As women, we hold many stories in our wombs about birth, some passed on from our mothers and grandmothers, as well as sharing the history of our own birth and the birth of our children. Mandalas-sacred circles-provide a compelling conduit for women to tap into their narratives by allowing personal symbols to evolve, thus enabling women to present a story in a new light. For women who have experienced birth trauma, mandalas are a powerful transformative healing tool to help release fear, open a dialogue on forgiveness, recover personal trust, and create new, positive, and powerful birth stories.
Many women from my generation experienced our own birth as traumatic, our mothers often drugged, not present and many us of were pulled out and entered the world in a violent, hazy way. This was my first story about birth, which I felt I needed to heal. As a sacred artist, I wanted to create a visual healing story and the idea came to me that making a series of mandalas would be the way to go. Sitting in front of a blank circle, my story emerged and I understood what had happened to me in a new way.
Circles are a symbol of creation; mandalas go deep into the subconscious and allow feelings and stories to come out. A Sanskrit word meaning center or magic circle, mandalas were used by Carl Jung to connect the unconscious and bring to light one’s uniqueness and individuality. Women hold many stories in their body, particularly their womb. The womb is also a circle and holds and nurtures our creation, a tiny round egg, held in a spherical space. During the birth process, the baby is pushed through a tubular birth canal and out of a circular opening into the world. We are born on the earth into a circular universe, the memory of our mother’s womb encoded deep with in us, predisposing us to responding to a circle. In the Native American tradition, the circle is used as a place of healing, where members of the community come together to tell their stories, pray and get support.
Mandalas go deep into the core of our psyche, with change happening on a cellular level, which can be very helpful for women that have suffered a traumatic birth experience. Many traumas cannot be processed verbally, and I find that making a mandala helps with PTSD, as the symbols speak to us, allowing healing to take place. Mandalas have a calming and healing effect on the mind, making the invisible, visible, revealing experiences that can’t be expressed in any other way.
During the pregnancies of my children, I was very interested in making images that would keep me calm and focused. I believed that what ever I was experiencing, so were my babies. Why not surround myself with uplifting divine imagery, so I made many yantras. Yantras are sacred geometric patterns of deities coming from the Hindu tradition. I worked with Saraswati, the Goddess of Art, Music and Knowledge as well as Tara, who helps with healing 2nd chakra, emotional, watery, womb issues. At the end of my pregnancy, I constructed a Childbirth Yantra, which is a 7 circuit labyrinth. Labyrinths are a very powerful, profound tool to go inward, as women must get in touch with their inner nature in order to birth. A labyrinth is a way of connecting with the inner journey. During birth, when a woman is left undisturbed, she goes through various brain states, going deeper into a theta state, which is what happens in meditation, trance or altered states. Yantras, labyrinths, all forms of mandalas, prepare women to go inside, into a meditative state, which become natural for her, and helps during birth.
Recently, I have started groups for women healing from birth trauma, as well as women preparing for birth. In the group, I use mandalas, mindfulness meditation, particularly a Tibetan breathing practice, Tonglen, which is also known as compassionate breathing. This helps women forgive and let go, and also gets them in touch with their healing nature.
One woman in my group had a previous C-section and was pregnant, preparing for a VBAC. Her first mandala shows her story, how violated she felt by the hospital staff, and felt very alone and cut off from her family.
The final mandala was about creating a new birth story. She said that what she wanted for her VBAC was to surround herself with love and support. This process helped her to heal and go on to have a successful home VBAC, feeling loved and supported.
Mandalas can be an excellent way to prepare for birth, release fears and negativity we may be holding, turning an old story into a new positive one. By the process of going inward, women have a chance to get in touch with their spiritual side, as birth is a sacred transformational experience. By creating a healing mandala, new powerful stories come forth, one that is peaceful for our wombs.
This article was originally on the Sacred Pregnancy Website. To see the rest of the images go here.