Flower Mandalas

Flower Mandalas


Flower Mandalas: Self-Communion

Self-communion.jpg

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.
-Carl Jung

I began the Flower Mandalas project in the midst of a long illness. Initially it was a way to distract myself from chronic pain. I discovered that walking on the beach eased it, and I grew fascinated with the sky and the sea. As I walked, I paused to take pictures. I spent a couple of hours each day doing this. When it got too cold to walk the beach, I began to edit and manipulate these images, and I found that this process, too, took away some of the pain.

Eventually I happened upon a way to rearrange segments of my images into mandala-like creations. I began with my images of the sea and the sky, then experimented with other objects — wood, metal, nature scenes, patterns, people. I came across a photograph of a dying dandelion and wondered what would happen if I took something that was already mandala-like and “mandala-ized” it.

The result was the first of the Flower Mandalas. It felt different from the other mandalas I’d created. As I tried the same technique with other flower images, I found myself feeling not only distraction from pain, but also a sometimes breathless excitement in the initial stage, followed by a deep, centering peacefulness as I brought each mandala to completion.

I joined a photographer’s group and showed these images to the other members. Although they seemed to like them well enough, they didn’t really have much to say, other than that they “aren’t really photographs anymore.” I thought maybe a painter would have a more detailed response and ran them by the wife of a friend, who painted.

My friend’s wife had, it turned out, been making mandalas for years. She suggested that each mandala was trying to tell me something I needed to know. “Put them up around your house. Look at them. Listen to what they’re saying.”

I put them around my house. I hung them in my office. I made them the wallpaper of my computer and let Microsoft Windows change them randomly whenever I rebooted. What I found was that the act of creating mandalas and then looking deeply at what I had made resulted in a spiritual feedback loop:

1) The original flower moved me enough to photograph it.

2) The mandala-making process distilled the initial feeling into something more specific and more deeply felt — something inside that was called out and then embodied.

3) Looking at the mandalas I’d made brought that embodied feeling back to me.

With each iteration of the creating/embodying cycle, some new facet of my self, previously inaccessible, became more revealed, and with each re-experiencing of what I had captured, I became more whole.

As a lover of art I have often been touched deeply. Listening to music, watching a movie, looking at a photograph, reading a poem or story — each of these has often, in small but important ways, enhanced my experience of living, and occasionally has radically influenced my life direction. Creating art has also been a powerful experience at times, allowing me to embody, in a story, some complex set of experiences and feelings, or in a photograph to freeze forever a striking moment. But this process of, as William Blake put it, “creating & devouring,” has been uniquely transformative. I have found a way of self-communion that helped, I am convinced, to heal not only the emotional pain of injury and trauma, but my physical body as well. More important, it also has strengthened, in an ongoing way, my sense of who I most deeply am, and has provided a way to give to myself nourishment I had previously sought from others. The net result of this strengthening of my soul is that I have been able to open my heart to what I now realize is my greatest gift, to be a healer.

Two years after my near-death experience, I was in a support group for people who had survived near-death. I was still finding my way back into this world, and although I knew I had returned from the brink with something of great value, I was also profoundly disoriented, split between the me I had been and the me I was becoming. One of the members, addressing my confusion, made a wide half-circle gesture with his arm and said, “David, I think you’re one of those people who has to take the long way ’round.” He paused, his arm fully outstretched in front of him. “But when you get there,” he continued, closing his hand into a fist and pulling it to his chest, “it’ll be important.”

What I do now, a decade later, does seem important. As a therapist, I know I am saving lives. As an artist, I know I am affecting people I may never meet. As a writer, I hope I will convey what wisdom I have garnered, a kind of boon that, had I not taken the “long way ’round,” I would never have been able to bring back.

For me, the process of creating and consuming art has been vitally important in integrating and actualizing the previously fragmented parts of my self. Now, the whole is greater than the sum of my formerly divided parts.

I’d like to hear the experiences of those of you who have chosen or stumbled upon your own means of self-communion. I hope to share them here, where they may inspire others to further their own becoming.

