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Not Alone

Not Alone

 

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!!

Can’t wait to see what the next mandala brings!

What’s Next?

What’s Next?

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.

Bright Morning Star

Bright Morning Star

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.

 

Kaleidoscopic Hubcaps

Kaleidoscopic Hubcaps

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!

No X-it

No X-it

 

fullsizerender 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.

I think there’s a message in there.

Not Every Circle. . .

Not Every Circle. . .

Unknown-1Did 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.

 

Stage 8 Mandala

Stage 8 Mandala

Stage 8 MandalaLast Saturday I led a workshop on Stage 8 of the Mandala Great Round. It’s the stage at which we enter into the morass of real life with all its peaks and valleys. We’re at our functioning peak sand the challenge is to align our over-active egos with the needs of the communities we live in.

Here’s one easy way you can make a Stage 8 mandala on your own:

  1. Draw a circle in your sketchbook or on a piece of paper.
  2. Place your hand over the circle and trace it.
  3. Let each finger represent the peaks of your life to date. Let the spaces between your fingers represent the valleys. With light pencil marks, write down what each peak and valley represents so you can meditate on them while you color.
  4. Use any media you want (crayons, paints, pastels or oil pastels all work well). Meditate as you color each section.
  5. When you are finished ask of your mandala, “What do you have to teach me?” and record the answer underneath or in your journal.

If you don’t feel like doing a whole life review, you can do the same exercise with the peaks and valleys of the past year, week or day.

Try it!!

(And if you’d like to attend the Mandala Journaling class, the next one is Saturday, September 17 from 9-11 at Saint Luke’s Cathedral in Portland. $5 materials donation)

Squaring the Circle on the Fourth of July

Squaring the Circle on the Fourth of July

FullSizeRenderStage Seven of the Mandala Great Round is the place of declaring independence. The preparations have been made and all those pesky familial conflicts have been resolved enough to allow us to set off on our own, free from the guidance of mother, father, teachers, or Mother Country.

 This morning I put on white shorts, a blue shirt and a red bandana. Peter dressed in black.

      “Don’t you have a single patriotic bone in your body?” I asked.

“Ah-yeh,” he replied.

OK.  I know that American democracy has not lived up to the Enlightenment vision of our founding fathers. I know that it has produced our unique sense of entitled anger, a polarized nation, a contentious Congress, and Donald Trump. For years I taught about the thread of xenophobia that has woven its way through American history- the witch hunts, the Trail of Tears, the nativists and the Know-Nothing party, the Red Scare and the McCarthy era- but somehow I was naïve enough to hope that we’d evolved and were beyond all that.

We’re not, of course. Humanity has not evolved beyond its propensity for smug self-righteousness, hatred and violence. And sadly, we as Americans are not above the human condition.

So why am I choosing to wear red, white and blue on this Fourth of July? Because the same country that has given rise to Paul LePage and Donald Trump has also given us the wisdom of Barack Obama. It may squawk about immigration, but I still get to teach fourteen precious souls from war-torn countries in the new HHELP classes that begin Tuesday. And hard as it is to face up to the wave of xenophobia sweeping our land, I still have the right to go downstairs, make breakfast and laugh at the most recent Trump satires on Facebook. Despite it all, I’m grateful today to be living this life as an American.

Union

Union

UnionMasculine and feminine are among those many opposites that are really two sides of the same coin. Many years ago I asked a comparative religions class to imagine that they were Taoists living in a country where the symbol of the Tao had been outlawed. I challenged them to come up with another way of expressing the sacred union of yin and yang, their effortless flow, and their presence at each other’s core.

I lead a mandala journaling class on first Saturday mornings at Saint Luke’s and have encouraged it to consider the same challenge. Mine might look something like this one I did as a meditation on Stage Six of the mandala Great Round, that stage of struggle that precedes full readiness to enter into the world of work and relationship.

Today I am struck with gratitude for the way life moves towards the creation of Oneness in a world of perceived duality. As Peter and I navigate the new waters of chemotherapy and opportunistic infection, those sharp edges between masculine and feminine, strong and weak, even life and death begin to blur. They create a life of beauty that my younger self could never have imagined.

Out of the Ashes

Out of the Ashes

Beginning ReversalMargaret Mead wrote, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

For the past month, a small group of committed LearningWorks volunteers have been working to give the cancelled English Language Program new life. It looks as if we may happen! Another nonprofit is very interested in taking on this unique program that brings talented volunteers and New Mainers together in small, supportive classrooms.

I marvel at how things change. Last week I shared the downwards-facing triangle that signifies endings. But if you take that same triangle and turn it upside down, it becomes like a phoenix rising from the ashes- the hope of a new beginning.