Episode 39: Sacred Art Mandalas at Lightning in a Bottle

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Recorded live from Lighting in a Bottle, this episode features the sacred art collective,  Emerald Installations of Berkley, California.  Learn about the history of the sacred mandala,  how you can create nature based artwork at home and why regular summer festival attendees anticipate the creation of these mandalas to enhancement ritual, prayer and community play.

You'll get a sense of the various spiritual traditions which feature mandalas as spiritual teaching tools which establish sacred spaces to enhance meditation.  The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as "a representation of the unconscious self," and believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.   This is a short and sweet episode that completes the 4-part series recorded live from Santa Barbara at the Lighting in a Bottle Festival.


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*Intro Music*

Meredith Medland: Welcome to Living Green, effortless ecology for everyday people. I’m your host Meredith Medland and we’re here at the 2008 Lightening In A Bottle festival, right outside of Santa Barbara California. For those of you who have listened to the coverage from Burning Man, you might have found that at livinggreenshow.com, the two lives shows from Burning Man. This festival is very much like Burning Man; of course the elements aren’t quite the same. One of the most beautiful things that I’ve seen as I’ve been walking around this festival is an absolutely stunning mandala and I’ve met the three men who are responsible for this traveling mandala and they‘re going to tell us a little bit about this after our break. First we’re going to hear some highlights from our show.

Christopher Reitmaier: The art itself is a fusion of manmade natural products basically that we find or given to us or that we have lying around and we fuse that together.

Scott O’Keefe: The mandalas come from the sand script meaning circle or sacred circle and it’s essentially connecting people through the center, and the union theory is that at the center we are all one and connecting people on a collective consciousness.

Guest: Felt like we were, we had completed the piece yesterday when people entered the space and were meditating or praying or just reflecting, quietly reflecting just sitting down or there were people snuggling.

Meredith Medland: You’re listening to Living Green, effortless ecology for everyday people. I’m your host Meredith Meland and today we are at Lightening In A Bottle, which is a festival outside of Santa Barbara, California very similar to Burning Man, but not with the elements. Today, what’s captured my attention is a fantastic mandala along with some absolutely stunning jewelry pieces that support it. Right in front of me I’ve got the three creators of this traveling showcase and they are about to tell me how fantastic it works and how this contributes to us appreciating more deeply the planet on which we live. So today I’d like to start with you. Tell me a little bit more about how this all came about.

Hogan aka Nature: Well, I’m not going to tell you the full story, I’ll tell you the story from starting last year when I met Scott, who started the collective emerald installations over 10 years ago. I started doing this work a couple of years ago and then I randomly met Scott last year at Island Festival, where he was creating a large floral mandala with a large inflatable globe in the center and there was a love ceremony where everybody chanted “mass love” over and over and over together. And so me and Christopher and Scott made that last year and then we just decided to continue to work together and we booked a whole tour this year to do almost 10 festivals this summer to do this kind of earthen art organic sculpture work.

Meredith Medland: Let’s talk a little bit about that art as well as where we might be able to find more information on creating mandalas at home.

Christopher Reitmaier: The art itself is a fusion of manmade natural products basically that we find or given to us or that we have lying around and we fuse that together. The jewelry pieces are smaller representations of the larger mandalas, which are made completely out of flowers and are ephemeral sculptures that last anywhere from a week to two weeks, yeah. And where you kind find it, well, wherever we are is where you can find them.

Meredith Medland: Scott what’s ahead for festivals this summer?

Scott O’Keefe: What’s a what? Ahead?

Meredith Medland: What’s ahead for festivals this summer?

Scott O’Keefe: We’re headed towards the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa and then from there Sonic Bloom in Winter Park and then from there the Roddenberry Festival in the Midwest. So we are taking this into the collective consciousness into the Midwest, which will be a good thing and then back to the West Coast for pretty much back to back on every weekend and then there’s Power to Peaceful at the end of the summer and then with the Roth’s Spirit Festival in Sodona. But I really enjoyed this experience here at Sonic Bloom or at Lightening In A Bottle, there are so many of them I get confused. We just come from Joshua Tree, which was nice with the contrast of the desert and then coming here is a little cooler.

Meredith Medland: Let’s talk a little bit about mandalas for those listeners who aren’t aware of the historical importance of mandalas. Would you give us a little outline of their history please?

Scott O’Keefe: Basically the mandalas come from the sand script meaning circle or sacred circle and it’s essentially connecting people through the center, and the union theory is that at the center we are all one and connecting people on a collective consciousness at that center. And through doing these mandalas and taking them from festival to festival we are connecting people. And then basically at the center there is the Gaia, the Gaia sculpture and then the representation of the heart with the wood and the stone and then coming out in an eight spoke and connecting to different shrines or different personal connections to that heart that people do. So I’ll set down the basic structure and then invite people to create their own connection to that love that connects us all.

Meredith Medland: So when this first began, what day did you lay out the initial plan for the mandala here at Lightening In A Bottle?

Guest: So we rolled in a Friday and we basically had we had pretty much nothing. We found this stump, dug the stump in, and I brought the sculpture there of Gaia and we had a kelp circle that we found in the ocean, put that down and then just went from there. Found the stones and the bark and did the heart. And then our good friends from Trader Joe’s donated all the flowers from their dumpster and then a few things from around here. Basically that’s what happened.

