Faith on Friday: Mandorlas and Prayer Shawls
I’m posting this from the Apple Store in Ridgeland, Mississippi. My computer locked up when I was sitting on the patio at Broadstreet Bakery (in Jackson) this morning, enjoying a cappuccino and the sunshine. So I headed out to the Apple Store for help before returning to Memphis this afternoon. The Apple guy showed me something so simple I’m amazed I’ve been using my MacBookPro for so many years without knowing. *sigh*
Anyway, I had a lovely time last night, speaking at the annual Women’s Spring Dinner at St. James Episcopal Church here in Jackson. (And a few of the women invited their husbands.) The food was Mediterranean, the wine was excellent, and the fellowship was divine. My topic was, “The Mandorla: Healing the Split in Our Broken Lives.” I enjoyed sharing a bit about the mandorla—the almond-shaped image often seen in icons where transformation is taking place, like in the icons of Christ and the Transfiguration, or the Resurrection. I used a mandorla on my icon studio sign when I was painting icons and teaching iconography, because my studio represented one place of transformation for me, and hopefully for those who studied with me there.
I talked about how we can deal with our “shadow sides”—those unowned parts of ourselves that sometimes sneak up on us, resulting in dysfunctional behavior and other trials in our lives. Instead of (1) running away from our shadows, or (2) obsessing over “fixing” ourselves, we can sometimes find peace and a measure of healing by staying in the mandorla—the middle place, between heaven and earth—and accepting all sides of ourselves. As psychologist Robert Johnson says:
It is the prime task of a truly modern mind to endure both the spiritual and the practical as the framework for her life…. When one has grown strong and wise enough, the warring elements which cause so much suffering and anxiety will become complementary elements and produce the great work of art which is your own life.
This mandorla—this ancient symbol of wholeness—is the intersection of opposites. It’s the place where we will be transformed if we bear the tension of remaining there.
After my talk, Tippy Garner, president of the women’s group at St. James, presented me with a wonderful gift. A beautiful prayer shawl, handmade by Peggy Bowles, who participates in St. James’ Prayer Shawl Ministry. The shawl was presented to me in a beautiful ritual of healing.
When I wrap the shawl around my shoulders, I feel the love and comfort of these dear women at St. James. What a gift. Maybe I will wear it when I say my morning or evening prayers. Or maybe I’ll wear it when I’m struggling with my shadow, to remind me that I am loved. Maybe it will help me find peace as I continue to seek healing for the split. As therapist Brian Jensen says:
The mandorla offers a means of reconciliation with our human struggle between the light and shadow sides of our being. When the most Herculean efforts and the finest disciplines can no longer keep the painful contradiction of life at bay, one can find relief in the Mandorla. It binds together that which was torn apart.
I think I will call it my Mandorla Shawl.
P.S. I want to thank NancyKay Wessman for hosting me (again) in her home last night. I’m so proud of NancyKay, who is at the Supertalk Mississippi Health & Fitness Expo at the Trade Mart: 11 to 4 today and 9 to 2 Saturday in Jackson, Mississippi. She will be signing from the book she co-authored with Dr. Gerald Berenson, You Can Fix the Fat From Childhood. So far NancyKay has lost 70 pounds as she continues to adopt a more healthy lifestyle. If you can’t make it down to the Trade Mart today or tomorrow, you can BUY THE BOOK HERE!