Category Archives: Art and Healing

Why dream, when you can do? Art journals & “collage montage”


Journals and notebooks are used for so many things. Some chronicle world events on a large scale like the newspaper, while others may be used to bring our attention to a smaller, present moment. Others might be a playground for developing ideas and stories. Maybe the journal you know is more of a place for mind dumps and wandering thoughts or maybe yours is beautifully adorned with poetry and other holy insights. Perhaps a journal to you is just an empty page inviting that doodle in you to come out. Whatever journaling means to you, there is a deep and therapeutic aspect to it. Next month we will have a guest blogger on to speak, or I should say write, about the healing nature of writing, and I can’t wait. But for tonight, I wanted to quick plug my love for art journals and the power of image with words as it relates to health and wellness.

2.13.13_CollageTonight I started what I hope to be a habit, the first page of an art journal, what I like to playfully call “collage montage” (a bit redundant, but it rhymes). This isn’t my first rodeo. My first intentional visual art journal was birthed freshman year of college during an interim course called, “Arts, Culture and Context” that took place on Lake Street in Minneapolis. I never finished my journal because of my perfectionist ways – I told the teacher that I would do it later on my own time (so I could do it the right way instead of rush through it). Well I owe my professor a big apology as it’s been 9 years since the course and the journal is stored on a shelf, collecting dust, still unfinished. I’ve made peace with it, mainly because I still have the opportunity and urge to journal in a way that is not just capturing words but images. (I’m still working on the perfectionist thing, but that’s for another post ;))

Images are so powerful. As they say, “a picture is worth a 1,000 words”. Think about how images affect us – some of us can read books with graphic scenes and descriptions but cannot stomach to see it on the big screen. Images have a way of staying with us. But, what happens if we take some control over the images we see – or we put images to the feelings we have deep inside of us? Sometimes there are no words, but there are images that arise in our consciousness. What would it look like if we took the time to explore those images?

Those are the questions I sit with tonight and I hope to sit with tomorrow. How does image impact you? Do you have an empowering image that you keep nearby? Is there an image inside of you? Do you need to let it out?

I dedicate this post to dear Kris and Nan, my original research partners and forever soul friends. I owe this recent revival of interest in art journaling to the two of you. Thank you so much! Please keep all of the MR readers posted on whatever form your deep research takes next. We so look forward to it! 

On mandalas…What kind of mandala is yours?


Despite being named Mandala Reflections, this blog hasn’t taken the time to devote a ton of information about the circular gems. So here is a quickie for you!

#One: A quote from Pema Chodren’s new book that captures the beauty of the mandala. (Thank you, Mary for sharing!)

“Each person’s life is like a mandala- a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life. We enter a room, and the room is our mandala. We get on the subway, and the subway car is our mandala, down to the teenager checking messages on her iPhone and the homeless man slumped in the corner. We go for a hike in the mountains, and everything as far as we can see is our mandala: the clouds, the trees, the snow on the peeks, even the rattlesnake coiled in the corner. We’re lying in a hospital bed, and the hospital is our mandala. We don’t set it up, we don’t get to choose what or who shows up in it. It is, As Chogyam Trungpa said, ‘the mandala that is never arranged but is always complete.’ And we embrace it just as it is. Everything that shows up in your mandala is a vehicle for your awakening. From this point of view, awakening is right at your fingertips continually. There’s not a drop of rain or a pile of dog poop that appears in your life that isn’t the manifestation of enlightened energy, that isn’t a doorway to sacred world. But it’s up to you whether your life is a mandala of neurosis or a mandala of sanity.”
(From Pema’s newest book, Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change)


(Photo and mandala coloring courtesy of K. Higgins)

#Two: Some former classmates of mine are putting on a workshop on Mandalas late February! You should really consider attending if you are interested in learning more about them and how you can utilize them in your life. They are charging $25 for this workshop – an incredible value for being in community with and learning about a fascinating topic from incredibly knowledgeable women.  (They dedicated their master’s research project to the very topic of mandalas – very juicy stuff ;)). For more information on the event, check out their Facebook event page.