What does the Mandala of your soul look like?

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I am gazing at a picture of a beautiful mandala made entirely of stones. Each one is painted differently. Some with curly fronds, others with symmetrical floral knots, but all silhouettes of the natural world. The center is a lacy confection of white designs feathered onto a brown rock, reminiscent of gingerbread. I don’t usually think of mandalas this way. Rock and stone. Silhouettes and gingerbread. I usually see painted glowing swirls of geometrics, looking luminous and celestial on a shaving of paper or a sheet of canvas. But I look at this one and think, “why not?” What does the mandala of my soul look like? What illumination do the interiors create for me and others at this moment? Is it a gingerbread stone, bringing complexity and joy all at once to my own self, then fingering them out through gifts of awareness of beauty to those around me? Is mine a windy labyrinth where trust is illuminated only one footstep at a time, but you can hear the pulse and voice of birdsong over the twisting walls, radiating both toward and away from me? Is it a field of fallen leaves creating an overlapping pattern of both life and death, beginnings and endings, sugar maple red, and rich compost brown, delicately trailing paths of newness and rebirthing all around?

 

What is the mandala of your soul today?

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A personal threshold-crossing poem

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This time of year, we tend to cross thresholds. Children leave through our front doors for kindergarten or college, and anything in between. Summer melts away into preparations for fall. And the adjustments in our own interiors can feel like both loss and release. Here is a poem I wrote that reminds me to cross the most intimate threshold with courage- the one inside ourselves.

Bless the Threshold

Before you cross it today,

pause.

You are leaving the inside

for the outside-

the safety of interiors

for the adventure

of exteriors,

the known, for the

unknown,

or perhaps not.

For the interiors are a

a world unto themselves-

a slow-brewing moment,

a slow-stirring movement,

a dark brooding over the waters,

a bowl of mystery,

a temple of stars,

a sacred altar where

sacrifices are made

with slow, wandering hands,

and flickering hearts

near small, relentless

candles,

under the soft chant of

audible breaths.

Before you cross it today,

pause.

You are leaving the outside

for the inside.

The safety of the exteriors

for the adventure of the

interiors, the known,

for the unknown.

– Gina Marie Mammano

First rite of passage: creating spaces

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paper and lace doily luminarias in “the room of celebration”

We were living in a beige neighborhood with stucco walls and neutral carpet (the accepted uniform for houses in the area). We weren’t raking in the bucks at our current jobs, so reserving an ultra rarified space with wooden floors and haloed light was not an option for this rite of passage. In fact, renting a space didn’t even rent any space in my mind at the time. As the granddaughter of Angelina Castellino Mammano, Sicilian immigrant and crafter of household wall art from broken bottles and dress-making scraps, I knew that making do was the right thing to do.

I had already formed a plan for theming each room for the event. I wanted a room of stories for sharing adolescent gems from the diaries of memory, a room of wisdom to gift Ginny with symbols of growth into womanhood, a room of blessing to pour words of hope and affirmation over my daughter’s body and soul, and a “room” of celebration to party till the twinkly lights shined no more!

Combining “making do” with these themed elements was my challenge. How could I make a room of stories a warm and safe place to mine the treasures of the historied heart? How would I make a room of wisdom that honors my daughter’s own sensibilities of beauty and taste? Could a room of blessing become a holy space without wooden floors, sacred echoes, and sanctified ceilings? What space could best hold a feast and a riotously celebratory dance party all at the same time?

Well, with a call out to a couple of women included in the special day for suggestions and ideas, as well as a gathering, yes, an actual gathering of materials in my living room of things I had on hand (quilts, fancy fabrics, folk art carvings, photographs, mis-matched tea cups!), I created simple, but beautiful spaces that held what I had hoped my home would house most on that important day: a homespun montage of warmth and meaning.

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My daughter relishes the “room of wisdom”