Working through discouragement – from darkness back into light
This past week, I have been mired in discouragement.
It’s not uncommon for this time of year. The holidays are over and the dull days of winter are settling in.
It hit me hard this time – right after the excitement of the labyrinth at New Year’s Eve. Add to the seasonal blues a few pieces of bad news, some dreams that didn’t pan out the way I’d hoped, an argument or two, some money stress, and a little rejection I hadn’t anticipated, and I was stuck in the middle of a serious case of the doldrums.
There was a big ugly cloud hanging over my head and I wasn’t pleasant to be with. It’s not completely gone yet, but it’s getting better.
A silver lining to that black cloud turned out to be the mandala practice I’ve committed to for 2012. Despite my lack of energy or enthusiasm, I was committed to making a mandala every day. When I made that commitment, only a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t anticipate how much I’d need it so soon. It turned out to be my saving grace.
Yesterday, in the middle of one of my darkest moments, when I was questioning my worth because of the rejection I was taking way too seriously, I snuck away from my family, put my head on my desk and cried.
After the tears dried up, I picked up my mandala journal. And then I did something I’ve never done before – I made a mandala completely void of colour. If you’ve seen my other mandalas, you know that colour is important part of me, so this felt like a significant departure – and yet it was one of the best things I could have done.
I made a lament mandala. Lament is one of those old words that we should reclaim in our vocabulary. According to dictionary.com, a lament is “a formal expression of sorrow or mourning, especially in verse or song: an elegy or dirge”. Laments feel too depressing to celebrate or honour, and so we mostly ignore them or hide them in our own private journals. Unlike the writers of the Old Testament, we rarely publish our laments for the world to see. Our discouragement is kept in the closet.
And yet, because I know that many of you suffer from the same kind of discouragement that attacks me now and then (we’re all wonderful flawed humans), I’m going to share my lament mandala. I love the process and I love the result. I think it’s a powerful tool for anyone who needs to find a path through their discouragement.
I started with the word LAMENT in the centre, grey on grey, and then drew a winding path, representing my journey through discouragement, loss, sadness, pain, etc.
After my lament mandala was complete, something significant happened. I fell in love with it. I fell in love with it as a piece of art, but more than that, I fell in love with the big ball of humanity that is my discouragement, my sadness, and my rejection. I felt like a mother, nurturing her own child through the dark places.
And then I wanted to make another mandala. It felt like an unfinished process. My lament child was urging me to birth something else.
I opened another page and drew a circle. Inside the circle, I started writing my thoughts in random colours all over the page. At first, the things that were coming out were quite dark. “Why so much pain?” “Why so many road blocks?” “How do I deal with rejection?” and “Do I need to find a job again?”
But then, almost like magic, the words started shifting. The mandala-making was shifting my mood. I started to write more hopeful things, starting with the things I need, like “I need a miracle, Sophia”, and then moving on to a recognition of the importance of what I’m doing, “my work is important” and “I need to keep doing this work” and “I want to teach creative people.”
When it felt like there were enough words, I picked up the pencil crayon that felt the best at the moment. Surprisingly, it was orange – bright, cheery, hopeful orange. And in the centre, a glowing circle of yellow.
While I finished it, my observer-self showed up, looking on as if from above, witnessing myself doing my creative practice, recognizing the shift, and knowing how incredibly important it is and how much I need to continue to share it.
Like I said in my last post, THIS is important – this doodling, this mandala-making, this creative practice. THIS is my gift to share with the world. This isn’t just something I’m doing for fun – it changes people. It changes communities. It changes paradigms. It helps people enter the chaos, disappointment and lament, follow the paths where they lead us, and eventually emerge into new light.
This is too important not to share.
And so I will do my best to share it, starting with my upcoming workshop, Creative Discovery. (This one is an in-person class in Winnipeg, but I’ll create future online versions.)
If you want to learn more about mandala-making, laments, and other forms of creative practice, let me know in the comments. I want to hear what you need. I want to know how I can serve you in this work. I want to offer things that will help people work through whatever they need to work through.
Because THIS is my “original medicine” (in the words of Gail Larsen).
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