Sunday, 10 January 2016

Mandalas, Past and Present

"Supernova Mandala", painting by Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 
acrylic and white glue on canvas board, 1972

Mandalas (Sanskrit for circle) originated as a spiritual and ritual symbol in Indian religions, representing the universe. Over time, the term “mandala” has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically. 

As well, the word has been adopted in modern usage for any geometric pattern that forms a cohesive unit, usually in some artistic format. The basic form of most mandalas is a square containing a circle with a center point. Mandalas often exhibit radial balance. 

The term "mandala" appears in early Hindu religious and political thought and writings but, over time, the term has appeared in other religions and philosophies as well, particularly Buddhism. In the various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be used as an aid for focussing the attention of practitioners of meditation, used as a spiritual guidance tool or used for establishing a sacred space. 

As well, forms which are evocative of mandalas are prevalent in Christianity. Some examples of this would be the celtic cross, the rosary, the halo or nimbus, the Crown of Thorns, rose windows and the dromenon on the floor of Chartres Cathedral (said to represent a journey from the outer world to the inner sacred centre where the Divine is found). As well, many of the illuminations of Hildegard von Bingen can be viewed as mandalas.

"Mandala -- Indian Lotus (tip of the hat to Carl Jung!)", drawing by
Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, 2015

It is said that we owe the re-introduction of mandalas into modern Western thought to Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst. In his pioneering exploration of the unconscious through his own art making, Jung observed the motif of the circle spontaneously appearing. The circle drawings reflected his inner state at that moment. Familiarity with the philosophical writings of India prompted Jung to adopt the word "mandala" to describe these circle drawings he and his patients made. 

In his autobiography, Jung wrote: "I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,...which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time....Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:...the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious." — Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections 

Jung felt that the urge to make mandalas emerges during moments of intense personal growth. It was his opinion that their appearance indicates that a profound re-balancing process is underway in the psyche and that the result of the process is a more complex and better integrated personality.

Many people have become aware of mandalas through hearing about or experiencing art therapy.  On the web site called "Art Therapy", I found the following statement: 

The very nature of creating a mandala is therapeutic and symbolic. The shapes and colors you create in your mandala art therapy will reflect your inner self at the time of creation. Your instinct and feeling should inspire and guide you through the process of creation. Ultimately, you will be creating a portrait of yourself as you are when creating the mandala.  
To read the entire article, go to:

"Lotus, Indian -- Nelumbo nucifera", drawing by Sarah " Sallie" Thayer, 2010 

As for me, I am discovering, as I continue to re-visit older flower drawings, that I am beginning to see mandalas forming almost spontaneously as I set about re-working the various parts of the original image. So prepare yourselves for the presentation of any number of flower mandalas in the weeks ahead!

Portions of the above information were taken from various Internet sources.


Suki waiting for the "red bug" to re-appear!
I don't blame Joycelyn for getting the laser pointer as I was the one who thought it would be a good idea in the first place; however, I am beginning to rue the day that she brought that thing into our lives.  It has certainly changed a thing or two.

In the past, when Joycelyn would arrive early in the morning, Suki was open her eyes, blink once or twice in the general direction of Joycelyn and then go right back to sleep.  Now, as soon as Suki hears Joycelyn getting off the elevator, she is at the front door, waiting.  When she sees Joycelyn, Suki's eyes get all big and black. She is actually all aquiver with excitement! 

The more I observe Suki's behaviour in relation to this laser light, the more convinced I become that, for her, it is almost like a drug and she has quickly become one very addicted cat.

As I mused on these matters, I decided to take a look on the Internet at what various folks have had to say about these "toys" in relation to their own pets.  In doing so, I came across the following:


Only under certain circumstances -- and you must use them in ways that are good for your cat.  Marilyn Krieger | May 9th 2013

The problems with laser play

It’s not news that lasers are hazardous. Shining laser beams into eyes -- human as well as feline -- can cause permanent eye damage. Recent news reports highlight the dangers of laser pointers aimed at helicopters and airplanes. Yet the problems with laser pointers are not limited to eyes and aircraft. People typically play with cats using laser pointers in a way that frustrates and teases cats. Laser players usually point and dance the beams randomly on the floors and walls for their cats to chase. Certain of a successful catch, they pounce only to find there is nothing under their paws. The bright red dot disappears, or it lingers on the wall or settles for an instant on a paw. Cats are left frustrated, without the opportunity to feel the tactile sensation of their hard-earned prey. Felines need to have the satisfaction of the hunt — to catch and feel their prey beneath their paws.

Laser play the right way

Before getting into action, set up the environment for the game. In addition to the laser pointer, soft cat toys and highly prized cat food are needed for the job. Before playing, place the toys strategically throughout the play zone. Have food and treats at the ready. Begin the laser game by aiming the beam in front of the cat and zigzagging it away from her. Periodically, encourage the cat to "catch" the elusive beam by pausing the light on one of the stuffed toys that is now doubling as prey. Before moving the beam off the toy, the cat needs to feel the toy solidly under her paws. The intensity and length of the sessions will vary and depend on the individual cat’s age, physical conditioning, and level of interest. The play session endings are as important as their beginnings. Instead of ending abruptly, gradually slow down the beam until it finally comes to rest on a soft toy..... see the remainder of the article at:
Used with permission

I tried to do what the article suggests, but, lo and behold, Suki is such an addict that she completely ignored the "soft toys" Joycelyn had spread around the floor.  Instead, she just sat there waiting for the red dot to start moving again.

Whenever the person moving the red dot gets too tired to continue, Suki sits there and begs for more.  When she finally realizes that nothing is going to happen, she spends the next two hours searching intently for that blessed red light.  

At this point, I am uncertain as to whether I should ask the vet to put Suki in some sort of drug withdrawal program or just try to ignore the worst aspects of her behaviour and simply be grateful that she is getting more exercise!

A gift from some friends
As for me, I am doing about the same.  I did have a good number of visitors this past week -- people still catching up on their holiday visiting -- and even though I found the visits tiring, I must say that I did enjoy seeing my friends.  

To the left is a photo of a beautiful orchid that my friends brought me as a gift when they visited on Friday.  Not only will I enjoy its beauty, but I will probably end up using it as a model for a new drawing.

This coming week should be a quiet one as there are no visitors or medical appointments scheduled -- just me, Joycelyn and laser-pointer-mad Suki.  What fun!



"Icon -- The Baptism of the Lord", by the hand of Sarah "Sallie" Thayer, rev. 2016

A feeling of expectancy had grown among the people, who were beginning to think that John might be the Christ, so John declared before them all, ‘I baptise you with water, but someone is coming, someone who is more powerful than I am, and I am not fit to undo the strap of His sandals; He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Now when all the people had been baptized and while Jesus after his own baptism was at prayer, the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily shape, like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my Son, the Beloved; my favour rests on You.’ Luke 3:15-16,21-22 

Collect for this Sunday:

Almighty ever-living God, who, when Christ had been baptized in the River Jordan and as the Holy Spirit descended upon Him, solemnly declared Him your beloved Son, grant that your children by adoption, reborn of water and the Holy Spirit, may always be well pleasing to you. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.   


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