the goddess of love, she roamed the world giving and accepting love. But whenever she bathed, she was restored to her virginal state.
The ancients used Aphrodite as a metaphor for personal transformation and perpetual renewal. They knew that we had within us the power to restore ourselves, to get back on the path when we fell off, and to regenerate and revitalize our lives. We are hard-wired, it appears, for constant renewal.
Undertaking your own renewal might sound like a daunting task, but even a few simple activities or changes of attitude can add up to a whole new way of showing up to the world — and to yourself.
Get some rest. ‘Beauty rest’ restores your body to balance, offers a respite to frayed nerves, calms and heals the emotions, and brings a sense of peace and well-being to the soul. A good night’s rest — and some daytime napping, also — actually can make you healthier in body, mind, and spirit…and your health will shine forth as beauty.
Create yourself as your Best Self. You have the magic power to be the highest form of yourself. To do this, you need only take a short step. Sit quietly and say to yourself: “I am here. I am showing up. I am ready, willing, and – most of all – able to become my Best Self.” Then, stay centered and empty, and wait for some response…some indication that, since you have taken the first step, all the rest will now unfold effortlessly. Sometimes it comes in the form of a deep breath or a sudden feeling of contentment. Take some time each day to show up for the transformative energy that is coursing through you right now. Feel it. Know that you are already your Best Self.
Write a mission statement for your life. Then question if — in light of the mission statement — you are on the right path. If not, seek ways to get onto the right path by asking what you want to be (not “do”) for the rest of your life and what steps you need to take to make that a reality.
Express yourself emotionally. Self disclosure (expressing your feelings to others) has been found to improve physical health, enhance the immune system, reduce cardiovascular complications, and may even prolong life.” Plus, taking care of your “emotional business” has been found to be extremely freeing. So what are you waiting for?
Cancel negative thoughts and think positive. Cognitive psychologists have found that of the approximately 50,000 thoughts we have each day, about 90 percent are the same ones we had the day before, and many of them are negative. One way to reverse this is to listen to your thoughts. If you notice that most of your thoughts are negative, such as “This situation will never get better” or “I’m trapped in this job,” you must consciously stop and rethink these into positive terms. Instead say, “I can take steps to improve this situation,” or “I can choose to leave this job, make it better or reframe my perception.”
Get a massage. Once considered a luxury, massages are now seen by many as an important tool for renewal. And with good reason, according to new research. Studies have confirmed that massage has many health-boosting effects including reducing heart rate; lowering blood pressure; increasing blood circulation and lymph flow; relaxing muscles; improving range of motion; boosting the immune system; and increasing endorphins, not to mention increased mental and emotional well-being. Mentally, massage provides a relaxed state of alertness, reduces mental stress, and enhances capacity for calm thinking and creativity. Emotionally, massage satisfies the human need for a caring and nurturing touch, creates a feeling of well-being, and reduces anxiety levels.
When it came to how life works — and how we work as humans — the ancient mythmakers had enormous insight, and great wisdom. At the start of this new year, good luck on your own path of renewal.
For more information about the myth of Aphrodite, see this site.
The Home Altar: Making Where You Live a Sacred Space
If you have been on a LifePath Retreat, you already know how important we believe altars are: everyone who makes a retreat with us receives a small personal altar to use during the retreat and to take home afterwards.
The Long History of Altars
For eons, stretching back into prehistory, people have been making altars where they live, turning their domestic place into a sacred space.
Wherever archeologists have discovered evidence of human habitation, the remains of altars have also been found. Sometimes the altars are nothing more than animal sculls honored with flower petals or precious stones. Sometimes they are elaborate affairs with gold fittings and drawings depicting people worshipping the sun, the moon, and the stars.
In ancient Rome, every home, no matter how humble or grand, had an altar, and every altar held the special god-protectors of the home. These ‘penates,’ or household gods, were small statues or paintings of gods and goddesses whose presence in the house (usually above or near the hearth) gave the house and everyone under its roof spiritual protection. If someone in the home fell ill, or if some domestic crisis emerged, the family flocked to the penates on the home altar to ask for divine assistance.
What Altars Do
An altar is an external representation of an interior mystery — the spiritual core of who we really are. It is a way of showing in tangible form what is happening in our hearts. When you look at an altar, you are seeing an outward expression of an inner act that recognizes our spiritual character. And it is a depiction of our own personal honoring of our spiritual selves.
An altar in the home is a special acknowledgment of our home as our safe harbor and our sacred space. It elevates the place where we live to a temple, a spiritual location wherein we, spiritual beings, dwell. We do not have to be in crisis to feel the comforts of a home altar. In fact, keeping an altar in the home and using it as a focus for simple spiritual practice may will preclude crises from visiting a household.
How to Set Up a Home Altar
Begin with a bookshelf or a dedicated small table top, then cover it with a plain white cloth, or a piece of material that might have some significance for you — for instance, one of our LifePath Alumni uses a fringed shawl handed down from her great-grandmother as her altar cloth.
One of the ways to create a home altar is to use earth elements and imagery as a basis. The four elements are fire, water, earth, and air. Having these represented on your altar will tend to ‘ground’ the sacred place, and show that your personal spirituality has a profound relationship to the physical universe, and in particular to our home planet. Fire can be represented by candles; water by a bowl of water in which you might float a flower petal; earth can be symbolized by a rock; and air by incense.
Once you have grounded your sacred space, you can begin to add items that are meaningful to you: photographs of loved ones, living or departed; tokens that remind you of particular achievements or life events; objects, such as keys or jewelry, that carry for you messages of the spirit.
Your home altar can be a center for prayer, reflection, meditation, or some other spiritual practice. But it can also just BE. It has its own energy to sanctify your entire home. As you pass by your altar every day, you will be blessed by that radiating energy.
When you create a home altar, you are doing something ancient. You are getting in touch with ancestors that stretch back to the dawn of time. Humankind knew early on that it had a connection to the divine, and honored that connection by making the place they lived in a sacred space. When you do the same, you are celebrating both that spiritual connection and the ancestors who bequeathed the tradition of home altars to us down through the ages.
Share Your Experience with Altars
If you already have a home altar, let us know by email how you have created it, what you have on it, and how you use it. We will pass your comments along to others, suggesting ways they might build and use their own altars. Email your altar experience to firstname.lastname@example.org.