Magical Mandalas

Mandalas are my new thing. Now that I’m keyed into them, they seem to be everywhere.

Here’s a mandala in the yoga studio I just visited.

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A good friend who’d read my earlier post pointed me to a mandala workshop at Wainwright House. It’s a gorgeous estate on Long Island Sound in Rye, New York. I discovered the same sculpture there as I’d once seen at Omega Institute upstate.

I will have to investigate the artist behind this recurring sculpture.

While I do not consider myself a painter, this workshop appealed to me because I’d recently enjoyed creating a mandala from found objects, and I welcome the opportunity to study the form in greater depth.

I bought a couple canvases, basic tools, and acrylic paints to try again at home. Here are my results.

Painting mandalas is an enjoyable practice. I will also continue to make mandalas with found objects. In case you missed my earlier post, here is the mandala I made to send healing vibes to my mom from afar when she got injured in Chicago.

Once you’re interested and attuned to mandalas, they appear everywhere. Look for them and you’ll find them in nature, as in a spider’s web, on skin, on canvas, on walls….

Here is a concise summary of the origin and meaning of mandalas. Notice here it says, “Labyrinths are a type of mandala found in many cultures and are used as a tool for centering.” More on labyrinths here.

Thank you for reading. I hope you’ll explore the calming and uplifting experiences of walking labyrinths and creating mandalas. Both are sure to be lifelong practices for me.

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The Other Shoe Falls

The other leg is broken. Mom’s other leg. It’s broken. I don’t know, at this time, how her spirit is doing. She was supposed to leave for Amsterdam and depart from there for a once-in-a-lifetime cruise an hour after the fall happened. Devastating.

While she’s in surgery in Chicago, I go to my sacred place in New York, and walk the labyrinth.

Inspired by this post, and also by a group called Raise the Vibration – A 30-Day Challenge, who were all invited to create unique mandalas today, I created a mandala at the center of the labyrinth. It was my way to connect with my mom and send healing to her and strength to my dad from afar.

It’s hard to see in the web image, but, anchoring a photo of my parents is a sculpted glass butterfly. (I had the photo and some polished stones at home; I’d bought three sunflowers and some decorative broken glass from a local nursery, and brought my materials to the site.) I thought, as I laid the marble on the picture, “A butterfly can’t fly with one wing,” and reveled in the holism of our parents’ unity. My mandala radiated from a square. “Lead with your heart,” I’d thought as I entered the labyrinth, holding my hands in prayer pose, and walked with my heart center and shoulders open. I thought it again as my labyrinth took an unexpected square shape and I tried my best to embrace its imperfections. The photo was the center of the mandala and determined its form. Our parents are the heart of our family…

The ritual was meditative, relaxing, and rewarding, and I look forward to doing it again soon, while on a hike. It will definitely be incorporated into my next Nature Writing Workshop. In the meantime, please view the slideshow below to get a sense of place and peace.

Please send a wish up for my mom’s speedy recovery.

~Namaste~

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*The statue of mother and child, which I’ve seen many times before on my visits to the labyrinth, took on poignant significance today.

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What I learned (and What I Already Knew) From Making a Vision Board

Symbols are the language of the subconscious.

 All along I’ve been a writer who could only draw abstract things, like mazes, mandalas, and a basic tree with branches and leaves, and never showed any skill at drawing; I thought I was not a visual artist.

When I tried photography—and loved it and printed my own photos in the color darkroom and had a show in the East Village—I became a visual artist. That’s when I realized writing is an act of creating visuals in readers’ minds. I suddenly saw writing as a visual art. Art is any way we transmit the visions in our heads and hearts to another person.

I always wanted to have a talented visual artist sketch from written accounts of my dreams, to see how accurately they could match what I saw in my dream—as a test of my own ability to write with precision. I still would love this! When I can afford it, I will commission an artist to sketch from my writing. Or maybe I’ll take a drawing class…

Making a Vision Board

I’d heard of The Vision Board. It started around the time “The Secret” came out (2006). Ever since Shakti Gawain’s book, Creative Visualization, became a classic after it was published in 1978, terms such as, “manifesting” dispersed through the atmosphere like bubbles. (If you’ve read the book, you know that’s an insider’s reference to her “pink bubbles” concept.)

Long story short, it had been a long time coming for me to undertake my first Vision Board creation project. My conversation with coach Sara Goff convinced me it was imperative that I try. She said that visuals speak to the subconscious. She said once the Vision Board was created, the act of gazing at it and connecting to our potential actually changes our magnetic field, and when we raise our electromagnetic vibration on a regular basis, motion toward our dreams is inevitable.

