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Sacred Imagination
August 2000 Column & Gallery

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Dana's Current Column

by Dana Reynolds

Each month, Dana Reynolds shares her life-transforming thoughts, ideas, and sacred imagination based around our "theme of the month."  She also presents the story and creativity of one chosen reader, whose spiritual journey can touch all of our lives.  Dana is a visionary Spiritual Midwife, who devotes herself to helping women birth their creative gifts into the world.

"Art and Creativity: Transforming Life’s Challenges into Beauty and Story"

Recently I have become very aware of how often grief and mourning surface in our lives. Our losses include not only the departure of the physical presence of those near and dear through death, but we also endure loss through divorce, or moving away from familiar surroundings. Changes in employment, children growing up and leaving home, and other transitional life events also create voids in our hearts and souls. We are constantly letting go of people, places, and things as we circumnavigate the pathways of life.

How do we cope, and more importantly heal, during the times that sweep over us with grief, pain, and loss? How do we transform agony into the clay from which new beginnings can be shaped and formed? I believe that each of us carries tools for healing the empty places created by grief through our sacred imaginations and creativity.

There comes a time in the grieving process when the spirit signals it is ready to move forward, to engage in a return to life, to begin again…. yet the body and mind resist. This is the time to co-create with the Divine to open the doorway to deeper healing and to begin the return journey to life from the depths of the abyss. Making sacred art, creating altars and shrines, writing poetry or expressing feelings in a journal, these activities engage the body, mind, and spirit in a dance of physical manifestation, imagining and contemplation, and mystical expression. When we engage with the sacred imagination we step into the alchemist’s chamber. This is the place where transformation occurs.

Many famous writers and artists have expressed that some of their greatest works were born from their darkest moments. Through the suffering, pain, and loss, the human heart and soul are dropped like a bucket into a well to be filled with solace and healing. When the bucket is full to overflowing it is time to pull it up from the darkness into the light to be emptied into the river of life where the waters of grief merge with the flow that is unending. Art and creativity and the sacred imagination are the hands that pull the bucket from the well of recovery to be poured into the river of life once again.

May Sarton said, "We have to keep the channels in ourselves open to pain. At the same time it is essential that true joys be experienced, that the sunrise not leave us unmoved, for civilization depends on the true joys, all those that have nothing to do with money or affluence---nature, the arts, human love."

If you are grieving a loss or know someone who is, here are two gentle suggestions for ways to honor and integrate pain by transforming it into beauty and prayer. It is important to mention that each individual has his/her own particular way of journeying through the grief process. There is no universal map to guide the way. To hurry the process is not the goal. Rather, think of art, creativity, and sacred imagination as kind friends who are present and ready to offer support and wisdom.

The Blessing Bowl: When a person is going through a dark and painful time it is helpful to have touchstones, reminders of love, support, and joy, present and near for comfort. Create a Blessing Bowl by gathering small objects and touchstones to represent healing and nurturing. These may include an array of treasured keepsakes; tiny gifts received from friends and family, special finds from nature, and other visual reminders of love and caring. Add your prayers written on dried leaves. Next, fill a shallow bowl (large enough to hold your touchstones) with sand. Arrange the objects with prayerful intention in the bowl. You may want to place a small votive candle in or near the bowl. Think of this arrangement as your Blessing Bowl. When you are feeling empty come to the bowl and select an object to hold for comfort. Offer your prayers to Spirit. Open your heart to receive healing.

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Prayer Vessels and Boxes: Sometimes when the pain of the heart is just too much, a container is called for as a physical reminder that the pain can be offered to the Divine for healing and transformation. Select a box or a vessel (preferably with a lid) that will serve as a sacred container. You may want to paint, collage, or otherwise decorate your box or vessel.

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When you feel overwhelmed by your problems write your prayers and those things you are choosing to let go of on small slips of paper and put them into your Prayer Vessel. When time has passed and you are on the other side of your healing journey you may choose to burn the contents or bundle them in a sacred way as a reminder of how your trust and faith were blessed with healing.

You are invited to submit your story and accompanying photos to be considered as a feature for the Sacred Imagination column. E-mail me at dana@sacredimagination.com for details.

Copyright© 2000 Dana Reynolds. 


Sacred Imagination’s Story of the Month

The following story from Susan Axelrod of Houston, Texas is a beautiful illustration and testimony to the transformational power of creativity. Susan is a gentle guardian of nature, beauty, and those she holds dear. A healing heart-centered journey is her focus. You may write to her at Ssunwriter@aol.com

The first dreaded Mother's Day without my mother was rapidly approaching. Our last Mother's Day was celebrated at my home, with the coffee table serving as a temporary altar honoring the beloved women in our lives, both friends and family, living and deceased. It felt an appropriate year to pay special tribute to the feminine, as mother's health was failing and the possibility of this being our last celebration was very real. Though she never quite understood my spiritual leanings, the visual impact of the altar clearly moved her.

