as Healing Instruments
Magic, pure and simple. That is how I would describe the two wonderful artistic healing tools, kaleidoscopes and mandalas. As I set out on my adventure to find out more about them, I had no idea of their power, and found that people in general had also not heard of these delightful tools.
Then, with the help of two masters who have devoted most of their adult lives to learning and educating others on the subject, I discovered that kaleidoscopes and mandalas can be significant contributors to a person's overall health and well being. Having met both Susan St. Thomas (expert on mandalas) and Barbara Mitchell (expert on kaleidoscopes), I have been inspired to share this topic in the hope of educating and bringing joy and healing to others with the help of these two magnificent arts.
Susan St. Thomas has spent 25 years on a journey of educating people on the inner workings of mandalas. She is an adjunct faculty member in the Graduate School for Holistic Studies at John F. Kennedy University in the San Francisco Bay area and presents workshops and seminars in Europe and the U.S. focusing on cross-cultural healing arts traditions. I asked Susan what "mandala" means. Her reply: "Mandala means "holy circle" in Sanskrit, and symbolizes one's reintegration with the divine. In every culture, the mandala form is included in its sacred art, traditionally for meditation, ceremony and healing rituals. Native Americans create personal shields as symbols of power and protection. Buddhist and Hindu forms include intricate diagrams, maps of the cosmos and instruments for prayer. Tribal women of India lay out mandalas in front of their homes daily as blessings for the family.
"The central point of the mandala represents the center of being from which radiates manifestation in its many forms, just as the planets in our solar system orbit the sun and symbolize diverse life energies. The circumference of the circle is the border, which both protects the sacred center and unites one with the eternal. 'God is a sphere whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere,' says an old Gnostic proverb. In Navaho, 'Hozho' means a state of harmony, balance and union with the forces of nature. The mandala reminds us of this state of divine symmetry." Susan has found harmonious order in nature; in the shamanic ritual arts of India, Tibet, Australia, ancient European cultures, and Sufis; and in the ceremonial arts of Native Americans. She has put together a "multi-image" slide/sound presentation that features the collected works of both ancient and contemporary artists in their natural settings. Susan is well known for her mandalas, dreamscapes and prayer rug series. The rich techniques she achieves with the watercolor medium remind us of the multi-dimensional world in which we live. As I ponder this and look around, I realize that I truly never really noticed how intricate manadalas are, and how they surround us in our everyday lives. Even a simple little thing such as a snowflake reminds us of the beauty bestowed upon us from above.
As my personal interest grew in the actual healing powers of these tools, I was then introduced to Barbara Mitchell, who has truly elevated the kaleidoscope to an instrument for healing and inner peace as well as providing inspirational entertainment. In 1986, Barbara won an award from the Kaleidoscope Brewster Society, an international club for designers and collectors from around the globe, for her creative ingenuity in her design of the SpectraSphere_. This is a projection kaleidoscope, which is equipped with a polyangular two-mirror lens system, giving the viewer an endless variety of intricate patterns. It can also project images from a wide range of different types of cells, as well as cells containing transparencies. Barbara Mitchell has harnessed technology, breaking kaleidoscopes out of their tubular constraints to take shape on projected screens through her unique SpectaSphere_. This invention has elevated the kaleidoscope to a therapeutic instrument for healing, creating inner peace, eliminating stress, enhancing meditation, and creating a health benefiting altered state, presented through purely joyous entertainment.
Healthy emotions are as important as a healthy body, perhaps even more so. The kaleidoscope's and mandala's ability to soothe and stimulate at the same time make them perfect balancers. To quote Dr. Clifford Khun, Psychiatrist, from the University of Kentucky, "The essence of health is wholeness, and integration of body, mind, and spirit in equilibrium. Medical research has revealed that many of our current illnesses are the result of the effect of stress, which seems universal in our modern society. Stress is destructive to our body, disorganizing to our mind, and disabling to our spirit. "It has been demonstrated that a regular habit of quietly drawing aside from one's usual responsibilities for reflection and relaxation significantly repairs or prevents the potentially destructive effects of daily stress. Kaleidoscope and mandala viewing is one such activity of repair. It is restorative to the body in that it requires physical stillness and stimulates pleasant visual sensations. At the same time, it has a beneficial effect on the mind by presenting an endless variety of form and color combinations that stir the imagination and stimulate the intellect." Kaleidoscopes and Mandalas are, likewise, good medicine to the spirit, as they reflect the constant emergence of order from disorder and provide a sense of participation in the creative process. In this way, regular viewing of kaleidoscopes and mandalas can be a significant contributor to a person's overall health. The infinite colors that are created only entice us into them. There is a lot of choice in seeing life with many colors. Explaining the colors as they are associated with emotions is helpful to some, says Barbara Mitchell. For example, red relates to anger, blue to depression, yellow to hope, green to life, etc.
We talk about how the human being is wonderfully made, how the physical, emotional and spiritual components are synchronized, but in terminal illness, the physical body deteriorates. The emotions then have to work with trying to balance the decline in physical status, so the spiritual growth often takes on a greater importance. By incorporating these tools into the healing arts, you are not only adding joy to your life but are taking yourself on one truly great spiritual journey of stillness and bliss. How wonderful to know that such a simple object can not only heal us, but open us up to the infinite possibilities of our own personal growth.
Visions Gallery, #8 102nd Avenue NE in Old Bellevue, will be hosting a "Kaleidoscopes and Mandalas" show May 21 through May 30. Susan St. Thomas will be there on May 21 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m.; and Barbara Mitchell on May 22 and 23, with her workshop on Saturday, May 25. Please call Visions Gallery for reservations at (206) 646-8110.
The Brewster Society's International Kaleidoscope Convention is at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue, WA, May 24 through 30.