I finished the vision board late on a Sunday night, and Monday was invited to go on a hike with friends, on a trail I’d never been to before. Look at the startling similarity between an image on my Vision Board, and the place we went!

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“Close your eyes and relax deeply. Go to your inner sanctuary and spend a few minutes there, relaxing, getting oriented. Now imagine that within your sanctuary you are standing on a path that stretches off into the distance. You start to walk up the path, and as you do, you see in the distance a form coming toward you, radiating a clear, bright light.” – Shakti Gawain, Creative Visualization

Aspects of the endeavor surprised me, and continue to as I adopt the Vision Board as my new roommate. What didn’t surprise me was how long it took. For the first time, I anticipated that my OCD and perfectionism would slow me down, so I started with plenty of lead-time and finished on my personally set deadline, having worked for four separate nights over about a week. (My friend and coach, Sara Goff, has Vision Board Soirees, where people gather, imbibe, and creative Vision Boards in one evening. I probably spent 4 – 8 hours on the project, and $20-30 for magazines, posterboard, and double-sided tape. I timed the deadline to arrive after a round-trip flight to California, because one of my pre-children airport rituals was to buy my favorite magazines, like Dwell and Surface, whenever I passed through airports. This project sampled from yoga, spa, culinary, and travel magazines more than design magazines, because I wanted to feature people and not just spaces. But, as you’ll see, spaces influence me and my visioning. (Is that a word?) For once, I successfully budgeted my time!

What I Learned

Current themes in my life became more articulate, even as I avoided words.

Creative pursuits are undertaken at the expense of other activities. You can’t do everything, and you can’t have it all. In my case, with this endeavor, some household chores fell by the wayside. I spent a few bucks on magazines, poster board, and double-sided tape. This activity, for the expenditure of time and money, was a luxury. We say, “spending time and money that I don’t have”—well, I scraped enough together, and I’m glad I did. The ROI will be wellness and prosperity manifesting, as I bring them into sharper focus with this ritual.

Side projects and hobbies are valuable. You enjoy being right where you are, and usually it’s at home or not far from home.

What I Already Knew

Already knew I was a perfectionist. I could either work to cure my OCD and go against my preference for symmetry, blur the lines, break form, allow chaos to enter my next Vision Board, or relax into my process and appreciate my products as they are.

Please click on the two links for a short video tour of my first Vision Board!

Vision Board Tour Part I (6 minutes)

Vision Board Tour Part II (2 minutes)

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Completed vision board hanging on my wall.

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What I Love About Winter (Reprise)

Making a list of things I like about winter is like making a gratitude list when I’m in a bad mood; the goal is to turn my frown upside down, and the goal is uphill from where I am.

1. You can see deep into the forest. The trees are bare, so you can see a lot deeper into the forest than in summer. The forest is inviting in winter. However, I learned the hard way I’ll have to wait til temps rise above freezing to take the kids hiking.

2. Soup.

3. Stars on a crystal clear, cold night.

4. Hot chocolate.

Gee, this list is a lot harder to drum up than my first attempt was in 2011.

What do you love about winter? Give me some perspective.

5. Evergreen trees.

6. Suddenly remembering it’s time to visit relatives in Phoenix and Ft. Lauderdale.

What you aren’t able to hear before, during, and after this picture are the kids groaning that they’re too cold and tired to trudge another step. It was about 25F, after all. I just want to get good exercise and use my Deuter Kid Comfort 2 Backpack as much as possible!

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…Is it spring yet?

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Broke My Clean Streak

4+ years of nursing, and today, for the first time, I spilled coffee on the baby. (She’s alright.) How many mornings have we enjoyed a coffee with our first feeding in the morning? Hundreds, if not a thousand.

My fondest memories are of nursing 11-month-old Adela around 5am mornings on vacation in El Salvador.

The cook of the casa we rented would hear us wake, and bring a warm café con leche to the plastic chair where I’d look onto the beach and get coated in Pacific seaspray while nursing. I could think of nothing better.

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From the bitter Folgers my mom makes to the caramel latte I made this morning using our Aeroccino milk steamer/frother (best wedding present ever), the taste and smell of coffee have become strongly associated with morning nursing.

I am sure I’m joined by millions of other mothers participating simultaneously across the globe in this morning ritual. I commune with the multitudes of other moms nursing in that instant, and I connect with my baby by tuning in to what each sense is picking up. This is a 360-degree, immersive, sensual experience I hope never to forget.

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Lisa’s Inspirational Journey

MommyTheorist:

One amazing story that many people should read!

