Mindful Design Feng Shui: Behind the Scenes - Feng Shui Design Altars

We turn the cameras around to talk about our own feng shui, homes, offices and design ideas. See how we have set up our own homes...

Sacred Space & Altars
- what is an altar?
- what do you have on it?
- Why do you use one?
- What we have on ours !!!

We chat about how to set up an altar and the show you our altars and shrines and what elements we have used.


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.

Q&A Sunday: Best Feng Shui Location for an Altar or Shrine

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I read your "9 Feng Shui Things in Bedroom" and find it helpful. I'm currently remodeling my whole home. My question that I've tried to find an answer to in my books and online: Where is the best position to place an altar...what direction, and is the bedroom not a good place to have it? I am a single woman and my bedroom is in the front right section of the bagua map. 

Carolyn K., 

Hi Carolyn,

Thank you for your question, and I’m so glad you like the MindBodyGreen article, “9 Things That Should Be in Your Bedroom (According to a Feng Shui Healer)”.

Wonderful that you have an altar (or shrine) in your home. My first response would be to ask what’s most appropriate from your teachers and spiritual lineage. If there’s no specific place required, the next suggestion would be to locate it where you will use it. I’m assuming this is where you would practice meditation, so it’s a good idea to have it placed so that it works for you functionally. 

When I created my first altar, it was after I started studying and practicing BTB feng shui. My teachers taught me that, if we’d like, we could create an altar in the BTB feng shui tradition to honor the teachings and as a focal point for our attention. We were even encouraged to assemble “altar committees” in class so that we could have a special sacred place in the classroom. Here we offered an image of the teacher (a Buddha and/or Professor Lin Yun), a musical instrument, a red ribbon on a stick, saffron water, rice, and a mirror in a rice bowl.

Since I live in a small New York City apartment, I have my shrine in the living room. I’ve even included a photo of it here. If I had more space, I would like to have a separate shrine room near the rear of the home. It’s ideal if the shrine can be in a more private space. I’ve been told that the bedroom traditionally is not great, as it’s seen as disrespectful for the Buddha’s image to gaze upon our romantic activities. But remember, the mundane and functional is as important as the spiritual and transcendental. It’s up to you and your specific situation. I can only share guidelines.

I have a spiritual Buddhist shrine, but there are also secular altars that you can create. Laura Morris (together we founded the Mindful Design Feng Shui school) has a blog post about more secular altars. An image of a deity is not required... you can even have a vision board or beautiful inspiration piece of art, like from my talented friend Amy T Won. On my shrine I also have a manifestation list and my ikebana cutters. The cutters are there to remind me to "cut my thoughts" and a tool of my contemplative art practice.

Since I practice BTB feng shui, the direction is not important. However, my shrine is located in the commanding position of the living room. And when I sit to meditate, I face the shrine, so I’ve also placed a small convex mirror so that when I’m sitting, I can see behind me as well. This corrects and places me in command as I meditate. But the Buddha holds the leading seat - the seat that’s most in command.

On a final note, wherever your altar ends up, you can see what area of the feng shui bagua maps it corresponds with. Or alternatively, if you have total flexibility, you could choose the feng shui bagua map location based on your intention. For instance, the Knowledge (dark blue) area would be wonderful if you seek to deepen your self-cultivation. The center area of your home, or the Health area, would be useful to have your altar become the central focal point of your life. A shrine in the New Beginnings area might give you a sense of freshness and nowness every time you sit to practice.

As with so many aspects of BTB feng shui, the optimal placement of your altar does depend on you and your preferences. Of course it helps to observe any feng shui guidance, so I would encourage you to consider the feng shui bagua and the energy of the area when selecting your altar space. Don't forget to arrange your altar with intention as well!

by Anjie Cho


If you’d like to learn more about feng shui check out the Mindful Design Feng Shui certification program. Laura Morris and I are launching our program in September 2018. We have a free webinar “Five Feng Shui Tools Revealed: Must-Do Business Boosters for Soulpreneurs and Wellness Practitioners” coming up, too! To get on the list about it, sign up at: www.mindfuldesignschool.com.

Mindful Design is a new way to learn feng shui. Our unique training program takes an holistic approach to learning the art of feng shui design. Mindful design is about becoming aware, and attentive, to the energy around you: both inner and outer qi. It is about promoting a better way of living and creating sacred spaces that support, and nourish.


Thanks for reading our "Q&A Sunday".  We will be answering questions submitted by our readers. Click here to submit any Feng Shui or Green Design questions!


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On Meditation with Joseph Mauricio of Shambhala Center

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As an architect and feng shui practitioner, I help my clients create holistic home and work spaces. One of the most important aspects of the feng shui work includes meditation and visualization. I had the honor of taking one of Joseph Mauricio's meditation classes at the Shambhala Center in NYC. His teachings are very approachable and digestable. I believe it is incredibly beneficial to include meditation in everyday life.

AC:  How did you get involved in meditation and with the Shambhala Center -- what's your story?

