From my September Newsletter:
Go, sit upon the lofty hill,
And turn your eyes around,
Where waving woods and waters wild
Do hymn an autumn sound.
The summer sun is faint on them –
The summer flowers depart –
Sit still – as all transform’d to stone,
Except your musing heart.
From The Autumn by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
I welcome the Autumn and the element of water as it begins to rain while writing this message to you. Blessed rain after a long, dry, and hot summer. Though I appreciate the everyday epiphanies of time spent in the outdoors, the garden, and the thrill of growing tomatoes, the turning of the wheel guiding us toward our inner world is my true home. This is a fertile time for our creativity!
Through the summer I have been working on the mandala commission shown above. What I have titled the “Hope Mandala,” was commissioned by a lovely woman, Patti, who lives in the Boston area. It became clear in our exchanges via Skype and email that the universe had conspired to bring us together in order to manifest this work of sacred art that is both personal to her and universal in its message–hope and interconnectedness.
When I asked what she wanted to feel when looking at her mandala, she said hope and inner strength to preserve in her meditation practice. It became clear to her to dedicate her practice to the healing of the earth. I was thrilled that we shared this common vision and when I unveiled her mandala this week, she wept. The highest compliment I can receive for my work as it has touched the soul and why I refer to these commissions as soul-symbol mandalas. Learn more here.
Her chanting of the Great Compassion Mantra (Da Bei Zhou) immediately inspired my vision of Kuan Yin, Bodhisattva of Compassion, or She Who Hears the Cries of the World, to be at the heart of the mandala or yantra. Here, she holds the willow sprinkling the divine nectar of compassion and healing on our beloved mother earth. Behind her, the Taoist symbol of yin/yang symbolizes her dual nature/paths in life: The yang/masculine side as a finance person (represented by the mother board texture). The yin/feminine aspect of your Spiritual Self, who feels connected to the universe as represented by the Gemini constellation, her astrological sign (the twins reinforce her dual nature).
On a macrocosmic scale, these also symbolize the ways in which we are all interconnected in the web of life. Through our technology, our cosmology, and globally as expressed with the longitude/latitude, or energy meridian, that holds the mandala. We are indeed one.
The flowers in the thresholds at each of the four cardinal directions symbolize hope, healing, clarity of vision, and courage/devotion. As a Chinese American woman, I included the kanji which translates as hope.
Prints and cards will be forthcoming and a percentage of the proceeds will benefit an organization working towards the healing of our world. More to come.
I’m currently preparing to attend the Parliament of World Religions next month that is being held in Salt Lake City, Utah. I sense this will be a continuation of my graduate work in our world’s spiritual traditions and the way these studies have informed my work as an artist and activist on behalf of our holy mother earth. Imagining new works, ceremonies, and offerings will emerge from this interfaith and indigenous sacred gathering. Look forward to sharing more as the journey unfolds.
A Prayer in Spring by Robert Frost
OH, give us pleasure in the flowers today;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.
Oh, give us pleasure in the orchard white,
Like nothing else by day, like ghosts by night;
And make us happy in the happy bees,
The swarm dilating round the perfect trees.
And make us happy in the darting bird
That suddenly above the bees is heard,
The meteor that thrusts in with needle bill,
And off a blossom in mid air stands still.
For this is love and nothing else is love,
To which it is reserved for God above
To sanctify to what far ends he will,
But which it only needs that we fulfill.
Spring is gradually emerging here in the Pacific Northwest. The birdsong is abundant, trees are in bud, and the daffodils, in spite of the recent snow, are blooming. New life is indeed emerging after the dark days of winter. I love the interiority and silence during the winter months and yet I feel my inner child again when I venture into the garden, seeking out new shoots of life peaking through the mossy beds covered with leafy debris left in place last Fall to enrich the soil. It’s this joy that fills my soul in times of grief and sorrow.
