Soul Food

We made pizza last week. N decided to turn hers into a mandala. She and I now see mandalas everywhere. I think the rest of the family alternates between tolerant amusement and mild annoyance.

Over the past two weeks I only made one mandala. It took almost all week. I worked on it for 15 minutes here, 20 minutes there. My week was highly fragmented and very frustrating; thanks to snow days coupled with the four day weekend, N was home from school for a full week. C & Z, however, were up to their eyeballs in schoolwork, and I wasn't feeling too well. Then last Tuesday N went back to school and I promptly came down with a virus and a persistent migraine.

This mandala assignment was a tough one, too: I was to create a mandala for releasing fear. I decided to address my fear of transitions; because I love this house and we are likely some time in the next few years to leave it, the bindu of the mandala is a stylized version of a small, stained glass window in the front hall of our home. It casts rainbows into the hallway and livingroom in the afternoons, something that brings us all joy and that I particularly associate with our life in this house.

I thought it would be interesting to play around with shapes a bit, so I tried adding two squares and an octagon around that. The figures around the periphery are the sign of Aries (mine), and the signs for three heavenly bodies (representing "Syzygy"). This was the outer limit of my "safe place," the center from which I needed to work on not fearing transitions.

The next rings (remember, I am still working in lesson two, in which all the mandalas are to be created in concentric rings) are what I think of as "movement" patterns. I messed up a bit on the gold pattern, but I didn't sweat it - I figured it was because I was so nervous about this exercise. In fact, I messed up early on, while working on the bindu, and at that point I told myself this was just the rough draft & that later I would do the whole piece over properly. By the time I got to the gold portion of the movement rings, however, I had decided that there ARE no "do-overs" with mandalas. That's silly - these are spiritual exercises. It's the doing, not the product, that matters.

I knew this already at the intellectual level, of course. But accepting it on a gut level was a big step for me, and I finally reached it during the making of this mandala. So this was a significant mandala for me; I imagine that's why it took so much out of me.

The outer ring of oval cells - well, that's what they are, cells, or seeds, or something. Each one is slightly different in shape & size, each contains the seeds of the next transition, and all radiate energy. Which ones will continue to grow? It's all very uncertain, and the uncertainty is what makes me most anxious. But something has already burst open and released seeds, as you can see - they are floating out beyond the ring of potential. My life will continue to grow and be fertile even though I can't see now in which directions in will develop or where I will be a few months from today.

As I said, this was a difficult mandala to draw. I knew almost from the beginning all the elements I would include; even while I was drawing them, however, there were times I could only work on it for a few minutes before I just had to put it down, because it was so uncomfortable to think about.

I'm glad I did it, though. Not only did I learn a lot about myself and about mandala making - I find it a very comforting piece to contemplate, now that it's done. It doesn't look as nice on the screen to me as it does IRL, but maybe that's because my screen stretches it out of proportion.

This morning I went to church with my mother-in-law. When she comes to visit us, she likes to attend the Presbyterian church not too far from our house, and I've been there a couple of times with her. It's a lovely building, and I enjoy their services. I have been to enough services over the years that I am familiar with a fair number of hymns as well as the prayers that are part of the standard liturgy; it feels comfortable. After a tough couple of weeks, I was looking forward to some time for contemplation.

What a nice surprise we had when we walked in & discovered a brass quintet and 50-voice choir! And they were
good. Early on in the service, I decided that at least twice a month for the next few months I will visit a place of worship - various religions. Not to look for a permanent one; just as a way to stimulate a part of me that hasn't gotten enough stimulation lately.

Anyway, when we got home & had fed lunch to everyone, I sat down to create the next-to-last mandala of this lesson: a mandala that is a prayer. It is mostly in gel pen, with some cut paper (I really need to find a pair of slender scissors and the right kind of glue, as cutting out and gluing on those slivers of paper was very awkward - any suggestions on glue, in particular, would be welcome!).

I call this simply "Prayer." The symbol in the center is "Aum" or "Om." It is surrounded by a design I saw yesterday at the King Tut exhibit in Philadelphia (I would have spent even more than two hours there, had there not been people waiting for me - it was a beautiful and moving exhibit). The design was on a little chair that had been Tutankhamen's when he was a child, and was then placed in his tomb after his death. I copied it into a small notebook yesterday with the intention of putting it into this mandala.

The rest of the mandala - is a prayer. It took me several hours today, as people moved around me, asking me questions about it, talking over me and sometimes to me. I find I do most of the meditative work before I start to draw - sometimes for days beforehand, thinking about what I want the mandala to "say." And then it comes out as my hands work.

Only one more mandala in this lesson is left - the hardest one. I would really like to tackle it this week . . . .


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

These are so beautiful!!!! I wish I could see them close up, but the files - or something - are so big they take forever to load and I can't view the whole thing at once. Can you do anything about that?

You seem to be relaxing into the process, even as it is hard to get through. I really like the transition one, with the seeds of uncertainty - I know the feeling! Thanks again for sharing, and tell N I love her pizza. The world is one big mandala, isn't it?
love, Cousin K