JM:  I used to run a comedy club years ago in New York, I was a comedian, an actor and that was an exciting lifestyle but it was a little heavy and I was looking for something to help me balance out the pressure. Then I came across meditation. I had always known about Jack Kerouac, the Dharma Bums and Naropa University, founded by Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (also founder of Shambhala Center) along with Allen Ginsberg, Ram Dass and a number of people back in the ‘70s. So it was kind of legendary in my mind, the beat poets. They were an influence in my work as a performing artist. I ended up going in to a Shambhala Center and finding out there was this whole connection. I decided to drop out of the comedy club, moved to a dharma center up in the woods, then ended up at Rocky Mountain Shambhala Center at 8,000 feet in the middle of winter -- which was crazy. I went from being an actor in New York to a cabin with no heat. I met my teacher there, Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche, and I ended up studying with him.

I became intrigued by the mind (my own mind) and the idea that I’d (maybe all of us) create the limitations and disabilities in our own world because of the way we think and the way we perceive the world. So I became really fascinated with that concept. It’s not something that you just pick up and put down, and I gave up my whole life and career to study. I studied in India, Mexico, a number of places for number of years. I was actually studying personally with Sakyong Mipham in 2003 when he suggested I move back to New York and go back to doing performance, which just shocked me. I didn’t expect that at all. I thought I would just be a yogi. I moved back and that’s when I started teaching at the Shambhala Center. I found my calling putting meditation together with performance and comedy. I’m also a life coach, motivating people towards a more healthy balance vision themselves.

So for other people, the way I recommend meditation is not that they drop out of their careers like I did for 17 years, but that they incorporate it in the same way with a good instructor. They study and go to classes and let meditation actually bring stability into their life. I recommend everybody read Sakyong Mipham’s books, particularly The Shambhala Principle. He teaches practical meditation, and it is not particularly religious. I study and teach meditation and training people of all backgrounds. I go in to jails and you can’t even mention Buddhism or any kind of religion. You just teach straight mindfulness training and it helps people. I’m a real believer that meditation can bring a lot of stability and clarity to people, to their lives.

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How would you describe meditation to someone who's not familiar with the concept?  

I would say that it’s a tool whereby you sit in an upright posture, which helps you to wake up and gain confidence. There are tests and studies showing the mind can change brain chemistry in only two minutes when you sit up straight. It starts to lower cortisol and raise testosterone levels. In short, you begin to feel more confident just by sitting in an upright posture. And relaxing down into the earth allows us to open up our heart and begin to feel our feelings and our sense of things. The upright meditation posture is very powerful in re-training the mind into believing that life is possible, that life is workable.

How is meditation helpful in everyday life?

Any given meditation session could be wonderful; maybe they feel very clear or calm. Or maybe their back hurts the whole time. But the real power of meditation comes from consistent practice. I recommend that people practice as little as 10 minutes a day, if that keeps them practicing every day. It’s more powerful than just an hour every few days. But to practice at the same time every day, you develop a consistency that brings stability to life. It becomes like a reference point. Every morning you get up, seat yourself up, recharge your confidence, open your heart and face yourself. It can be very powerful to do that in a few minutes.

Obviously, as time goes on, with longer sessions we can go deeper. I’m a believer in consistent practice even if the practice isn’t very long or arduous. I teach that practice doesn’t have to be perfect, great, or good, and not to be hard on themselves. If they’re on a cushion consistently, slowly and in time lengthen their practice up to 20-30 minutes, and settle in to their practice, they will see a profound difference in their life. But as I said, for beginners, I stress that consistent process.

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Now for my holistic space question:  Where do you like to meditate and what makes it sacred to you?

I have a number of altars. When I was single it was really embarrassing! I have one in my kitchen, and my room is basically a huge shrine. But that’s me and that’s not what I recommend for other people, I’m just obsessive and very devoted. And that’s why I teach it, it’s my living, it’s my life. But for other people, according to my teacher Sakyong Mipham, meditation should support your life, not be a burden to it. So I think if people are creeped out by a shrine, they don’t need a shrine.

I do think meditation in their house is helpful because it actually settles the energy of the space. If you start to feel open and calm in your own house, then that really makes you feel open and calm when you come home. A focal point is also helpful.

Meditation with community is good in a different way. If you just meditate at home, you tend to not have the same level of motivation as when you show up in room full of people. You’re not going to slump as readily. So I do recommend both for people. But I do think some kind of a meditation area in the house really empowers the home. And for some of the hardcore meditators, we have that instead of a television…Often the television is the central part of the home, that’s great and that’s fine, but what kind of energy does that create? So I think to balance that, a meditation area is wonderful, especially in New York apartments, where you can’t have the fireplace or a big beautiful kitchen and stove, the kinds of things that bring more warmth and life in to your house.

I think a little meditation area kind of does that, they can. I do also believe that the meditation changes the energy. If you go into a meditation center, it’s easy to meditate because people have been doing it there for years. That starts to happen in your house and it starts to feel a little more contemplative and meditative because of the practice.

I absolutely agree! Thanks Joe!