Meredith Medland: Fantastic! So, the purpose of Living Green is to bring the attitudes, beliefs, as well as, behaviors of those living ecological lifestyles into the mainstream. So as each one of you think about your thoughts as you are creating the mandala. What are some of the things you are sharing with each other verbally, as we know thoughts create things? As well as what are some of the praising or prayer or what’s happening in your mind while you are creating this art work?

Guest: Wow that’s a pretty loaded question because there is so much that happens depending on what you’re creating. I personally try to stay in a meditative state or prayerful state or I just kind of go totally Zen and I just kind of let the energy come through me and I’m not really thinking about it at all and I’m just like creating a direct connection with the earth, with Gaia. And I’m just thinking about how much life is on the planet, how over abundance of life, I’m thinking about, I think about suffering people, I think about starving people and I just think there is just so much, there’s so much creativity, there’s so much beauty, there’s enough for everybody to go around, there’s enough to share, it’s like why? You know? So, yeah that’s part of it just processing that, all that going on in the world. And I’m just; it’s my own personal healing with the earth. I feel like I’m healing my personal relationship with the earth and then others are able to come in and we facilitate that experience for other as well. Like I felt like we were, we had completed the piece yesterday when people entered the space and were meditating or praying or just reflecting, quietly reflecting just sitting down or there were people snuggling, and you know, yeah.

Meredith Medland: One of the things that caught my attention was the beautiful small Mandalas, I was looking down at this fantastic beautiful layout of probably about 150 necklaces and they looked like medallions. And I was looking at one that had Mother Mary on it, and there’s not tons with different symbols on it as Mother Mary, they’re more colorful and in different raves. But it’s actually, it was the necklaces that caught my attention and then as I looked up I saw the greater fractal pattern of the mandala, but what surprised me the most, is that when I turned over the mandala that I found, it was actually a bottle cap and it was a Snapple bottle cap and then there was another bottle cap on it. So I’d like you to share a little bit about the process of creating these pieces of jewelry.

Guest: Well they start from refuse or what’s considered refuse and our curiosity, our interest, our draw to those things that for so many years I stepped over junk. Or what was seemingly junk, and there’s an endless stream of things that are thrown away. And for a long time I was contributing to that and not realizing that there’s an actual second, third, fourth use for something. So that’s the germination of it, is the idea of this imbued with a little bit of sacredness, a little bit of magic, a little bit of love creates something completely different that can be enjoyed by many as opposed to something that deteriorates over a long period of time.

Meredith Medland: Listeners, if you would like you can go to livinggreenshow.com and if you look at the right hand rail, you’ll see coverage from Lightening In A Bottle. If you click on that, we’ll have photos of the mandala as well as the necklaces that you can see. There’ll also be some video available as well. So you can find that there if you’ve downloaded this podcast in iTunes.

I’d like each one of you to express briefly a, sort of a tip or a way of thinking that might bring the magic of the mandala process into the homes of our listeners. Who would like to begin?

Guest: I think just everyday be thankful for what is around you and the blessings that are around you and for life and love and to realize that we are all connected to each other and just to see that sacredness and to know that we are constantly surrounded by blessings and love at all times and to share as much as you can with those you love and those who you are about to meet.

Meredith Medland: I have a small book that’s a book of gratitude, so every time I write in there I know I have one book assigned purely for gratitude so if I ever need a pick me up I know which journal to open. What about you?

Guest: Well, if they were going to bring it into their life and that energy into their life, I would just start playing with whatever objects they find around their house and really just, I mean just the energy inside their house and outside their house and just take a second look at what’s there and realize how much abundance there is in your life and how, how you’re are totally provided for by the mother and how much beauty is surrounded by you and whatever that you need in y our life it’s usually right in front of you. And if you just spend some time looking at the smaller details and the little and you start paying attention to the little things then, there is so much I want to say in such short piece. But that and it’s going to sound so cliché, but it’s really the little things will bring you happiness I think if you give them time and you think about them and you meditate on them and I don’t know what else to say. There is so much more I could say, but that’s all I’ll say for now. Thank You.

Meredith Medland: Thank You. And our last opportunity for our listeners to take a piece of this interview and integrate a more effortless ecological lifestyle into their home?

Guest: Slowing down and remaining open to the creative process because it expresses itself in so many different ways. I know for me this is one channel of that process working and me working as a conduit for that. And by virtue of slowing down it allows me to shift my visioning to where I can actually notice what’s around me.

Meredith Medland: Gentlemen thank you so much. I want to make sure that our listeners can check out your website. I know you have a page on myspace. We’ll also have an opportunity for our listeners to get in contact with you on the episode page and you can look for more exciting possibilities to interact with each one of you at some of the festivals that were mentioned before. There’s also a full bio page located at livinggreenshow.com, so if you click on their picture it’ll actually bring you to a full page of information if you are interested in more. But in the mean time let’s give that myspace address.

Guest: It’s myspace.com/emaraldinstallations and that’s one word emeraldinstallations, plural.

Meredith Medland: Fantastic, thank you so much. My name’s Meredith Medland and I’m reporting to you here live from Lightening In A Bottle 2008 and that wraps up our coverage for this fantastic weekend special. Special love and attention to our videographer and audio recorder Yanuk and we’re giving it out to you. So, keep checking out those summer festivals and you can expect more from us here at Living Green. My name’s Meredith Medland and we’ll be back next week.

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