MANDALA MIND #1: There are no mistakes

Mandala Mind is what I call the head space I enter when I am creating mandala art. When I am using brush and ink, I call it my ink wash mind. It is the experience of being “in process.” There is something creative going on within the body/spirit, a riding of a wave, a leap without looking, wire walking without a net.

Sometimes I feel exhilarated, at other times very still and intensely focused. The sense of being within a body or being a body is absent; I am bodiless. There is only the pen or brush or stick which is in a state of doing-ness while the eye/mind looks on. A choiceless awareness.

During this most fulfilling activity the everyday thinking mind is suspended. By the everyday thinking mind is I mean the little voice in the head which judges, evaluates, opinionates, criticizes, comments and scorns. There is no faster way to exit the creative process than to listen to this commentator. Instead of being a writer, for example, you become an editor. Instead of being a painter, you become an art critic.

Therefore, one of the things I repeat constantly to myself and my art students is “There is no such thing as a mistake. There is only a new direction.”  (Ink is one of those mediums that does not easily accommodate correction. Unlike oils in which you can paint over, or scratch off, or pencils in which you can erase, ink is unforgiving and mandala design is strict.)

At least once in every mandala painting, my attention jerks and a line is drawn in the ‘wrong’ place; or I ink in a segment that breaks the symmetry. If I allow the thought, “I’ve made a mistake,” or “That’s wrong,” or “S***” to reside in my mind, I have not only unbalanced my creative flow but given the editor/art critic an opening to dominate.

Within seconds I start to hear, “That was a dumb thing to do. You should have paid closer attention. You’ve ruined the mandala. How can you cover it up now?”

You’ll also notice that I speak to myself in the second person – you, you, you. Not I should have paid closer attention, or I have ruined the mandala. The boss in my head is yelling at me, castigating like an unruly child. No wonder I have problems with authority figures, I have one in my head.

Once I get into that bad girl/shame on you mode, I lose confidence, lose the flow of the creative process and start to feel sad because I am such a failure as an artist. Do you see where I am going with this?

So when I make an ‘unexpected turn’ in the art, I instantly say, “There is no such thing as a mistake. This is good. I am taking a new direction.” What a difference that makes to my creative mood. All of a sudden I am curious about where I am going, what will happen next, how will things turn out? I am excited!  I put my trust in my intuition. I allow fallibility in my creative powers. I am proud of my humanness.

Perfection is for machines. I am not perfect nor is my art work perfect. I am beautifully flawed as is what I create. By allowing imperfection I am allowing randomness, admitting chaos, building on the unexpected. Since I do not recognize mistakes, I bless myself with the gift of freedom.

In the longer view, some mandalas may be more beautiful or more powerful than others but that is not because of any mistakes that might have happened. In fact, some of my favorite mandalas are the ones in which I chose some outrageous colors or designs turns, “mistakes” that had to be celebrated rather than hidden.

It is not the well-designed mandala that is important; it is the joy or peace or excitement or stillness that was experienced as part of the creative process. I could throw away all of the artwork I have ever created and not lose anything important – the act still exists in its purity and has become part of my soul.



Where has the year gone!

It’s already half over. It’s true what they say about time going faster as you get older. It’s seems every day is Friday anymore. I’ve been promising myself that it would write a few blogs and update my website (for sure) in a few weeks. That was last February.

In my defense, I have been rather busy. To start the year my second knee surgery was postponed to late January after my surgeon was in a bicycle accident. Then I had a tooth turn on me which postponed it again until early May.

I finally had the surgery and the day I was due to come home, I got a phone call in the morning saying a water pipe had broken and my entire apartment was flooded. I’ll make a long story short and say that I spent most of my time recuperating at a local La Quinta hotel watching Home & Garden reruns while the apartment was rehabbed.

I finally made it back home in early June and by the time I got everything straightened out it was the 4th of July. So was it worth it? My knees feel better and I am walking more with a walker and cane. I can finally go back to my neighborhood park again and last week I went to the library for the first time in over a year. But I know that this old body will need more patches and repairs as time goes on. I’m just grateful it’s still working at all.

In the spring I explored some new types of mandala designs that have a Moorish flavor. I posted some examples in April on my art website. ( Another new twist is that I am drawing the designs on illustration board rather than Bristol which is a heavier, thicker, more durable medium.

I’m still teaching mandala art at the city senior center.  I also am continuing a monthly poetry appreciation class and enjoying getting back in touch with my verbal side.