Read my other blog post where Joe shares his tips for beginning meditators here.

by Anjie Cho


Joseph Mauricio is a speaker, teacher, workshop presenter, and meditation instructor in academic, business and private sectors. A senior teacher in the Shambhala Buddhist Tradition, Joseph began teaching twenty years ago at Karma Choling Buddhist Meditation Center in Vermont, and has subsequently taught in meditation centers, schools, businesses and community centers throughout North America, Canada and Europe. He has served as the Director of Public Programs and Outreach at the Shambhala Meditation Center of New York, and has recently become the Executive Director of the Baltimore Shambhala Meditation Center.

Joseph is a close student of Meditation Master, Sakyong Mipham, Rinpoche, the Head of the Shambhala Buddhist lineage. He has studied with renowned teacher and author, Pema Chodren, and many prominent teachers in the meditation and yogic traditions in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia. He has completed dozens of solitary and group retreats, including three month-long meditation retreats, two month-long solitary retreats, an eight week silent group retreat, numerous shorter group retreats and years of advanced study. Joseph is a graduate of the Shambhala School of Buddhist studies and advanced meditation instructor and teacher trainings in the Shambhala Tradition.

www.josephmauricio.com


Creating Your Personal Altar

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There are a variety of factors that contribute to creating a holistic, sacred space, but one theme we see over and over is altars. Some of our amazing guests, including Joe Mauricio, Rebecca Casciano, Katie Dalebout and more have all mentioned special areas in their spaces that they dedicate as altars, and I have a Buddhist altar in my own home! I have also used altars as feng shui treatments

What's so special about an altar, and why is it such an integral part of creating a nurturing, mindful space?

In many cultures, altars can serve as a powerful aid to spirituality, offering a dedicated place for meditation and focus. They are helpful reminders in our spaces to take time for centering ourselves and practice gratitude. Altars can help us tap into and re-align with the flow and cadence of nature and the spirituality of the universe to keep us grounded and balanced. The presence of altars can actually be seen in many cultures and religious environments, and each has its own way of creating and paying tribute to the universe and / or gods.

Hindu altars serve as a place of worship for families and individuals to pray to their respective gods and are very specifically set up. They should be created from sandalwood, if possible, placed in a separate room or space facing East or West and include items symbolic of all five senses in addition to a representation of the desired deity. Each morning, worshipers are expected to replace all the previous day's offerings (flowers, incense, fruit, etc.) with a fresh new supply. 

In Taoism, altars serve as a physical representation of the path each of us takes to immortality. Taoist altars can vary highly from practice to practice and person to person, but most all include a few common items including a sacred lamp, two candles, three cups, five plates of fruit and an incense burner. 

A Buddhist altar serves as a place to invoke holy beings to dwell in and enhance your space. As in Hindu altars, Buddhist altars often include items that symbolize each of the five senses as a way to ensure that all senses are involved in the Buddhist practice. Not only do Buddhist altars provide a place of worship, their presence helps to establish a habitual practice by providing a constant space for worship. A Buddhist altar serves as a demonstration of faith in addition to providing a place for guests to practice. If you have more than one story in your space, it is ideal to locate a Buddhist altar on a higher floor. 

Altars can even be found in the Christian religion, dating back to biblical days; however, in this realm, they are most often confined to churches and places of worship. 

Most altars include a selection of meaningful items in addition to incense, flowers or other small offerings, and you don't have to practice any specific religion to find an altar useful. Many meditators and mindfulness practitioners find that having altars in their spaces provides, as in Buddhism, a useful, constant space to create positive, life-affirming habits. If you're interested in seeing how one works for you, follow the easy steps below to create your own personal altar!

  1. Choose a Space - Choose a special place in your home or area that you can dedicate to your altar and / or meditation. Ideally, this place is the same all the time and does not move. 

  2. Clear the Space - As in many feng shui adjustments, it is imperative to clear your space of any negative and pre-existing energy before dedicating it to such an important purpose. Use orange peels, palo santo, sage or even our Space mist, and remember to take this step with positive intention. 

  3. Set up a Table - Since you will be placing items that are meaningful to you in this altar space, you'll need to find a small table, bench or or sturdy surface where you can place these objects without fear that they'll fall or be easily disturbed. If you'd like, you can also choose a beautiful piece of fabric to lay over your table before adding your items!

  4. Choose Your Items - To make your own personal spiritual altar, not necessarily associated with any specific belief system, choose items that are meaningful to you and represent positive aspects of your life. Items can include, but are not limited to, incense burners, space clearing tools, candles, photographs, statues, writing, crystals, mantras, symbols, etc.

  5. Arrange the Items - Arrange each of these items in a way that makes sense and is nourishing to you. Ideally, you'll be leaving them in this location, so take care to ensure they're set up so that they won't fall or cause problems (don't leave incense burning when you're out!).

  6. Create a Habit - Establish a daily habit of spending time in your altar. This can include meditation, chanting mantras and other spiritual practices that help you to make space in each day for your soul!

If you're creating a new altar for your space, or if you already have a beautiful area dedicated to your spiritual growth, let us know what items you include and what makes your altar so meaningful for you. We welcome pictures, too! If we receive enough, we'll share them as a photo essay!

by Anjie Cho