In my early 30’s, I was at a spiritual retreat, where I was gravitating toward anything to do with making art, and took a workshop with Suzanne Halstead(artist and offerer of creative retreats). She led us in making healing mandalas, using Judith Cornell’s book, Mandala: Luminous Symbols of Healing, tracing our hands on black paper, using white pencil crayons, covering the spectrum of intensity from a thick layer of white, to barely brushing the stillness of the black paper.
I wasn’t certain of what I knew. I was a wanderer, with the imprint of depression and an anxious heart. I had turned 30, imagining that I would have a book of poetry published by that age, but that didn’t come to be. I felt anything I accomplished after age 30 was too late, not prodigious enough. There is pressure that comes with milestone ages, and with the fear of being perpetually reminded of all that you are not. But sitting there with the sheet of paper, and the pencil in my hand, I knew light and dark. I knew my hands, as I traced them, and I loved what I could do with them.
Judith Cornell’s book is a guide to seeing our bodies as conduits of light. I love that image. At my confirmation, when I was 14, I was given a Bible verse from Matthew 5:16:
Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
At this workshop, I was introduced to the creating of mandalas as a form of healing prayer, keeping the person in your heart as you draw, imagining the love as molecules of light, traveling through your hand and into molecules of light flowing onto the paper. I was having a hard time with prayer, with all the words in my head, with my arguments God, and to find another way to pray was a relief.
In the following year, I made a mandala for someone who was having brain surgery, for someone who was having radiation for breast cancer, and someone whose heart was breaking. These were people I cared about, people who were suffering, and I felt there was nothing I could do, and yet, I could give them this gift from my heart and hands.
This was the beginning of my mosaic mandalas, in the elemental light and dark, in prayer as art, and art as prayer.
In the mandala below, I wanted to share my heart with my friend, to offer something from my hands, something beyond my fears and inadequacy: grace.