In my last newsletter (and last post here), I was preparing for my annual Living with HeART women’s retreat. Twelve of us spent the weekend exploring our sacred creativity, connecting our inner knowing with the ancient wisdom of the medicine wheel, and finding sanctuary from the busyness of our world. It was a holy time. When I returned, I learned that a very close friend had died suddenly while I was away. He had been a close companion and was like a brother to me for many years, so it was quite a shock. Yet he had expressed his world weariness and financial struggles for as long and I do feel in my heart that he has at last found some peace. There will be a gap where his presence once inhabited my daily life but in his death, he has also given me a renewed sense of urgency towards life and purpose. So, in my grief, I find myself a bit impatient with the minutia of daily life and feel an impulse to make some extravagant change as I did twenty years ago after the consecutive deaths of my brother and mother. (I moved to Portland alone with no job, no friends or family.) This time however, it is holding to place, to community, to art, to being, to service…right here, right now. So, I find myself ever more present to the beauty around me in any given moment and to that which is most essential. Which is love as Frost expresses so beautifully in his poem, “For this is love and nothing else is love.” As I’ve shared previously, I do believe, that it is through our grief, that we are able to open our hearts to each other and to the world around us. May all beings be happy. May all beings be loved.
What is most in bud for you right now during this season of rebirth, Spring? As always, I welcome your thoughts.
For love of the EARTH!
The above painting or “Pulgaria Mandala” is a personalized soul-symbol mandala commission. These are unique, one-of-a-kind sacred artworks that are expressions of your soul and support you on your healing/spiritual journey. Read more about these mandalas here at the blog or contact me for more information.
When I met with Mary, she said “When I look at my mandala I want to feel JOY.” Gratitude for life right here, right now in this present moment. As a pagan, shamanic healer, and lover of trees, and with her roots in the Celtic tradition, the Tree of Life and the Triple Spiral called to me for the center of this mandala. The ancient Celts envisioned the cosmos in form of a great tree—the roots deep in the earth and branches stretched to the heavens. The Celtic Tree of Life is the symbol of balance between these worlds; the unification of above and below. Spirit and Earth. It is a sacred symbol of balance and harmony. Within the center and in the larger mandala, the night/dark/new moon and the day/light/sun represents the balance between the masculine and feminine which she is learning to balance through her recovery from cancer.
The number three, as in the shamrock and triple spiral, is significant for Mary, so the three half-circles surround the center mandala represent that number. Within these shapes lie a world of magical creatures that inhabit our world. Often they are too small to see at a passing glance, like a slug or lady bug, but when we slow down and come more fully into the present moment, we are able to appreciate the miracle of all living things and find joy and gratitude in the moment. The hummingbird, butterfly, and dragonfly are symbolic of transformation, beauty, and love. The red flowers are impatiens which are symbolic of “motherly love” which I discovered after being called to paint them when a hummingbird visited these flowers outside my studio door. Synchronicity, spirit guiding my hand. They are reflections of Mary—with her enormous love for your family, community, Mother Earth, and the women she supports in recovery.
The cat—and cougar who curled up with her in the sweat lodge—sleeps quietly as a reminder of her spirit guides. Finally, she spoke of the power of herbs and the importance of rosemary. Framing the mandala are sprigs of rosemary to guide and support Mary on her journey of healing and JOY!
I feel honored and great joy to create these personal, soul-symbol mandalas for others on their journey. When I am immersed in the process of creation, I feel the spirit of the Creator working through me and am enormously blessed to be a vessel in which to birth each of them into the world. For more information about soul-symbol mandalas, please contact me through my web site at www.sacredartstudio.net or call 503.239.9671.