Originally posted on Scleroderma Foundation Greater Chicago Chapter:

Helfands

Stubborn, strong, resilient, annoyingly positive and ridiculously outspoken; all adjectives people have used to describe me. Are these compliments? It depends who you ask. I do know these characteristics have helped me through my darkest and brightest days living with scleroderma.

In 1985, after two years of misdiagnosing my symptoms, I was diagnosed with scleroderma at the ripe old age of ten. This was long before you could Google anything you wanted to learn about on the Internet. Growing up, all I knew about scleroderma was what my mom had told me, which was that my skin was tighter than most people’s. She did not tell me that I would develop telangiectasias all over my body, that my limbs would become mangled and deformed, or that my fingers and elbows would leak calcium. I discovered these cool party tricks for myself.

In 1993, while home on spring vacation my freshman…

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Homebirth of Bliss

 

THE BLESSINGWAY: TO GATHER THE STARS IN A SATCHEL, TO CONNECT WITH SUPPORT BEAMS

 

My husband helped me rally support around Bliss’s planned home birth. I had asked friends to write me a note, or a quote, to unfold while labor was unfolding. I wouldn’t read them until the day of the birth, when I needed to feel the presence of friends and family with me in the birthing room. Some people hand wrote cards and others emailed my husband so I wouldn’t see, and I stored them in a pretty bag I chose specially to hold these wishes.

 

On Friday morning, October 4th, I gathered with other expectant moms at a friend’s house who is a doula. She runs a monthly meeting in Westchester County, NY called a Positive Birth Group. I had a pink show on my undies and let my midwife know. She said “bloody show” might mean birth is imminent, or it could be two weeks, after losing one’s mucus plug, before the baby comes. So, I was pretty relaxed and enjoyed the gathering.

 

DO THE LAST THING ON YOUR TO-DO LIST, AND THE BABY WILL COME.

 

The night before, I had assembled all my birth art and affirmations to tape on the wall for inspiration and visual distraction during labor. It was the last thing on my to-do list, besides perfecting my music playlist.

 

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Assuming a healthy pregnancy, a woman goes into labor when she’s ready. When mamas who are overdue ask what to do to trigger labor, I tell them, “Do the last thing on your to-do list.”

 

(When our first daughter was 11 days overdue, we finally hung curtains in the guestroom, which was important to me, because we were anticipating houseguests. So, I also joke with moms who ask how to bring on labor, “Hang some curtains.”)

 

EARLY LABOR

 

Around 3:15pm on Friday, October 4, I started having mild contractions. I was excited, and felt a knowing inside. I was with our daughter, Adela, about three and a half years old. In the weeks preceding the baby’s due date, Adela and I went hiking, visited the ice cream shop, and did art projects together; I made an effort to be genuinely present with her in the final few days of our being a dynamic duo—because everything was about to shift.

 

That day, we went for a walk around the neighborhood. About six houses down the block was as far as I wanted to stray. Contractions were about 45 minutes apart, and starting to get regulara slow rhythm that allowed me to forget how much time had passed in between, but that nevertheless struck me as a rhythmand I was cued to pay closer attention to my body and say sayonara to the outside world. We chatted with our lovely neighbor, Janet. I said, “I’m in labor.”

 

She tried to hide being astonished. “You are??”

 

I said, “It’s very mild, but, I need to let you know, a contraction could come while I’m standing here, and I might need to lean on the tree.” I didn’t want her to be taken aback and me to feel awkward if I suddenly tensed up. Support during early labor coming from a TREE was the best thing I could ask for!

 

It was time to call my husband. On the phone, I said to David, “Nothing to worry about, and you probably don’t need to rush home, but. . . . I’m feeling things.”

 

“Things? Oh, I see. Things.”

 

VIDEO OF OUR DOULA, THERESA, RECOUNTING HER EXPERIENCE:

 

I was told to eat a good dinner and try to relax. I ate a home-cooked meal, and prepared my hydration elixir: fresh coconut water, straight from shaved coconuts from Andy’s Pure Food, fresh-squeezed lime juice, raw honey, and sea salt. I had a pitcher of this, and drank about two liters during labor. I also ate a little fruit.

 

Contractions progressed to about every 9 minutes, and I was told to drink a big glass of wine and try to sleep. Why? Because women who go into labor in the early evening may get fatigued and lack the stamina to labor through the night into the morning. My last labor was so long, I thought, “Why not get the show on the road? If it’s happening, why should we impede it?” I was skeptical, but it actually worked; I drank a glass of wine and contractions slowed to every half hour. I was able to sleep for two hours, just waking every half hour to breathe through a contraction. At 11pm, I let my husband know I wasn’t going back to sleep.

 

“THIS IS IT. IT’S GO TIME!”

