Each day I forge my body into steel
And fold in bright strands of consciousness.
Piling up ripe fruit and fragrant flowers,
Lighting red candles and incense,
Serving tea, rice, and wine.
Anointing with aromatic oils,
Offering heart and bones,
The altar is my anvil, sun and moon the coals,
Discipline the hammer, lungs the bellows.
Followers of Tao have private altars in their homes. The pious see an altar only for supplication; the skeptical see the altar as false and insincere. Actually, devotional effort is absolutely necessary for those beginning on the path.
True spiritual cultivation begins with the premise that you already have a pure spirit and only need to clear away obfuscations. Thus one must work on both the physical and mental levels in order to achieve the quickest results. Such varied efforts need a strong center. By focusing on the altar as the platform for all practices, you will keep yourself strongly on your path. The outward acts then pile up like offerings after offerings, and the outward votive furniture becomes your means of memorializing your efforts. Then your body itself becomes a steel altar, an unshakable monument to spiritual devotion.