Someone asked me recently if I mapped out my mandalas on the computer. How times have changed! No, I replied, in fact they emerge quite organically. These mandalas are highly detailed and call for intense focus, so my process is very much a meditation for me. Often there are periods of waiting and trusting that what is needing to come forward will show itself to me. I begin all my sessions in the studio by lighting candles on the altar; making an offering to the muses or spirit helpers that want to support me that day; and smudging myself, the work, and the studio. Having created this sacred space, I ask for guidance that I may be a vehicle for spirit to move through me. For personalized soul symbol mandalas, such as this one, I hold a vision of the person that I am creating it for and an intention for bringing forward those aspects of the soul that want to be acknowledged, celebrated, or healed. (see Shri Yantra Mandala post for more information on soul symbol mandalas)
My dear friend, Christina Rose, ask that I paint a mandala for her and gave no specific direction. She simply trusted in my vision. Of course, I wanted there to be a rose to be at the center. At first, I began work on a very different, peach rose but after wrestling with that for a time I realized it just wasn’t working. I let go of my resistance and was guided intuitively to go in a different direction. Over the years, I have come to see that this is part of my process. I start down one road, hit a bump, and turn in another direction. I’ve learned to trust this and know that in the end the work will be better for it.
I drew inspiration from the many aspects of what I know about Christina, her spiritual path, and what nourishes her soul. This is what I shared with her when I presented her with the mandala:
In the Christian tradition, the white rose is a symbol of the Virgin Mary. It represents reverence, purity, and humility. From an Eastern perspective, we might also call this egolessness.
Drawing from the indigenous medicine wheel:
In the North, the earth element: This represents your love of the earth. In the East, the air element: The dove represents your want for peace. In the South, the fire element: The hands and heart represent your love/passion for your partner and community. In the West, the water element: The fish represent your astrological sign, Pisces.
Inspired by the gold that is used in illuminated manuscripts, the gold creates a holy framework to hold each of your soul elements in a sacred manner.
Soul-symbol Mandala for G. Ota
At the center of the mandala is a Hindu ‘Shri Yantra.’ This represents the union between the masculine and feminine. The Sri Yantra is a configuration of nine interlacing triangles centered around the bindu (center), drawn by the super imposition of five downward pointing triangles, representing Shakti; the female principle and four upright triangles, representing Shiva; the male principle. The nine triangles also represent the spiritual journey from the material realm to ultimate enlightenment. I was drawn to this symbol for you as it brings together in union your bold, masculine nature (as you spoke of with me) with those feminine aspects of yourself—compassionate heart, relationality, generosity, and healer.
The center of the mandala symbolizes the cosmos, the union with the divine (enoughness), which is then held by the cycles of the moon (31 days to represent your birth month) and nature (where you feel closest to God) and the cycles of the seasons. The four Japanese characters read as the cycles of the seasons. To the North is Winter. To the East is Spring (daffodils). To the South is Summer (echinacea). To the West is Fall. Framing the mandala, I was drawn to the bright red and green from the Japanese culture which represents your ancestral line and wisdom. The lotus pattern a reminder of death, rebirth, and healing. When you meditate with this mandala, my hope is that you will know that you are more than enough and whole. You are one with all creation and a gift to us all.
About Soul Symbol Mandalas
Mandala is sanskrit for circle. The mandala has long been a vehicle for healing and meditation in many spiritual traditions including Native American and Tibetan sand paintings. In Christianity, the twelfth-century abbess and visionary Hildegard of Bingen often expressed her illuminations of God through mandala paintings. A mandala represents wholeness and can be seen as a cosmic diagram that reminds us of our connection to the Divine, or God, as well as our interconnectedness in the web of life. In this way, mandalas are an expression of the Sacred that is both immanent and transcendent.
My studies in the spiritual traditions of the world have given me a broader understanding of the shared symbolism that weaves itself throughout the sacred texts of Eastern and Western religions—most notably within the mystical arms of these religions—with those of earth-honoring traditions. It is my intention to create a visual tapestry that expresses our innate interconnectedness within the web of life. In 2002, I began practicing and studying earth-based spirituality and, more recently, shamanism which is an ancient but still practiced healing modality among indigenous communities around the world. Bringing together these two ancient healing practices of the mandala and shamanism, I offer original soul-symbol mandalas to support you on your spiritual and healing journey. Contact me at www.sacredartstudio.net for more information. aho