First off, you don't have to be a Buddhist to join our group, just someone interested in meditation. Second, you don't have to stay for the second half and Dharma talk. You could just be curious about meditation. You could just be curious about Buddhism. So when you sit in meditation, you don't have to use the shrine as a reference point. But if you are curious, here is what it's about.
First there's the rupa, which is what we call the form, or statue, of the Buddha. I got my statue of the Buddha at Aryaloka. It's made out of wood. I had some necklaces and a mala on it. My girlfriend gave me the mala; She has a great food blog, with lots of yummy vegetarian and vegan recipes. There are various different poses the Buddha can be in. This is a meditation pose.
Behind the Buddha are butterflies. I got that in Ecuador in 1997, the trip of my life. I spent 2 months in Ecuador, going to the Amazonian rain forest, the cloud forest, Galapagos Islands. I witnessed an election, went parasailing, bungie jumping, white water rafting, banana boat riding, sold fish out of a truck, worked in a seafood restaurant for 3 days. I visited Incan ruins, climbed to the snow line on Cotopaxi. It was a wonderful trip. And the butterflies are beautiful. The mother of my children is from Ecuador, so I have many fond associations with the butterflies, but mostly I put it there as something beautiful and natural.
We put flowers, candles and incense on the shrine to beautify. I have momentos from my life: shells, rocks, feathers and a dradle. Feathers are from the air creatures, birds, some of the oldest animals on the planet, they are dinosaurs (probably) that survived. I think feathers are lovely, I collect them when I'm hiking at Aryaloka.
Manjushri and Kwan Yin are also in there. They represent the twin virtues of Buddhism: wisdom and compassion. I hope to go more into the archetypal Buddhas, but for now, they are aspects of enlightenment.
There are photos of friends on retreat and a photo of Aloka's painting of Mythophantic Psychopomp, which is explained in the video attached to this hyperlinked text.
Finally, there's a picture of the view from Algonquin, the second highest mountain in New York State, up in the Adirondacks.
So that about covers my shrine. There's a book of readings on the refuge tree of TBC also (Scroll down for talk on individual people on the refuge tree). I really should have a puja book in the photo, but I'm not going to do chanting unless the group wants that. Also there's a drawing of the refuge tree on the window sill to the left.
Above on the wall (not in the photo) is a tanka of the Buddha my aunt sent me. She learned meditation with the Triratna Buddhist Community (TBC). My shrine sits between two windows. On the left is my Buddhist bookshelf. I have many cherished volumes there. I've weeded out my collection by giving books away to friends and the Concord Sangha. (I thought there was a website for that, but I can't find one right now. My friend Bodhana leads the mission work there, and I've been on a retreat inside the Concord prison in New Hampshire, and correspond with one friend there.) Further to the right is a tanka of Avalokitsvra. I connect with him being shattered.