 

Well, between 11pm and 1am, labor accelerated like a locomotive. My labor pattern followed a sharp trajectory, as contractions intensified and were more frequent.

 

I spontaneously started chanting, “I’m open, I’m breathing, I’m releasing. I’m open, I’m breathing, I’m releasing.”

 

For the most part, I wanted to be alone in our dimly lit bedroom. We had an elaborate setup in the living room, with a gorgeous birthing tub, different comfort stations with essential oils, candles, music, art, and a rope hanging from my husband’s chin-up bar, yet, I only wanted to be in the cave-like, cozy bedroom. I moved a birth ball up there so I could sit and rest my head on the bed between contractions. During contractions, I didn’t want to be touched. I’d asked my husband to stay out of sight during contractions, because I feared if he were nearby I’d break down and cry or complain to him, and I didn’t want to be plaintive. I wanted to be a woman warrior and/or goddess, or at least be graceful. Between contractions, he sweetly brought food and comfort. During contractions, I retreated into a private place.

 

The satchel of birth wishes! Labor was intensifying, and I hadn’t gotten to read everyone’s notes. David said, “Would you like me to read one out loud to you?”

 

This was the best idea he’s ever had!!! I wouldn’t have been able to hold the paper or even make simple choices…

 

I WAS IN “LABORLAND.”

 

I had agonized over my birth playlist, because, at our last birth, my playlist was too short and too sleepy/new-age/meditative. (Around hour 30 of my last birth, our midwife asked, “Do you have anything more upbeat? I think you need to be energized.” Since I was in laborland, I didn’t want anything to change. I didn’t want to fiddle with gadgets, nor did I want to hear a single note of a song that would rub me the wrong way. I admit, it was repetitive. Some 14-minute-long yoga chant kept playing on repeat, and I said, “Leave it.” Well, the upshot is, I can NEVER hear that song again! I haven’t deleted it, but if shuffle ever serves it up, I need to switch away—just like I couldn’t drink any more of the coconut cocktail later on, because I’d practically OD’d on it.)

 

In the trance of laborland, sounds filter into your ears and shape your experience. This time around, I had a wonderful playlist, that gave me a sense of rhythm and soothed me with positive lyrics and warm female voices. (Ask me, and I’ll be happy to share it.) Music played softly from my iPhone, which is ironic, because I’d made a huge effort to connect our computers so it could be played through speakers, and that never happened—one aspect of my birth plan that shiftedour baby was born 40 minutes before our midwife arrived.

 

David read me this AMAZING meditation, sent from a friend who’s had four children—so, she understands birth. I am sharing it here as an intro to our birth video, because when the video begins, I’m repeating the word “low,” trying to keep my throat open and my voice low, as Ina May Gaskin recommends.

Please read the meditation, and then, if you’d like, watch the video that opens with me in the bathroom where Bliss was born, at 1:22am October 5th, 2014, saying, “Low, low, low…”

 

 

FOR MICHELLE

 

(this is more my thoughts during labor than scripted affirmation)

 

Some people are so relaxed they feel no pain. Calm. Low voice. Lower. Lower. Every surge centers me more deeply and makes me calmer. Calm is a low voice, my voice is low, my baby is lower. Low. Lower. Bring my baby lower with my voice. Hum. Calm. Lower. So calm they feel no pain at all. I am low and relaxed, my body is soft and loose and open. I am calm. Another surge is coming, I will greet it with calm. I will allow it to carry me to deeper centeredness and calm. I am soft. I am calm. My voice is low. I hum, hum lower and lower. My voice brings the baby lower and lower. My body is loose, I am so calm I feel no pain. Everything is as it should be. There are no distractions where I am. I have let go of fear and tension. Breathed them out. Now I am deeply calm and soft and loose and low. I will greet this baby with calm.

 

Inhale PEACE, EXHALE tension. PEACE in tension OUT.

 

Tzipora Lifchitz

 

Bliss Elka Blaustein was born at home at 1:22am. Here is the last 14 minutes of labor and her peaceful and healthy arrival in our bathroom. THIS IS OUR UNEDITED BIRTH VIDEO. THE VIEW IS FROM THE SIDE, IN A CANDLELIT ROOM. IT’S AN EXAMPLE OF AN ECSTATIC, EMPOWERING, UNDISTURBED, AND NATURAL BIRTH, FREE OF ANY INTERVENTIONS. We think it is beautiful, and has some funny moments, like me saying, “Take my clothes off!” and “It’s coming, David!” and David “checking under the hood.” We realized the baby was coming fast, and we were alone until our doula arrived just in time to catch the baby. 

 

 

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