from fluorescent bulbs to sunshine

Do you crave time in nature? If you live in any major city, I’d expect so. After all, our ancestors experienced the bioelectric connection with the earth’s healing negative charge on a regular basis simply by the way they lived. Today, so many of us rarely get the benefits of absorbing all the healthy goodness nature has to offer. After spending years craving regular escapes from city life to rejuvenate in natural settings, I made a bold decision and did something about it.

Before I relocated my home from the city to a higher elevation in the mountains with its many forests, lakes and rivers, I had to dedicate my weekends to traveling away from town and into nature. While I very much looked forward to my weekend escapes, the preparation to do so took work. This included the hours spent navigating traffic just to get out of town. Now don’t get me wrong, I was completely aware of what I would be giving up my making such a permanent move; the theaters, museums, easy access to my friends, and endless array of amazing cafes and restaurants, the arts and the dance scene, to name a few. But my body and intuition directed me to move away so that I may live in a natural environment. 

Upon reflection I recall that before my move, there were times when my feet never touched the ground, like when I worked a job on the 7th floor and slept in an apartment on the 2nd floor. You can imagine how, before my move, engaging in nature-based practices, such as forest bathing, gardening, earthing, and water-based rituals, were practically impossible to achieve on a daily or even weekly basis. It was hard on some days to even see the sun shine. These practices became even more seriously integrated into my way of life when I was diagnosed with a serious chronic illness in 2019. When you glimpse the ending of something (in this case, life itself), you wake up to what you love and what you hold dear. Ancient whispers of impermanence and life cycles pointed me to look outside. The seasons were showing me how to live. Merging with nature has become central and through doing so, I allowed one of my former rituals to transform in to a newer version. That is, creating mandalas. Years ago, when sitting and waiting for the next client in my therapy office, I would design, and then color-in, mandalas in a sketchbook. This ‘sacred circle’ art brought on a sense of calm, order and focus. It’s a form of meditation. Creative energy flowed. By engaging in this practice, I felt evermore ready to support my next client through the trauma work. 

After relocating to the mountains, creating ‘nature mandalas’ or ‘plant mandalas’ became the natural evolution. Keeping with this ritual, albeit in a new outdoor container, allowed me to move off of the paper and into nature herself. And because my new therapy office is in a forested yurt, I can collect natural materials and begin designing in between client sessions as a way to stay present and grounded. Plus, I get my forest bathing time in!  

Now it isn’t necessary to live in a forest to begin such a practice. If you work or live near a sizable park or even the ocean, that is great. The photos shown in this blog are from nature mandalas I made in different locations – on the beach and in the mountains. In each case, I would have never realized how much color, texture, variety there was all around me had I not dedicated time to really opening my eyes and exploring the space I was inhabiting. 

Ready to begin? Beyond the purposes of calming, focusing, or grounding, consider whether you want to set an intention. Maybe you’d like to dedicate the creation to someone or something. Take a moment to sit with this possibility. Aside from that, all that is needed is you…and if you feel it is necessary, a bowl or basket to carry what you collect. From there, find a flat surface to arrange the mandala and begin laying pieces out in a way that is geometric and balanced. People commonly work in a circular pattern in 4s, 6s, or 8s. When finished, you might want to take a photograph before you allow the wind and the earth (or sometimes an ocean wave) to take them back from where they originated…mother nature herself. Nonattachment is an aspect of the ‘nature mandala’ practice. Wind, rain and waves encourage us to let go, honoring the universal truth that all is in perpetual change. Nothing is permanent.

Be well,

Dr. Kim

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