Tag Archives: creating rituals

Making Mandalas for Healing

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a healing mandala.After the election, stunned friends flew to their therapists. The TV flashed scenes of protests across the country. People all over the world were in various stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I was numb, my mind too scattered with other problems: pipes leaked under my driveway, contaminating the water system. The well pump was close to burnout. My mother’s dieffenbachia plant was in trauma. And my closet shelf, once securely screwed to the wall, had torn away and collapsed under the weight of my belongings. It felt like everything was falling apart or failing. So when a friend phoned inviting me to walk in the woods, I said, “Yes, let’s go right now.”

“It’s gonna be slow,” my friend warned. “I want to gather some things along the way to make a mandala.” She mentioned something about needing to “right the world.” Maybe she said “for healing” and “to calm spirits.” It didn’t matter what she said. It resonated. And I was desperate to escape.

In the woods, on the way to locating the creek that would be blessed with our “round symbol representing the universe in a search for completeness and self-unity,” my friend and I collected leaves, ferns, twigs, small patches of moss, and a single red berry.
“We need seeds for the mandala,” she said, something about “planting change and growth.” My previous mandala-making was mostly out of the peas and potatoes on my dinner-plate. So I kept quiet and my friend showed me how to string red and yellow leaves together, threading their stems through their papery skins. She arranged the elements while I photographed leaf veins that resembled tiny trees. She planted a feather in the middle of the masterpiece when it became apparent that I’d stepped on the berry.

Finally my friend was satisfied. She’d done her part to foster peace in the world. So we left the woods and went to my house where she screwed the shelf back into the wall and rescued the dieffenbachia plant. Maybe she said a prayer over the driveway’s leaky pipes and contaminated water too. I don’t know. But things felt a bit lighter, restored to order.Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, Photoshops a friend making a mandala for healing and peace after the election.

The next day it rained. The wind was blowing the trees bare. Unsettled as the weather, I hovered over the computer with the TV on for company. And, thinking of seeds and leaves with tiny trees reaching out to the world, I photo-shopped a mandala of my own. For “self-unity.”


Do you have any rituals or remedies for coping with things falling apart and failing? For things changing?

Creating Rituals

Robin Botie of ithaca, New York, makes rituals and toasts with sisters on their mother's 90th birthday.“What kind of rituals did you do?” a friend asked, peering at me from the corner of one eye, like I was talking about voodoo or séances. But there’s nothing mystical about rituals. They are simply small acts done to honor someone or to remember an event. We do rituals all the time. Like lighting candles on a cake and singing happy birthday. Like raising the flag. Feasting on Thanksgiving. Graduations and marriages are rituals. Rituals can be private or public acknowledgements. They can follow age-old traditions or be unique responses to mark a special moment. There are rituals of joy and rituals for healing. To create a ritual, you just do something to make a meaningful connection to whomever or whatever you want to commemorate.

“Well, the whole trip to the Rocky Mountains was a tribute to my daughter who died,” I told my skeptical friend. “I threw her jewels off the highest cliffs I could find, sang her songs, and blew bubbles into the wind. I read my manuscript aloud to her, a few chapters each day, by a lake. There were chocolates. Candles. And on the last evening, I stood watching the sun set over the elk field as I listened to the CD she left me.”

Long before my daughter died, my first rituals were funerals for dead birds. The neighborhood kids shared solemn words as we wrapped small creatures in Kleenex with shriveled dandelion buds, and buried them in the tiny space between the back of a garage and my mother’s rock garden. Later, rituals focused on the changing seasons. In the fall there was apple picking, pumpkin carving, the annual cooking and freezing of hearty soups, and traveling the countryside to view the fall colors.

The beginning of October is the time for the bittersweet annual ritual of closing the season at my mother’s summer home. My sisters and I gathered in Massachusetts the past weekend. I packed up the old philodendron plant that lives on the porch during the warm months and returns with me to Ithaca for the winter. My sisters raided the closets for cold-weather coats. And then we all made the rounds to say goodbye to Hoadley Gallery, the Shear Design Hair Salon, and Chez Nous Bistro. Until next summer.

“Cheers!” We raised our wineglasses and clinked them heartily. For three days we feasted and toasted. It was our mother’s 90th birthday.