Suzanne Fincher describes Stage 2 as the “hot tub of the mandala Great Round.” It is a stage of respite and renewal from which the potential for new life emerges.
Here’s a mandala exercise to try, combining a technique learned from Julie Gibbons’ Mandala Magic course and round stickers. Cut a circle from water color paper and place random stickers on it. Create a marbled mandala by floating ink on a bed of shaving foam and using a chopstick to swirl it around. Press your mandala into the paint and then wipe off all the excess foam. (Beware: this can be pretty messy!)
When your mandala is dry you can remove the stickers. Now you’re ready to make a Mandala of Possibilities. Close your eyes and recognize that your next breath ushers in a whole realm of possibilities- everything from “I could eat a piece of dark chocolate” to “I could write the first line of my next novel.” Breathe into the possibilities present in your life at this moment. In each circle write down one thing that comes to your mind. Don’t censor yourself! Write anything that occurs to you.
I’m taking a Julie Gibbons’ on-line Mandala Magic class and an assignment this month was to explore the symbols that re-appear in your journeying, dreams and/or artwork.
Try this! It’s really interesting what emerges. Ask the question and then breathe into a meditative space. When I did it the first images I got were my animals, the ones that in stuffed form live on the mantel over the old fireplace in my bedroom. There’s Horse who I sleep with when I’m feeling upset or scared. (Horse has been getting a lot of bed time this past month!) There’s Zebra who takes me into the dreamworld. And there’s bedraggled Fox who opens his mouth when my ego is feeling especially vocal.
After the animals came the symbols that appear most often in my mandalas. The flower of life forms the grid for much of my mandala work in the same way it forms the energetic grid in which we live. My work often incorporates the spiral that shapes our life cycle. The Tao grounds me in the assurance that even when things seem hopelessly polarized, the yang cannot sustain itself without its yin counterpart. The knot of infinity somehow grounds me. And I discovered a long time ago that even though my spirituality takes me to a wide range of places, it always brings me back to the cross.
After journaling with these symbols, I thought I’d see if I could incorporate all of them into one mandala.
In mandala journaling you can go deeper by identifying a place in your mandala that has strong energy for you and doing a second mandala based on that place.
In yesterday’s mandala the nascent pink-orange shape at the center had that energy. It seemed like a vulnerable new life taking form in a swirling sea. In today’s mandala it has grown larger and more defined. More importantly, it’s not alone. It is joined by a collective of others whose strength is quickening. They are all still surrounded by a sea of grief and darkness, but they’re getting BIGGER!!
It’s been a challenging time, these past few months of bracing for the onslaught.
In mandala work, black can denote death and deep depression, while purple often signifies grief and mourning. That sure fits this one.
I’ve been walking around like a zombie, unwilling to face the reality that almost half of my country voted for Donald J. Trump, voted to support a populist nationalism as powerful in its hate-filled rhetoric as that which came out of Nazi Germany in the the 1930’s. Like the jagged lines of this mandala, it seems like an assault on everything that is decent and good about my country.
But now inauguration day has come and gone. The great dismantling is underway. The pipelines are going in, the wall is going up and the world’s refugees are no longer welcome on our shores. And it’s only been four days – we are not even close to hitting bottom.
And yet, since participating in the Women’s March on Saturday, I’m filled with a new sense of purpose. In the past few days, I’ve signed petitions, called and written my Congressional Representatives, joined the Episcopal Action Network, and signed on to an Immigration Advocacy Group. An shut-in friend and I are starting a weekly letter-writing circle. There is something being hatched here. I don’t know the answer to my question, “What’s Next?” but I do know that my old mantra of “I’m not really very political” is no longer a tenable option. A new Linda is waiting to be born.
The swirling void echoes the darkness and chaos I feel as we move toward the inauguration of Donald J. Trump. So much grief and confusion.
When I was little, I had such a pure, simple patriotism. I still remember tears sliding down my twelve-year old cheeks as I stood with my father, hand cupped over my heart, listening to the US Army Band on the Fourth of July. In high school I took the required “Evils of Communism” class and was grateful to be living in a free country.
