As human beings became separated from the natural world over the millennia, we now face an ecological crisis around the planet that has dire consequences for other species and future generations. What we face is a spiritual crisis as humanity, in the industrialized West, has lost a sense of the sacred within all creation. I believe in the power of art and ceremony to break open hearts and to shift consciousness around our interconnectedness in the life web.
The Nature Mandala Ceremony is inspired by my pilgrimage to Peru in 2006 where I learned the ancient ways of the Q’ero who live high in the Andes in deep reciprocity, or ayni (EYE-knee), with the living earth. In the Andean spiritual tradition, the despacho is an elaborate ceremony performed by paqos (shamans) as an offering of gratitude and healing for pachamama (mother earth) or a mountain spirit. They are created with cocoa leaves, flowers, seeds, money, ribbons, and sweets, etc, and on completion of the ceremony, the despacho is burned or buried.
We see sacred circles throughout the natural world and mandalas have long been a vehicle for healing and meditation in many spiritual traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and the indigenous medicine wheel. The mandala is a symbol reminding us of our connection to the infinite, the universe, and all creation.
Bringing together the healing power and beauty of the despacho and the mandala, I designed the Nature Mandala Ceremony so that people of all ages and faiths could have a fun and creative way to co-create a visual representation of our interdependence in the web of creation. All the items used in making the mandala are gifts we receive from the earth such as lentils, kidney beans, popcorn kernels, candy, rice, seeds, pasta, etc. With the addition of flowers, leaves, and colored sand, we create this sacred offering in the spirit of ayni for the healing of the earth. At the close of each event, the mandala is ceremonially dismantled and gifted to the river—sending our prayers out in all directions.
Because the vision for my work as an artist is around bringing forward the indigenous roots present within all our faith traditions and having worked with the mandala in my paintings, it was a natural evolution to integrate this ceremony into my workshops and public events with a similar intention. I believe deeply that no matter what faith we choose or inherit—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, or science, we are all born of the earth. What our ancestors knew intimately, we must remember; that the earth is holy and worth of our reverence and care.
Over the past several years, I have brought this ceremony to sustainability, educational, environmental, and faith-based events and conferences around the Pacific Northwest region. People are always appreciative of the mandala-making process as it brings a spiritual component to the event and provides a place to sink into the heart as attendees are often receiving a lot of data. It is also a potent symbol of our solidarity in serving our world and the nature of impermanence as we release attachments to outcome.
I feel honored to bear witness to the creation of these mandalas and to listen to what is alive in people’s hearts. Many feel profound grief and I sense a longing for deeper meaning, purpose, and connection in our lives. It’s why ceremony is so powerful in breaking open our hearts to each other and our world, and to inspire actions that serve the living earth from a place of love.
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Read Amy Livingstone’s article: Re-visioning Our Holy Earth
Visit Amy Livingstone’s website: http://sacredartstudio.net