Shuffling numbly through her personal things, I desperately needed physical manifestation of her continuing presence in my life, particularly on an occasion that always revolved around her. The creation of her Mother's Day altar was a ritual, a soulful process that enabled me to devote sacred, private time alone with the magic and mysteries of her life.

I was blessed to have many keepsakes, touchstones and treasures from her earthly journey. The oil paintings of my mother, my brother and me were the target of many family jokes. She hung them prominently in her apartment, knowing my brother and I were only too happy to leave them there. After her death, those images revealed new meaning to me. They were the last objects removed from her apartment, overseeing the painful task with quiet dignity. My daughter, who recently completed design school, insisted I hang them in my dining room. Miraculously, the colors filled the large, empty wall with a depth and substance I can only attribute to Mom's presence. I'd needed to see her and share this special day with her, and now I could.

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The altar created itself from that point on. Her mahogany sideboard became the foundation for the altar. The gift of holy remembrance, of cherished memories, erupted through each touchstone gathered. Time stood still as I gathered cards she'd saved from Mother's Days past; especially poignant since she'd sworn she'd stopped saving them years before. The loving words soothed my aching heart and reaffirmed how well loved she was.

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Photographs from her life's story and from nature, a special bond we shared, were carefully placed in a wire holder beneath her portrait. The gardenias and camellias she'd insisted I plant in my new garden bloomed more profusely than ever this spring. Mourning doves nesting in Mom's geranium plant on my balcony patiently nurtured new life. Spring whispered a divine message of rebirth, faith and hope in the future.

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Unwilling to let go of the ritual of flower giving, I selected a huge bouquet of her favorite flowers from her florist, to be taken later in the day to her burial site. The shop owner, her "adopted son" Daniel, was usually on vacation at that time, but spirit intervened. He was there and gifted her with yellow long-stemmed roses. Tears formed as I told him I had just placed his Mother's Day card to her from last year on the altar. The celebration began to feel oddly authentic. Objects I'd been unable to discard; her trademark red reading glasses, her everyday necklace, the keychain to her well-preserved El Dorado with personalized plates and the "I'm a Native Houstonian" bumper sticker she was so proud of, even her lipstick and compact, were scattered among the cards and photographs. Finally, I placed the prayer book I'd used through all the grief work in the center, opening it to the prayer for a departed mother. Quietly repeating the sacred offering, I felt comforted by the visual tribute to her ever-present memory. I also knew she'd worked her magic and shared this meaningful day with us. The altar had become a spiritual balm for my brokenness.


Read Dana's Soulful Living Feature Articles:

Visual Prayers

Intuition and the Sacred Imagination: The Dance of Co-creation

Read Dana's "Sacred Imagination" Columns:

November 2000 "Cultivating Gratitude: Heart-Hugs and Prayer Leaves"

October 2000 "Journey to the Center - The Sacred Mystery of the Labyrinth"

September 2000 "The Heart and Craft of Healing"

July 2000 "Sacred Spaces Invite the Muses of the Soul"

For ten years, Dana Reynolds has been facilitating women’s spiritual presentations and retreats nationwide. Her work as a Spiritual Midwife, one who assists women as they birth their creative gifts into the world, is the foundation of all her endeavors. Her background as a visual artist and writer enriches her Spiritual Midwifery: Birthing the Feminine Soul workshops.

As the creator of an art making process known as visual prayer, Dana teaches women how to combine ritual with sacred intention to create altars, collages, spirit dolls, and other touchstones. The creation of sacred spaces is also paramount to the Spiritual Midwifery experience. Her web-site http://www.sacredimagination.com offers samplings of her visual prayer collages, poetry, and a workshop catalogue.

Dana is the author of the whimsical and colorfully illustrated book, Be An Angel, a co-creation with illustrator and graphic designer, Karen Blessen, (Simon & Schuster). Her essay, Visual Prayers is included in the anthology, Our Turn, Our Time: Women Coming of Age, edited by Cynthia Black, (Beyond Words Publishing).

A trained labyrinth facilitator, Dana incorporates the labyrinth and other spiritual wisdom into her retreats and workshops. She recently traveled to Chartres and Vezelay Cathedrals in France to gather information pertaining to ancient sacred mystical traditions. She currently lectures on such topics as spiritual midwifery, sacred journal keeping, feminine spiritual wisdom, and the early Christian women saints and mystics.

Dana’s life follows the spiral path from rim to center and back again. She looks for the sacred in forgotten places and openly embraces the great Mystery of life. Guiding women to the discovery of their creative inner gifts is the passion that fuels her soul.


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