Flower Mandalas

Flower Mandalas

Mandalas and Sacred Geometry: A Conversation with Vandorn Hinnant

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This is an announcement of the first of what I hope will be a series of online discussions/interviews with people involved in art and transformation.

Vandorn Hinnant is a visual artist currently living in Greensboro, North Carolina. His artwork is a refined synthesis of abstract expressionist painting and Sacred Geometry drawings. His work involves the use of primary, secondary, and tertiary colors and the careful practice of, in his words, “ancient canonical techniques for rendering visible signs of the unseen world.” Many of his works are in corporate collections across North America, and some are in Africa and Europe. Vandorn’s works are created to complement subtle energies beneficial to well-being, and a number of health care professionals have chosen his artwork for their clinics or offices to complement their intent to facilitate their clients’ healing.

Vandorn and I will be discussing art, healing, and transformation in the Art, Healing, and Transformation discussion group. Stop by to read or to join in. A synopsis of our discussion will also appear in a future Flower Mandalas blog entry.

Stay tuned for this and future discussions!

More anon,

- David

Art, Healing, and Transformation group

Flower Mandalas Project group

Vandorn Hinnant: Artist Biography

Vandorn Hinnant received a BA degree in Art Design from North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, NC. He then lived in New York City and worked as an intaglio printer for artist Josef Werner of Germany. In the fall of 1982 and 1984 he studied sculpture at UNC-Greensboro. From 1991 to 1993 he worked in the Artist-In-Schools program through Green Hill Center for NC Art. In 1995 and 1996 he taught studio art courses at Winston-Salem State University. From 1998 through 2002 he served as Curator for the Mattye Reed African Heritage Center at NC A&T State University. He has served as guest curator of art exhibitions, as juror of many fine art competitions, and guest lectured at colleges and universities.

Vandorn is currently teaching at The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Duke University in Durham, NC. He works in painting, sculpture, mixed media, and installations and he is available for commissions. He also serves as a visual arts educational consultant working with both youth and adult learners.

Discussion:

Mandalas and Sacred Geometry

Contact Information

Vandorn Hinnant

PO Box 20874

Greensboro, NC 27420

336-706-4298

e-mail: Aumnibi@aol.com

website: http://www.lightweavings.com

© 2007, Vandorn Hinnant and David J. Bookbinder

Flower Mandalas, Time Travel, and Self-Healing

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You yourself, as much as anyone in the entire universe, deserve your love and affections.

- Buddha

I am large, I contain multitudes.

- Walt Whitman

My work with mandalas has been, in itself, helpful in activating an inner healer and in retrieving previously buried parts of myself, but it has also been part of a more general effort toward self-healing I have been engaged in for 25 years. This pursuit has guided me from a place of narrowness and injury to my current, more open state. Through creative, meditative and psychotherapeutic endeavors, I have learned to access the still-injured parts of myself, to bring to them my most compassionate self, and to relieve their pain. Accessing these previously shielded parts has, in turn, released a store of creativity and aliveness that was also concealed within my defenses.

The process began in an unlikely place: not in a house of worship or an artist’s studio but with a small black-and-white television and a British TV show originally designed for children.

One day in 1982, exhausted from my day’s work as a technical writer, I turned on the TV. On the PBS channel was an episode of “Dr. Who.” Too worn out to do much else, I watched it.

It was the first of many I watched. Dr. Who, who soon became a regular in my house, is a time traveler. More accurately, he is a Timelord. He travels throughout time and space in a chameleon-like device called a Tardis (permanently stuck in the shape of a London police call booth), often meddling in things he shouldn’t tamper with, but always somehow making right what might have gone very, very wrong.

One episodes, in particular, resonated strongly with me. In it, Dr. Who and his lady companion notice that there is a glitch in time. For a few seconds, events repeat themselves exactly, a cosmic deja-vu. Dr. Who eventually traces the source of this glitch to an alien being who, he ultimately learns, first came to earth four billion years ago, when our planet was little more than a rock bathed in a soup of primeval matter. He had landed to repair his vessel, which had been damaged in battle. The landing, however, had destroyed his atmospheric thrusters, and he could not lift off from the planet’s surface. Impulsively, against the warnings of his commanding officers, he gambled on a direct switch to warp drive. The effect was cataclysmic. His ship exploded, releasing a massive amount of energy. He, however, was not destroyed. Instead, because he was already in a space/time warp, found himself scattered throughout Earth’s history. Because all of his fragmented selves were actually versions of one being, they were able to communicate over time, albeit with great effort. When Dr. Who encountered them, they had cooperated in an unthinkable task: to create a device to turn back time itself, retrieving and reuniting his fragments, and ultimately enabling his restored self to reverse his hasty decision, wait for rescue, an continue with his four-billion-year-old mission.

Of course, Dr. Who ultimately thwarts the alien, whose initial blast was the energy that created the first spark of life on this planet, and then goes on to his next adventure. The episode, however, stayed with me. I wanted to reach out to all my scattered selves and, together, turn back the clock and undo the damage done to me in childhood.

Nearly twenty years later, I attended a five-day retreat near Boston held by the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. The experience of being in a temporary community of 900 monks, retreatants, and Thich Nhat Hanh himself was a powerful one, but equally transformative was a comment by one of the retreatants. She hugged me, then said, “David, when you feel that you need something from someone else, try giving it to yourself first.”

I knew in that moment that what she was saying was exactly right, and that doing this would be a great boon to me, but I had no idea how to do it.

