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.
Prayer Vessels and
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.
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.
invited to submit your story and accompanying
photos to be considered as a feature for the Sacred
Imagination column. E-mail me at email@example.com
Copyright© 2000 Dana
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Dana's Soulful Living Feature Articles:
and the Sacred Imagination: The Dance of Co-creation
Dana's "Sacred Imagination" Columns:
2000 "Cultivating Gratitude: Heart-Hugs and Prayer
2000 "Journey to the
Center - The Sacred Mystery of the Labyrinth"
2000 "The Heart and Craft of Healing"
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
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
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.