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How to Build an Altar for Sacred Connection

Build an altar for sacred connection


Have you wondered why indigenous people all over the world have a practice of building an altar?

Do you have a space, a sanctuary? A place to anchor all the energies going on around you? If not, an altar is a magical place that will enable you to create a physical space of connection.

I’m going to share my best advice on how to create an altar, but first I want you to know the story of how this powerful practice started for me.

When I was growing up, I loved to take my problems to my grandmother. She was a wise woman and healer in her own right. Often she would say,

“Are you taking those stones and building your altar?”

My grandmother was Seventh-day Adventist Christian,  and very religious. I always thought she was talking about building your altar to God, metaphorically speaking, and perhaps she was.

We founded Ho’omana as a retreat center in 2006. At that time, we opened our doors to all sorts of retreat groups. Yoga retreat. Celtic retreats. Silent retreats. Buddhists retreats. Because there was so much coming and going, it seemed like there was nothing to anchor all of those energies. In other words, our property was missing an energetic foundation.

The Calling

One night, I was awakened in the middle of the night. Right away, I knew it was the ancestors who had a very important message for me.

I was cozy and warm in my bed when they told me to get up and walk outside. I didn’t want to get up. It was still dark outside. But the more I ignored it, the louder that message became. Finally, I decided to listen.

I walked outside and saw a giant stone in the garden. Before this moment, I had never, ever taken notice of it. I gazed upon it and noticed how the looking at the stone felt exactly like looking at the night sky.

It was a huge black lava rock with white light shining from the inside of it, just like the stars shining in the night sky. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. I was mesmerized!

The next day, I couldn’t stop thinking about this rock. I kept hearing my grandmother’s voice,

“Are you building your altar? Are you building your altar to God?”

I decided it was time for me to build an altar, not just metaphorically, but a physical space to connect with the Divine.

Calling in Support

I went to speak with my Aunty Lei, who had an altar at her place. I told her about my experience with the Ancestors in the night, about the calling to build an altar and how I couldn’t stop thinking about the stone.

She said, “Absolutely, I’ll help you and I’ll make it to your house in March. We’ll take a look at your property and see where it should be.” In March, she wasn’t able to come and I decided to wait on the project.

About six weeks later, I ran into her as I was out and about. She had a journal with her and said, “Oh I’m so glad to see you. They told me where it should be and exactly what it should look like.” Wow! Now the Ancestors were sending message through Aunty about my altar.

She opened her journal showed me a triangle on a piece of paper. (Side note: the property Ho’omana sits on is in the shape of a triangle – she had no way of knowing that!) She pointed to the high point of the triangle and said, “This is where the altar should be. Build it three by three and one foot tall.”

“I don’t know anything about where to gather or what to gather,” I said.

Aunty replied, “I’m going to give you a chant, a prayer, for gathering the stones and you’ll know. You’ll be called to different places on the island to gather. Do it in ceremony and gather with intention. Continue the process with prayer and the stones that need will come to you.”

I went about the islands over the next several months, traveling wherever I was called, and began to gather. Finally, in September after several months of gathering I asked, “When will I know that I have enough stones?”

“You’ll just know. There’ll be a time when you feel drawn to just begin building.” said Aunty.

Gathering Material

One day, I was visiting a friend’s property on the north side of Mauna Kahalawai. I was traveling along a riverbed when a stone caught my eye and kept my attention. However, it was set so deeply into the side of the riverbed that even if I pulled with all my strength, I could see there would be no way to pry it out of its position.

I reach my hand out and placed in on the stone to ask if it wanted to come with me. As I began to walk away, the stone literally fell out of the side of the riverbed onto the ground with a thud.

Oh boy, it basically jumped out to come with me,” I thought to myself. This rock ultimately became my upright stone.

A Strong Foundation

I began to build an altar at Ho’omana. The first stone I found in the middle of the night became my foundation stone. Aunty had shown me the altar would have one upright stone and a stone that lay flat. From there, I built a three by three square.

My son, Kala, was a year and a half at the time and he thought I was making a giant jungle gym just for him! As he climbed all over the rocks, they began to fall and I’d have to build it back up. He’d climb on it again, the stones would fall and I would have to build it back up all over again.

I started to get frustrated until I realized something. Kala was climbing on the altar, but nothing was falling. My toddler was actually helping me to create a sound and solid foundation.


In the past, Hawaiian families had a designated place where they could go to take sanctuary. The intention was to listen, to communicate with the ancestors and with great spirit to receive insight.

The purpose of time in the sanctuary was for peace and meditation. Also, to explore their guidance and intuitive capabilities. These were portals of spiritual connection.

Ahu, the altar

The altar I built at Ho’omana has anchored the energies of every single retreat group that has come through. The ahu has been a powerful source of sanctuary for our family, for our Ho’omana family and everyone who comes here.

Create Your Own Portal

Are you ready to build an altar, an ahu, in your home, yard or healing space? Here are a few suggestions to help you create your own portal to spiritual connection.

1. Find a space where you want to put the things that inspire you. It could be a space in the house, in the yard or even in your healing space.

2. This designated space could have a picture of your teachers, small objects that are meaningful to you, crystals, salt or stones from important places.

3. Affirmations are a great things to put on our altar. For example, “I am the loving  ease of healing”, “I give and receive Aloha everywhere I go” or any words of positivity. 

This place can anchor the energies. As a result, you’ll feel a lot more balanced and so will everyone that comes to lie on your table.

If you’ve taken the time to build an altar space or a space of sanctuary, I’d love to hear about it…share with me where it is, the objects you’ve placed there and how you feel when you spend time there. I read every comment personally. It’s the highlight of my day!

With aloha,

PS: The deadline for the Tim Bresenden Memorial Scholarship is approaching. The winner will receive airfare, accommodation and full tuition for 60 CE hours during our Lomi Lomi Month-Long Immersion. See full details at

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8 thoughts on “How to Build an Altar for Sacred Connection”

  1. MAHALO – I was about to answer the question of one of my students…WHY make an altar?
    so this comes in the perfect moment. Thank you for your story of how you came to make your first altar.
    Sharing these stories is a Precious thing !

  2. I love and feel the love of your soul.
    The connection with our ancestors is most real and I love how you empower your readers to feel and embrace that connection. Your delivery has such a natural flow…I remember growing up in Samoa not having to think twice when spiritual matters were discussed. Conversations of spiritual matters weren’t weird or awkward…. it was part of life and conversations flowed freely. Living here in America for many years now… things are slightly different.
    Anyways … Thank you for sharing your Aloha, living the Aloha and being Aloha💜

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