When there are five Sundays in a month, I take a break from my weekly mandala making to contemplate my learnings from the practice and take a look back over my life since the last fifth Sunday reflection.
Since beginning this practice, fifth Sundays have occurred a maximum of every three months. This time; however, we have a four month span to cover, which feels like a metaphor for what seems to have been an eternal winter.
As the new year dawned, I noticed a large number of people I follow on social media posting that they were eschewing the tradition of new year resolutions in favor of a kinder, gentler start to the year. I, too, felt the need for stillness, rest and reflection.
2017 was a good year for me on balance, with many wonderful moments and joyful changes, and relatively little personal drama or crisis. However, I dare say it was an exhausting and emotional roller coaster ride for the collective as a whole. It seemed we all were experiencing a universal weariness and a deep need for respite from the near 24/7 assault on our psyches coming from all quarters.
But, it was a more than just needing to recover from the reality TV show that was 2017. Internally, I was surrendering to the wisdom of the season which has always beckoned me to hibernate.
Culturally, January is a time for new beginnings and attacking our goals with gusto. I suspect one reason so many new year resolutions fail is because nature is working against us. After all, what's the point of trying to lose weight when our bodies are instinctively trying to hold on to those insulating layers of fat? At least that's what I tell myself. All kidding aside, winter in my corner of the world means the days are short, the temperatures are cold, and nature encourages me to lie dormant and wait.
But plans set in motion years and months before had already claimed much of the white space in my 2018 calendar.
January was consumed with wrapping up my final project due at the end of the month for the Haden Institute Dream Work program - a 43 page e-book on combining the practice of SoulCollage® with Dream Work that I'll be making available here soon. Mid-January I also travelled to Kanuga for a weekend Spiritual Direction intensive/reunion with my former Haden Institute cohort group.
February had me traveling back to Kanuga for my final Dream Work intensive and graduation. While there, I'd also agreed to film and edit a series of promotional videos for the program. You can check those out here.
In March, the prolonged winter weather held space for me to take the rest and reflection that I'd missed due to my overbooked calendar and I sorely needed it. Not only was I exhausted, but I was surprised by a grief that accompanied the ending of my four years of study at the Haden Institute. In addition to the ungrounded feeling that inevitably accompanies the realization of a long term goal, I was bereft knowing that I would no longer be making the thrice yearly pilgrimage to Kanuga to commune with the tribe I'd waited so long to find.
Of course, I know that these relationships and my connection to the Haden Institute will continue in some form. Nevertheless, the transition brought back to consciousness my personal complexes surrounding loss and belonging. Into this mix was added anticipatory grief surrounding my eldest son who was planning a move to the U.K towards the end of April. I was also mindful of other relationships that seemed to be coming to an end, triggering abandonment issues that I thought were long ago resolved.
The Guest House
This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they are a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice.
meet them at the door laughing and invite them in.
Be grateful for whatever comes.
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
— Jellaludin Rumi,
As winter lingered, I fell deeper into a funk. Although I continued to find solace in my art and refuge in much needed solitude, I began feeling less like "The Creative Contemplative" and more like "The Angry Hermit." I did my best to heed the words of the poet Rumi and welcomed all these unexpected visitors, knowing they were there do some Spring cleaning. As violent and frightening as these guests were while sweeping out the house, I have learned to trust they do good work. And they did, aided in part by the compassionate witness of my long term Spiritual Director and my new Dream Counselor who created a safe container in which to speak truth to my pain and listen for what it had come to tell me.
My mandala practice has been the consistent through line connecting these past four months of intense activity and change. As I grappled with the seasonal and often transient nature of relationships and communities, the mandalas have provided me a helpful metaphor to consider.
In the same way that I gather together elements in nature each week to form a new creation, communities also form around a central purpose. While all are beautiful in their own way, some are especially exquisite - especially those in which I invested the most time and energy. Either way, once the mandala has been assembled and realized the fullness of its expression, it has already begun to wilt a bit and its beauty will soon be only a treasured memory. While certain elements may repeat time after time, the specific dynamic will never be recreated in the exact same way.
As I look at the past four months of mandalas assembled together in the image above, my grief is turned to gratitude for every precious moment, every beautiful soul the Creator has put in my path at different times, in different seasons and for different purposes. In the moments we shared together, however brief or lengthy our engagement, something sacred and beautiful was created. We remain forever a part each other's story, and carry these blessings, support, love and wisdom with us as we move forward to step into new spaces and serve whatever purpose the Creator has in mind for us next.
Yours In Love,