San Carlos Cathedral, Monterey, CA

An Altar of Nothing

I was in a meditation group for over a decade. The meetings were held in the living room of a beautiful Spanish revival home near Hollywood. The room was empty except for the fireplace, an Asian rug covering the hardwood floors, a cabinet full of meditation pillows and an antique sideboard used as an altar. The woman teaching and leading the group filled the altar with charming religious artifacts, Ganesh and Quan Yin, flowers and fruit offerings, a beautiful expression of her path and practice. One day we were talking, and she pointed to her altar and said, “You know, none of that means anything. It’s just scraps of metal and wood … any significance comes from here,” and she tapped her heart with her fingertips.