Of course, things got more complicated. My first year at Wellesley an old friend from high school visited and we got talking about the War in Vietnam. I still remember telling him that the United States of America would never support an unjust war. By my senior year, I was campaigning for McCarthy in New Hampshire. I was furious that my country was falling so far short of its proclaimed ideals.
I still am. Equality, freedom, concern for the common good – they seem to have become antiquated ideals, replaced by what? The birther movement? the the Alt-Right? The hate-filled rhetoric spewed in the guise of patriotism? My head swirls and my gut tightens. I cannot accept that this country which I once loved has chosen a man with no moral compass to be its president.
I knew before I began this mandala that I would be swallowed up in its darkness and chaos unless I added a guiding star to anchor me. And I’m reminded that I cannot look to this world and its institutions to be that star. As a Christian I must stand under a different sky if I want to focus on the bright morning star.
You’ve got to see this. Back in August one of my mandala blogs explored the question of “What is a mandala?” and spoke of “mandala days” in which even the kaleidoscopic hubcaps of passing cars evoke the presence of the sacred circle.
Now Rebecca Stephans, one of the participants in my Mandala Journaling class, has photographed hubcaps that suggest the twelve stages of the mandala Great Round. My favorite Christmas present ever!
Here’s another Stage 10 mandala exercise you can try yourself.
We often think of endings as something scary that are being foisted upon us from the outside. But endings can also be positive and conscious choices. There are many things in our life that don’t serve us: things we do, relationships, habits and personal qualities.
This fall, try gathering a variety of leaves and trace them onto colored paper. Label each leaf with something you would like to let go of. Draw a circle, paste your leaves in reference to that circle, and embellish the space around them in any way that feels right to you.
When you have finished, you can journal about what your mandala has to teach you.
On Saturday my Mandala Journaling workshop focused on Stage 10: Endings. Stage 10 mandalas are often marked with X’s, crosses or downward facing triangles. We are all many-facetted so some aspect of lives is always at stage ten. There is something drawing to a close, something we are needing to let go of, or a shifting in our consciousness.
In this mandala I did an experiment. There is something big that is drawing to an end and I’m not ready for it. I know the end has to come, but I’m hoping there will be a lot more time before that happens. So a I used markers to draw a big “X.” Then with oil pastels in the healing colors of green and turquoise I attempted to draw over it. The X did not go away, but life swirls around it and is somehow enriched by its presence.
What if you were spending the week with a hyperactive seven year old boy and his ten year old sister who have stored up a lifetime of honing their sibling rivalry, a summer’s worth of boredom, difficult family tensions, apprehension over getting pierced ears, anticipation of an upcoming birthday party and excitement over a new kitten?
What if you could buy something that would instantly provide seemingly unlimited hours of creative centered engagement?
Did you know that every year a wonderful event happens in Grand Rapids? It’s called Art Prize and for three weeks every nook and cranny of the city turns into a museum. Last fall, the mandala painter in me wandered the streets and marveled at all of the mystical ways that artists and sculptors interact with the circle. I must have swooned one time too many, because my rationalist architect son let out a long sigh of complaint.
“Mom,” he moaned. “You can’t call everything that’s round a mandala.”
Well yes, he’s probably right. The hubcaps on my Subaru aren’t really mandalas, nor are the Regulator clock that ticks off the minutes since Peter’s last infusion and the drain that the plumber is installing in our soon-to-be downstairs bathroom. I’ve just returned from a week with my daughter and grandchildren, reentry is hard, and the mystical presence of mandala seems far away.
But then I catch a glimpse of the sun reflecting off Peter’s feathery hair, Abbie turns her round cocker spaniel eyes my way, and I sense a stirring within my heart. The fact is, I’ve never adhered to a sharp delineation between what is a mandala and what is not. In classes I define a mandala as any drawing done in reference to a sacred circle. I realize that all of life is filled with sacred circles. Those kaleidoscopic hubcaps have the power to take Abbie and me for a walk in the park; the unrelenting tick of that Regulator clock is a reminder to be grateful for each minute Peter and I have together; and even the drain the plumber is so carefully spackling will soon take away the dirt of each day’s endeavors so that we can start afresh.
It occurs to me that mandala is in the eyes of the beholder. And maybe yes, you can call everything that’s round a mandala.