From ALTAR YOUR SPACE by JAGAT JOTI KHALSA
IDEAL LIGHTING FOR YOUR HOME ALTAR
Lighting can make or break the atmosphere in a room. It can highlight or hide items and direct, divert or assault the eye. Proper lighting is essential to create an environment of relaxation, comfort and functionality in any room. Effective use of lighting sets the stage. The ideal lighting generally casts a warm glow, enveloping everything in a soft golden light. Dimmer switches that allow a range from soft to bright are always good. Side lighting is practical and convenient. Putting small soft-light lamps on either side of the bed can create an intimate atmosphere perfect for night-time chatting, bedtime reading or late-night trips to the bathroom. Family reading may call for additional task lighting, for which floor lamps are ideal. The key is having just enough light so that reading doesn't strain your eyes, but not so much light that your inner circadian rhythms are thrown off.
The human nervous system is extremely sensitive to light. Your body responds to the brightening or softening of the light around you whether you notice it or not. Gradually turning down your bedroom lights with a dimmer switch as bed- time approaches signals your body, that it is time to rest. Just before going to sleep, you may choose to turn off all your bedroom lights and rely solely on candlelight, the softest and most therapeutic light you can bring into a bedroom. Also, you may choose strategic placement of night-lights in different parts of the house, depending on your night time habits.
Because nothing can change, stir, elevate, calm and engage us like the sacredness of sound, music is also a powerful element in creating a home temple. As with lighting and scent, our nervous systems are extremely responsive to music. Be sensitive to your own needs and your nervous system in your choice and timing of the music you play. Consciously choose music that creates the effect you want, depending on the room, the occasion, or the time of day or night.
In February 2005, the Journal of Advanced Nursing reported that older people with sleep problems noted a 35 percent improvement after they started listening to forty-five minutes of soft music before bedtime. After the disastrous hurricane season of 2005, FEMA recommended creating and listening to music as a way to reduce tension and relieve extreme stress. Music also affects the quality of sleep in both adults and children.
Whether you like classical, jazz, rock, world beat, easy listening or traditional music of any culture or period, the music that stirs your soul is your sacred music. Personally, I find mantra music perfect for setting the tone for the house. You may want to vary the music depending on the occasion. What do you like to listen to when you're cooking in the kitchen? When you're reading or relaxing in the living room or bedroom? When you're winding down before bed, meditating, making love, waking up in the morning or preparing for your day?
Music is nice to go to bed to and to wake up to. For music lovers, I recommend a stereo with a sleep timer that turns your music off at night and on again in the morning.
Music is also a way to "altar" your space while travelling, which I do quite often. You can't control the lighting or light a stick of incense on an airplane, but you can carry with you meditation music, mantras and sacred sounds. That's what I do. It makes me feel more at home on the road by changing my vibrations and the vibrations of the space I happen to be in. whether an airport, taxi or hotel room.
Like lighting, scent has a visceral effect on us, at both conscious and subliminal levels. Familiar scents from childhood often trigger sudden experiential childhood memories. The right scent for us shifts our consciousness and moves us into more pleasurable and relaxed states. The wrong scent can do the opposite. When it comes to choosing scents for our environments, natural and organic are always best, since many scent products use unhealthy chemicals. Several excellent options for bedroom scents include fresh flowers, scented or essential oils, natural incense and scented candles. For safety, candles should always be placed away from linens and bed sheets, on a stable, non-flammable surface. It is important to investigate candle options, noting the different types of wax and wicks. Some candles give off quite a bit of smoke, which isn't a scent you want permeating your bedroom. Smokeless candles are available as well. Large, stable candle bowls filled with soy wax and non-lead wicks are safe and ideal for bedroom use.
If you choose incense, use your discretion, since smoke is the medium of the scent. My favourite incenses are Zhingkham Kunchhab Chhoetrinm, from Bhutan, and Tara, from India. Both are made from a mix of several-dozen healing and fragrant herbs and spices, and are commonly used by lamas and monks in Buddhist temples. I also like Rain, honeysuckle and many kinds of Japanese incense, for their delicate scent.