Recently, I was approached by a representative of a hospice organization and I am planning a special workshop using mandala art as part of dealing with end-of-life issues. I am very excited about this as it is a topic that I need to be more proactive about. I’m hoping for a fall event and will post something at that time.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll try to be a little more active on the blog through the remainder of the year – and I’ll update the site.

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Art Update

When I first started to blog a few years ago, I would post something at least a couple times a week. I had a lot to say and was eager to be in communication with the larger community. Fortunately, that phase passed.

I also used to go to the neighborhood park several times a week and my visits there were not only a source of renewal but the inspiration for poetry. This last year my visits have been fewer and my creativity has turned from words to pictures.

For many years I have enjoyed working in brush and ink wash on rice paper and my work has appeared in many exhibitions. This year, however, my interest has returned to the drawing of mandalas, something I first did many, many years ago when I was young and broke and could only afford felt tip pens and paper.


In the last several years my mandala art has incorporated a lot of color, a nice change from the black, white and grey of ink wash. Typically, these designs were geometric and had a purity about them. Earlier this year that all changed when I began more freehand drawing in the designs, using geometry only as an underlying foundation for composition.

Moon Fairy
Moon Fairy

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I wasn’t quite sure what these kind of designs might be called. For lack of any better description I’ve decided to call them Folk Mandalas. So I have been busy creating dozens of designs, some of which I have included below.



I am not a draftsman or illustrator and many have a primitive look to them. I think they might classified as decorative art rather than fine art. Designing them is a thought-free zone, bringing about a peaceful state of mind. The meditation is in the making rather than in the viewing. The medium is ink and markers on Bristol board.

Meanwhile, in the bizarre way that life works, I began teaching a small mandala class for the geometric designs. This led to an invitation from a local senior center to teach, followed by another senior center. Then the city library called and asked if I would be interested in giving a demonstration on an art day they have planned. Next week a local paper will have an article on mandalas.

Life is funny, isn’t it. Some things that you want badly and pursue, never happen; and other things that kind of poke along year after year suddenly catch fire. Go figure.

If you go to my art website, you can see a sampling of these new type of mandalas listed on the Folk Mandala page. Thanks for visiting.

Art show coming up

Three of my pieces will be in an art show next week at a local city hall. The exhibition theme is “Nature” and this show is not juried, there is no entry fee and no 50% commission. Naturally, I liked the price. Here are the three I entered. They are smaller – about 8 x 10 unframed. Also below, I have been playing with some new designs for mandalas. These are more freeform and less abstract.

Thanks for stopping by.

Artsy Bits & Pieces

Hydrangea 7 x 8It’s been a while since I mentioned anything about art so today I have collected the bits and pieces of the last few months. I was in five art shows from October through February and was happily surprised when I sold several pieces. I finally ordered more art paper so for the next month or two will be working on new pieces – a new change of pace from all of the writing I have been doing.

Although I am dubious about its efficacy, I have joined the Pinterest crowd and have two bulletin boards – one on ink art and one on mandalas ( ). I’ve read many sterling testimonials by artists saying that Pinterest is a great promoter of their art. I will keep you posted – no pun intended.

INTO THE HILLS 13 x 14A fellow blogger discovered my art and has asked to use some examples on his website. He is a Ch’an (Chinese Buddhism) practitioner based in England. He has much to offer. To visit his site, click here:

Finally, I will be pulling the plug on the Marie Taylor Art blog at the end of March. If you are interested in spiritual topics, poetry, reflections, sacred texts, etc. visit my other blog It is a weekly posting showcasing an example of the sacred text from various spiritual traditions with a very short bio of the writer and my personal comments.

Thanks for your continuing interest and comments.

Autumn Afternoon

IMG_0761When I drive through the intersection where the Mexican lady sells watermelons and the corner house has with all the pigeon coops on the roof I see the reclusive old Sikh walking down the street towards the neighborhood park wearing his signature orange turban and white beard. Although I recognize him I refrain from waving as I pass by for we do not have that kind of relationship.

A few minutes later I am placing my lawn chair on the grass mid-way between sun and shade and hear rock music playing from the radio of one of a pickup trucks parked behind me that hold city workers, carpet cleaners and handymen who are eating their paper bag lunches.

Today is one of those near perfect autumn days when the temperature is in the 70’s, the sunlight golden and the breeze carries the scent of dry pine needles and leaves as it puffs by every now and then. I notice that several trees have, in the last two days, turned from dark green to shades of brown.