More anon,

- David

Discussion:

Self-Communion

Art, Healing, and Transformation group

Flower Mandalas Project group

© 2007, David J. Bookbinder



  • Tamzin

    Writing and beadwork do the same things for me. When my hands are too old and arthritic to bead anymore it gives me solace that maybe I can try my hand at photographic mandalas that echo the shapes in my beadwork. Thanks for sharing and inspiring, Tamzin

  • Jonathan

    Mandalas embody the perfection inherent in the universe. Are we not then each a mandala?
    When I suffered a severe depression in 1974 I for some reason, purchased a string art project, which once completed with its multicolored threads, became a beautiful mandala.
    Although the threads have come apart to a great degree, I still have the artwork. I like to believe it helped in my recovery in whatever small way it did.

  • Samantha (Hebrew – “The one who Listens”)

    Love your artwork. Perhaps it’s because of the depths of truth it came from, or for me the simplicity of the graphical symmetry.
    Either way, it’s wonderful work.
    Being also a photographic/digital artist, David what software did you use to work with your images?
    I too am a therapist (Massage), but feel that my energies have become stuck ~ seeing your work has inspired me creatively, which I hope will overflow into my professional realm, thus helping others through my healing arts ….

  • Rani

    this is beautiful…
    wish i could have an art i could use to heal. I am blocked with grief after losing my son.
    My bread and butter work and family keeps me going. Is that then a form of meditation?
    I love to write , but am not able to articulate anymore……
    David, thank you again- looking at your flower mandalas brings me joy.

  • Jo

    Beautiful flower mandalas…..would love to see some more, and to try to create my own.

  • David J. Bookbinder

    Rani,
    I can’t say whether bread and butter work and family is a form of meditation, but for me, meditation, art, and other inward-looking activities that one does mainly for oneself are different. I’m very sorry to hear about the loss of your son, and your sense of being blocked by grief is understandable. In my experience, some kind of gentle, persistent participation in a private creative activity can help to process grief by enriching and making safer and more solid ones emotional environment. If you’d like to move this discussion over to the Art, Healing, and Transformation group, I have a hunch I and others might be able to help you develop an art you can use to heal. My instinct is to start with receiving art that feels somehow comforting — read, or listen to music, or watch movies, or in some other way take in creative products that in some way feel healing or soothing. This may provide clues as to where your own creativity can surface. Creativity has its own logic, as does grief. I have stopped writing or taking pictures for years at a time, then discovered that these things were still there, waiting until the climate was right for them again, needing only gentle encouragement in order to sprout.
    More anon,
    – David

  • Deborah

    David-
    I love your flower mandalas.
    I am a suv
    ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
    David-
    I love your flower mandalas.
    My therpist introduced me to mandalas, and I reach for them often. They are a source of peace and love for me. I have PTS from childhood abuse, and most times I can not describe the transformation taking place in me as I work on a mandala.
    Thank-You for sharing.
    Deborah

  • kevin gerien

    David, typing this letter is a bit frightening for me. Mainly because it seems to be a big leap in the right direction. I just read your introduction and it was like reading my own biography. While not exactly the same, events in my life have lead me along this path. You are way ahead of me, but we are still on the same path, for many reasons. I am afraid to admit that this is what I am. This is what I want to be, an artist and a healer. I am too grounded in convention and afraid people will think me eccentric, weird and crazy. Yet- I really do believe mandalas and meditation have the power to clarify and calm the muddy waters. Mandalas and meditation will quiet the monkey mind.
    I will write more in my next letter, thanks for opening this door for me. Sincerely, Kevin Gerien

  • Kevin L.

    David~
    I have been fascinated with mandalas for quite some time now, which made me click to your blog. Thank you for sharing this with us. The beauty and healing aspects are wonderful. Part of your story that struck me was what lead you to explore this area. Your chronic pain. I don’t know if you are experiencing this any longer, but I may be able to help you. Please let me know if that would be of interest to you. Regardless, thank you so much for sharing your gifts, and best wishes!

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