I know it has been a very long time since I’ve last blogged. I haven’t forgotten, nor given up; I’ve just been busy with lots of new hobbies, which resulted in an epiphany that I will write about here!
So in case you have forgotten my glumness towards the end of the summer, and my summer challenge, I had to postpone my progress toward Monkey Pose and take a hiatus from strenuous asana practice, due to a strained/pulled/partially torn something, most likely the tendon, above my left knee. This has been annoying, upsetting and frightening. I think even wannabe athletes like me know that there are certain body parts you never want to hear with the word “injury” thereafter, like: knee, hamstring, shoulder, spinal… Those are usually the big ones.
At any rate, I had to find another way to lose myself into something healthy, to get the release of endorphins and blessed relief that my physical yoga practice brings. Isn’t that one of the reasons why you kept returning to your yoga mat too? You know what I mean: that feeling, where the rest of the world disappears, because you are focusing on something else entirely, and listening to only your own body and mind. It is intoxicating, and necessary for our peace and balance.
And thus, because I was searching for something to distract myself from the fact that I wasn’t really exercising much of any kind, I wanted to do something fun, challenging and new. I also wanted to allow my creative energy to be indulged. Spirit week at one of the two high schools I work at spurred the first new hobby: painting. I painted many jaguars and helped teach kiddos the basics of drawing simple animals (which I learned from online tutorials), so that we could paint on top of them later. The kids also taught me a thing or two! I found that while I can doodle a bit, detailed drawings are not my forte. I have way too much to learn about shadowing and blending. However, with painting, it is more about your interpretation of what you see, rather than copying exactly what you are viewing. One can be freer with technique. I was intrigued by the idea of using an image to base my sketch on, so that the arches and shapes and angles of the animals made them look real; but then, using the paint to really tell the story of what I saw in my mind’s eye. Not what I saw on the picture of a wolf someone else had done, but rather what I felt or thought of during that time when I was painting, emerged more.
The second hobby was started because since September, the craft stores of our nation have been slowly (or not so slowly), filling with Christmas merchandise. Now, I am of the doctrine that believes in decorating for the winter holidays AFTER Thanksgiving, but I understand that those who wish to make a living selling holiday decor need to start early (because NOW, there is not a whole lot left in the Xmas section of craft stores). However, despite keeping my harvest decor up until after Thanksgiving, ever since I was a child, Christmas decorations, especially trees, have been my favorite things on the planet. I used to sit, or lie, as a child, and gaze up at the tree until I fell asleep. I would play with the ornaments like a Christmas town. Honestly, I have done it many times as an adult. The lights and colors and what they represent soothe me. It is almost hypnotic. Therefore, I decided to spice up a Christmas wreath of mine one day, and made one for someone else, and had so much fun doing that that I decided to start a small business that creates such decorations (find me on Etsy!). I have been having a blast making as many wreaths as a can! I have always loved doing things with my hands, thus my abundant amount of yard work this summer. However, I never really have gotten into the crocheting or needlepoint that my mom and aunts swear by. I can say though, that the way they say they feel while doing those crafts, is the same way I feel whilst doing mine. It is surrender to the moment, enjoying the space and the progress you are in, creating something beautiful.
Now you might be thinking, “What the heck does any of this have to do with yoga?” I will tell you! I realized during painting, and wreath making, that these two activities were becoming my version of a mandala. A mandala is a visual of some kind (drawings are the most popular), typically set within a circle, with a distinct pattern set throughout, that aids in meditation. One is supposed to create, color in or simply gaze at the mandala and allow the mind to enjoy the swoops and nuances it has, as well as appreciate the symbolism and symmetry that it represents. I truly wonder if that is yet another reason why I love stained glass windows, or perhaps why stained glass was put into churches in the first place! Church is a place where reflection and meditation become prayer, and maybe it has helped others. If you have been shopping at bookstores and craft shops lately, you will have seen, as I have, an explosion of grown up coloring books. Not kidding. These are mandalas or mandala-esque.
Mandalas represent the universe, usually having four gates, and symbols that represent stages of life, deities, and characteristics to be sought for, as well as natural elements, known shapes and patterns that please the mind, as well as the eye. These adult coloring books that are on sale now, are just again another way that the modern world is finally catching up to the ancient one. There are scientific proven effects that show how your brain changes during meditation, and the multitude of benefits it has on your entire physiological system. Following the pattern, doing the same movement with your pencil, allowing your mind to wander as each spiral or curve reminds you of something pleasant, are just a few of the ways that your brain will eventually take a chill pill as you use a mandala.
And so, I ask you, what is your mandala? Should you run to Michael’s and purchase a coloring book for grownups? Or, is it more of a physical creation like mine has turned out to be? Or is it something entirely different? I definitely recommend that if you don’t think you have a mandala- an act that helps you zen out that ISN’T physical exercise in nature- you search for one! It is something for YOU, and you only. So go out and find it! #MyMandala