I am surprised because our nighttime temperatures have yet to dip below 60. But the trees know and are already preparing for Indian summer – at least that’s what we called it when I lived back east – those two weeks in October when the countryside is transformed into stained glass colors of red and orange and yellow – a last celebration before the Big Sleep.

Which brings to my mind a story I heard a few days ago that claimed mother bears gave birth to their young while in hibernation only to awaken in spring with a ready-made and hungry family. It seems too remarkable to be true but why would anyone make up something like that.

As I assess my gullibility I look across the field and see two unattended German shepherds sitting beneath a tree, heads tilted upward towards a squirrel that sits on a high branch and mockingly chatters to them. One dog whines in frustration and wiggles back and forth on its haunches while the other, whom I am sure is the female and more deadly, maintains an unwavering stare.

Meanwhile, from the other end of the path a cocker spaniel comes bouncing along. On turning the corner and seeing the shepherds the cocker freezes in mid-stride, fearful of attracting their attention or interest. Luckily, the spaniel’s owner scurries forward, snaps on the leash and makes a wide detour. While the restless shepherd deliberates between squirrel and spaniel, its steely-eyed mate is undeterred.

A rusting blue van driven by small man with a gray goatee pulls in and parks under a tall pine. The double back doors are covered with decals of national parks and conspiracy organizations, and the license plate reads Wyoming. The side windows are veiled with a combination of thin cotton curtains and cardboard, and the rooftop carrier holds a miscellany of plastic crates and black boxes that look like old batteries. A small American flag hangs limply from the antenna.

Over the next half hour I hear the pickup trucks start their engines and slowly the parking lot empties of all save the van from Wyoming whose owner now sleeps on a blanket in the sun. Then I see an old man with an orange turban tapping his cane along the path to the duck pond. I start to raise my hand to wave but remember in time that we do not have that kind of relationship.

Power of Limits

cowboyWhen I was young I chafed under any sort of limitation. In fact, I remember as a child one of my favorite songs was “Don’t Fence Me In” which I learned from watching old cowboy movies that ended with the hero riding off into the sunset. How I longed to jump in the saddle and take off too.

My small town environment, over protective parents and Roman Catholic morality exacerbated feelings of imprisonment and constraint. Like many young people I wanted to be free to be me; I wanted lots of choices, endless horizons, limitless possibilities.  Sometimes it was even hard to make a choice because that meant ‘not choosing’ something else. I was told, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too.” I didn’t like that part. I wanted the cake with ice cream on the side.

As I got older I was certainly part of the Me generation and felt entitled to pursue whatever I wanted whether it was sensible or safe. I would push against whatever limits were set and every time I heard ‘no’ I felt that my freedom was at stake and I would rebel.

Eventually, came marriage and children and divorce and finally the need to work whether it suited me or not. There was one period in my 30’s when I was fired from three jobs in a row. It had nothing to do with intelligence or willingness to work – it was all about attitude and resentment of authority. Finally, I had to learn when to keep my mouth shut and when to play by the rules – even if they were someone else’s.

In my 40’s I made my break to self-employment and I again had some of those unlimited possibilities I had entertained in my youth. Surprisingly, by then I was no longer enamored of endless choices and opportunities. Somewhere along the line I had absorbed the lesson of limits.

By recognizing and willingly accepting restrictions and working within boundaries I discovered that I had more power. Just as light is stronger when focused through lens, my energies were more productive when they weren’t spread across a wide spectrum. When I limited my focus I was able to go deeper rather than wider. I liked deeper better because I had more freedom.

The mandalas I draw and the ink wash work I enjoy so much is indicative of this appreciation of limitation. In both cases I have definite boundaries of what is possible. By willingly accepting them I have the freedom to explore more deeply within those areas. By accepting limits I also take a lot of alternatives off the playing board, which means I don’t have to think about them anymore. My mind is left free to concentrate on the essential.

Once I accepted that arthritis limited my mobility, I was free to explore in other ways. Once I accept the limits of aging, I was no longer concerned that I didn’t look 30 or 40 or even 50. Once I chose a simpler lifestyle I was no longer burdened by financial concerns.

In setting limits we are establishing priorities and each time we make choice we eliminate some of our alternatives. Rather than see this as something lost, it can be understood as something gained – in focus, in power, in depth.

Here’s a little trip back to a Saturday afternoon in 1950. Giddy up!

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