Body, Mind & Spirit

What to Pack for a Portable Altar

Published on May 29, 2018

Article by Aimee Bello for Bodhi Tree

Travel can be exciting, but also ungrounding. Routines are uprooted, along with the rituals and resources we’re accustomed to every day. What we usually do at home to stay mentally and emotionally connected often disappears the moment we take flight or hit the road. At first, we enjoy the freedom from the grind, but then a challenge or roadblock (sometimes literally) throws off our balance, leaving us feeling lost, scattered and untethered.

Why Bring Spiritual Objects?

When packing for your next trip, consider taking along some spiritually significant items—you may find them to be just as essential as a toothbrush and neck pillow. “Having touchstones when you travel, in my opinion, is like carrying a spiritual Swiss Army knife,” says Marcia Lopez, an herbal healer and the owner of True Healing Bodywork in Redondo Beach, California. “You take a phone charger because you want to stay connected. Bringing a touchstone or anything else that represents your spirituality is the same thing,” she explains. “It serves as a link, a way to comfort you, a way to establish relationship to Spirit wherever you are.”

How to Stay Spiritually Grounded While Traveling

Lopez’s personal spiritual travel essentials include a portable altar—called a mesa—from the Quechua lineage that she studied and was initiated into. She places crystals, sacred smoke (think palo santo), a small ceramic container for burning, essential oils, divination cards and sometimes her rattle or drum to place on top of the mesa. According to Lopez, when deciding what’s essential for your own portable altar, ultimately it’s up to the items if they want to come or not. Much like if a certain outfit and pair of shoes want to join the trip, the spiritual items will let you know.

Don’t Forget Double-Duty, Healing Jewelry

Mala Rosaries + Beads

If a portable altar sounds like too much baggage for your carry-on style, consider that a piece of special jewelry could be enough of a spiritual token for your trip, says Dominic Moore, a Los Angeles–based sound therapy/bodywork practitioner. His touchstones are crystals, stones and minerals that he usually wears as jewelry; he explains that he can actually feel their energy. Quartz, obsidian and moonstone instill peace and protection, making them excellent travel companions. Wearing the crystals as jewelry, like a pendant, mala or bracelet, easily keeps them close to you throughout your journey.

“I love the opportunity to reach in my back pocket or take hold of my touchstone around my neck, take a deep breath, tune in and not think—but feel—a shift as the stone revitalizes and reminds me of who I truly am,” explains Moore, who adds that engraved jewelry can also hold special meaning. For instance, a bracelet that says, “Allow” can be a reminder to surrender control and be open to receiving—whether it’s guidance or new experiences. “Some [of my] touchstones are engraved with inspiring reminders like ‘Peace, Love, Compassion,’—when I take one out from my pocket, I can take a deep breath, sigh into that reminder and feel better,” says Moore.

Motivating Music & Mantras

What qualifies as “essential” can vary with every journey. On some trips, Moore also packs a picture of his daughter when she was six years old, a hawk feather (to represent Spirit and provide clarity from a higher perspective) or a hand-sized statue of Quan Yin; the Chinese goddess of mercy is Moore’s reminder to have unconditional love and compassion. Like many travelers, music is another must-have for Moore. He packs a CD, The Essential Snatam Kaur, saying the Kirtan artist’s Indian devotional music inspires gratitude. But any tunes that bring joy can be a great comfort when you’re far from home (and even help you fall asleep when switching time zones). “Music as a spiritual touchstone is a remembrance of your daily practice, which keeps you grounded, committed and nourished, mentally and spiritually,” explains Hari Simran Khalsa, an Ayurvedic health practitioner and Kundalini yoga teacher in Santa Monica, California.

Khalsa also always makes sure to bring mantras that ground and help her feel safe, whether they’re songs on her iPod or writings in her journal. The mantras help her stay spiritually connected. Even if you don’t have a mantra, a journal can always come in handy to you help process experiences while traveling. It can be a place where you collect thoughts or store affirmations to read when you need encouragement. Likewise, an inspiring and motivating book can serve as your spiritual must-have. What you’re reading during your journey can transform a simple trip into a healing retreat of exploration and self-discovery.

Whether you’re traveling for work or vacation, remember to find space for the spiritual necessities that connect you to the comforts, safety and protection of home, so you can take flight while staying on the path. “When we travel, we are still living in our body and mind; it is the day-to-day of our routine that changes,” Khalsa adds. “You never know where you may land or how the travel day will go. Touchstones can help you come back to your deep breath, your reality.”

Read How to Set Up Your Home Altar.

Published on: May 29, 2018

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