When I began creating Sunday Morning Mandalas, I did not imagine that I would sustain the practice for an entire year. As I approached the one year mark in October, I thought I would take a break after and maybe begin anew in January. But, golden maple leaves flagged me down on the side of the road that first Sunday in November. I could not resist bringing them home - not only to my physical home, but the home poet John O'Donohue was referring to when he wrote "when we experience the beautiful, there is a sense of homecoming." His book Beauty: The Invisible Embrace elucidates better than I ever could why art impacts me and others the way it does.
Indeed, my mandala practice has evolved beyond being a mere placeholder for my creative impulse and weekly conference call with the Divine Creator. Like home, it has become a refuge, an opportunity for deep communion, and a lovely place to rest and regroup in the midst of what seems to be a world gone mad.
Walking back to the house with my hands full of brightly colored leaves, berries, and nature's ephemera, I reflected on what I'd learned from my year of practice and decided to make a few changes in my approach as I entered a second season of mandala making.
While I think initially it was important to keep things simple and loose to ensure I would sustain the practice long enough for it to take root, I felt called to set aside more time and enter the ritual with greater reverence, presence, patience, and intention.
“What you encounter, recognize or discover depends to a large degree on the quality of your approach. Many of the ancient cultures practiced careful rituals of approach. An encounter of depth and spirit was preceded by careful preparation.
When we approach with reverence, great things decide to approach us. Our real life comes to the surface and its light awakens the concealed beauty in things. When we walk on the earth with reverence, beauty will decide to trust us. The rushed heart and arrogant mind lack the gentleness and patience to enter that embrace.” ― John O'Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
Contending with weather and the physical limitations of fibromyalgia made it less likely that I would be able to spend extended time assembling these creations outdoors while squatting on the ground, so I decided to bring my practice indoors this year. While the ground beneath my mandalas were an important part of my mandala stories last year, this year I will be assembling these creations on a solid white background in order to focus on the intricate beauty of the individual elements.
“When our eyes are graced with wonder, the world reveals its wonders to us. There are people who see only dullness in the world and that is because their eyes have already been dulled. So much depends on how we look at things. The quality of our looking determines what we come to see.” ― John O'Donohue, Beauty: The Invisible Embrace
I'm mindful that deepening my practice and creating more elaborate mandalas may (OK...did) activate my perfectionist tendencies. As I look at the eight mandalas created over the past two months, I notice the mistakes and the color cast resulting from differing lighting sources and frown a bit. I must continually remind myself of the perfect imperfection of nature and humans, and that whatever comes through me on any given Sunday is not from me at all. More importantly, it is the process of creating that is doing the work within me. That, my friends, is the entire point of it all. The end result is but a snapshot of time spent in the presence of my creator, lingering over the gifts of beauty that have been so lavishly placed at my feet, and contemplating with gratitude the wonder of creation.
In one of his last interviews before his unexpected death in 2008, John O'Donohue asserts that God is beauty, and defined spirituality as the "art of homecoming." So as we usher in a new calendar year, I pray that each of you find a beautiful way to practice the art of homecoming.