Shortly after the retreat, I began making Flower Mandalas. In this activity, I was able to learn what it was like to give to myself something I typically sought from others. Early in this process, I was preoccupied with regaining the child self I’d come, in therapy, to recognize I’d been cut off from for most of my life. I imagined this little boy to be locked in a thick, titanium shell he had built to protect himself from harm, but which now shielded him — and me — from fully experiencing what it was like to be alive. I sensed great pain in there, but I could not feel it. I sensed, as well, the potential for great joy, but it was unavailable to me.

As time has passed and I have continued to use art, meditation, and psychotherapeutic techniques and relationships, and especially since I have become a therapist myself, I’ve begun to understand that inside me was not only the injured little boy, but also a troubled adolescent, an angry teenager, a fiery and adventurous college student, a twenty-something young man adrift, and numerous other incarnations since and in-between. They are like Russian dolls, each of them containing their younger selves, all of them, at their core, this elusive wounded child who held, as well, my deepest joy. To reach that boy and free him from his self-imposed prison, it was not necessary to work my way through all the nested selves. I could, I realized, access whichever one was handy and give him the benefit of my love and affections. Healing any of these injured selves would help all those who had come before.

Now, when I put my attention to connecting any of my younger selves and my inner healer, the effect is an almost instantaneous sense of being soothed and loved. Regardless of what happens in my life, I have a trusted companion I can count on, 24/7, to attend to my deepest needs. The effect is much like that of Dr. Who: to return to an earlier time and set right what once went wrong, and in that process, to restore to wholeness what had been lacking. And I needn’t reverse four billion years of history to accomplish it!

More anon

- David

Discussion:

Time Travel and Self-Healing

Art, Healing, and Transformation group

Flower Mandalas Project group

© 2007, David J. Bookbinder

Self-Transformation and the Hero’s Journey

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What does not change is the will to change.

- Charles Olson

Joseph Campbell’s book The Hero With a Thousand Faces describes the archetypal hero’s journey. In it, Campbell distills the wisdom of a collection of myths, folktales, and dreams that spans human history. He breaks it down into a succession of discrete stages. Some of these include: 1) A call to action, which begins the adventure; 2) being transported to an alien environment, where many trials are faced and endured; 3) obtaining some kind of boon, which may or may not have been the apparent goal at the start; 4) struggling back to the world from which the hero came, boon intact; and 5) delivering the boon to the world, a treasure which the hero could not have obtained without enduring every step of the journey. Through his struggles, the hero is transformed from an ordinary person into something larger. This story is played out in every action /adventure movie ever shown, and it is also renacted in our own lives. (For more details, see the Wikipedia discussion of Campbell’s book.)

I believe most of us are on the hero’s path. Through illness, injury, loss, misfortune, love, or merely the desire to take the risks necessary to grow, we find ourselves in an alien place, struggling with unknown forces, meeting allies and enemies, guides and tempters. We stumble and fall, lose our way, endure defeat, experience despair, but if we push on, eventually we celebrate triumphs. And through it all, we emerge transformed; regardless of whether our external goals are achieved, our internal growth can never be lost.

What seems to differentiate those who triumph from those who are defeated is that those who complete their path see the purpose of their journey and embrace it. In time, they are able to envision their destination and map their course to it. They learn to keep the vision in sight, no matter how dark things get. It is their North Star.

How do they do this? There is a grade-school riddle that provides an important part of the answer. It asks: “What is the most powerful nation in the world?” And answers: “The Imagi-nation.”

One way I help my clients traverse their hero’s journeys is to ask what solution-focused therapists call the “Miracle Question.” It goes like this:

Imagine that after you finish reading this post you go off and do whatever you do with the rest of the day. Tonight, you fall asleep. And while you’re snoozing, a strange thing happens. The strange thing is that… a miracle occurs! The miracle is a very special one, tailored just to you. The miracle is that all your problems are solved and all your concerns are gone. Poof! But the thing is, the miracle happened while you were asleep, so you don’t know anything about it. When you wake up tomorrow, you are solidly in the world of the miracle, but initially you are unaware that it has occurred. So the first part of the Miracle Question is: Tomorrow morning, when you wake up and as you step through the day, what do you notice — in yourself, in your surroundings, in other people — that eventually gets you scratching your head, thinking, “Something’s different about today. A miracle must have happened!”

The “Miracle Question” is based on the principle that we have the answers to our questions and can find our own solutions. It’s a way to envision, while awake but in a kind of self-induced light trance, what life will be like, in specific detail, when all our problems are solved. Some questions to ask yourself, after asking the Miracle Question:

How do I feel when I open my eyes?

Am I in the same bedroom? The same house? With the same people?

What’s different as I get ready for the day?

What’s different as I walk through it, hour by hour?

What do other people in my life notice about me that’s different?

What do I notice about them?

From the answers to these questions, a vision of life with all the problems
solved is built. Then it’s just a matter of working toward that “miracle,”
one doable step at a time.

Asking yourself this question is akin to the call to adventure of the hero’s journey. It will take you into new territory, and there you will likely encounter struggles you might not otherwise have had to endure. But it is also the first step to finding your personal boon, and to making your miracle your reality.

What will you notice tomorrow, when you find yourself in your miracle world?

I’m interested in hearing your answers to the Miracle Question. I’ve set up an area of the Art, Healing, and Transformation group (for anyone who dares!) for your responses.

This is the first of three parts of the Miracle Question. Stay tuned for the next installment, in which you’ll learn how to find out where you are, right now, in your particular journey, and how to get to the next step toward your miracle.

More anon,

- David

Discussion:

Self-Transformation and the Hero’s Journey

Art, Healing, and Transformation group

Flower Mandalas Project group

© 2007, David J. Bookbinder

Flower Mandalas: Self-Communion

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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.

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