Mandala as Container – The Present

Nesting © 2016 Bo Mackison

Nesting © 2016 Bo Mackison

I went on a solo writing retreat at the Christine Center in the Northwoods of Wisconsin for a few days. While there, I spent much time not writing, but instead creating personal art. I worked in the studio in conversation with other women led by Gabriel Uhlein OFM, artist and workshop facilitator. I’d intended to use my time in the mandala studio as a break from writing. Instead, allowing for and following the creative call, I spent many hours each day creating mandalas.

Following Gabriel’s suggestion, I spent studio time before beginning, naming an intention. And the intention that showed up? “Creative Path”

I did a series of 5 mandalas allowing for “whatever” to come forth. When I returned home, I paired the mandalas with Desert Wisdom Cards, then reflected on a different question for five consecutive days. I followed this with a freewrite keeping the intention “creative path” in mind.

Hope. A Desert Wisdom Card © 2014 Bo Mackison

Hope. A Desert Wisdom Card © 2014 Bo Mackison




Three eggs – physical, mental, spiritual.

Incubation. Waiting for birth, waiting to emerge, the wait. Snake protects, she guards in this time of transition.

Transition, threshold of staying safe in the nest, safe in the dark and protected, safe and hidden, and waiting, there is waiting. Now, it is time, the breaking open, come into the light, those first steps, that first vision.

Call upon protection, call upon the strength that is within. Hold onto hope. Yes this is a time of breaking open, a breaking, it feels too open, too out in the brightness. How can I see in this too bright place? My inclination is to hide, but instead I can unfurl a bit at a time. There is no need to break apart while breaking open. Open just a bit. Hold on. There is movement and strength in the tenderest of openings.

Transformation is damn scary work. Hold on. Ease in. Be brave.


Coming in the next post, Day 2. The Past and What Needs to Be Released

Thirty-One Thresholds – An Art Project to Discover Just What I Need!


Art Works – Threshold © 2014 Bo Mackison

I am starting a new project. It is called Thirty-One Thresholds.

I’ve done similar projects before, turning to art for expression and healing often when I feel mired in a big black space.

I suspect most of us have those black periods sneak up on us at one time or another. It feels like falling into a very dark hole, and then realizing the way out isn’t visible. No matter how frantic the struggle to emerge, no matter the intelligent discourse, or the pleading, or the “just-pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps” conversations I would frequently have with myself back, I remained in the black hole. One particularly bad time was in 2007.

There were situational happenings in my life that made day-to-day living feel a bit a lot crazy-making. Yet, in my not-so-clear thinking, I was unable to extend myself the grace I needed to be kind to myself and to create a much-needed space for extreme self-care.

I tried to fight my way out of the hole, but that only exhausted and angered me, and frustrated the people who cared most. Eventually I asked for/received the help I needed from wise friends, family and health care providers. With plans and medications in order, glimmers of light appeared ever so slowly.


Dark Hole © 2014 Bo Mackison

But the real, flood-light change had to come, not from without, but from within.

So in a rather haphazard attempt I latched onto a creative project that both held my attention and was within my temporary limited abilities. (I think that may be how much creative work is born – haphazardly and from great need).  I decided I would take a photograph each day for a year and post it on my recently created blog.

Looking back, this was actually a huge undertaking.  I was a novice with a DSLR camera, but it seemed doable. My only rule was to take a photograph and post it. Every day. For one year. I figured that in a year I would likely be in a totally different and great space.

It was a new to me idea then — I know 365 projects are common photo practices now, but I thought I was inventing…oh..the wheel or something equally unique!

There actually was no easy way. There were no Instagram apps or smart phones in those days, so my commitment required a string of details that challenged me repeatedly, each and every day — take a photograph, download, post-process, upload, write a few words, post to blog, sigh, deep breath. (This meant I also had to get my depressed being out of bed, dressed, etc., etc., etc…)


Reaching Out © 2014 Bo Mackison

Persistence paid off. I posted 365 photos in 365 days.

I learned a helluva lot about photography, but I also learned that I could set a long-term goal way out of my comfort zone and succeed.

And it was in the doing that success was realized.

I felt better about myself. I developed new skills. I met new people. I engaged with living again. Eventually I established a small business, Seeded Earth Studio LLC, featuring my photography and more recently my book art.


Reaching Towards the Threshold © 2014 Bo Mackison

Why am I writing about something that happened almost eight years ago?

Because, once again, I find myself wandering in this dark space. Or to be more exact, stuck in a black space that feels like a wet bed of concrete. I am this barely aware, heavy-booted wanderer trying to maneuver through a mucky, concrete maze.

Again there is struggle.

Again there are life situations which have disrupted my equilibrium – medical issues, family responsibilities. Again there are my particular (to me) crazy-making responses and one of my responses is to want to go fall back into that familiar black hole. Seasonal Affective Disorder has taken its toll despite all the compensatory aids in place. Depression sneaks in. And, as it has been for the last four years, my winter stay in sun drenched Arizona is not in the near future.


The Creation – Threshold © 2014 Bo Mackison

I am not really wanting to spend a lot of my precious time in black holes this time around. And so I needed a plan.

As I have done many times in the last eight years, I enlisted my go-to heavy hitters as my assistants — my camera and a new project!

And by declaring my intentions and posting it on my blog, I exposed a certain amount of accountability.


ART © 2014 Bo Mackison

The new project, entitled Thirty One Thresholds, is quite basic.

The project requires me, first, to leave my house — apparently one of my coping mechanisms is to turn into a hermit, not such a wise thing to do long-term…

Then I go somewhere in the Madison area, camera in hand, and cross over a threshold. 

It could be the threshold of doors of an art gallery or museum, a historical building, a library. Or on milder, sunny days I might venture through the threshold of gates to a park or garden, or the entrance to a local attraction…

And I truly believe, though I’m not sure what nuggets of wisdom I’ll discover as I cross these various thresholds, or exactly what it is I’m looking for…

I’m willing to believe I will find it (or it will find me) and it will be just what I need!