Jane Thorley Roeschley recently retired from 19+ years in pastoral ministry at Mennonite Church of Normal where she gave leadership to worship and lay ministries. She is now re-focusing her ministry to what she informally calls Threshold Ministries — spiritual direction, retreats and pilgrimage. Jane resides with her husband on their farm in central Illinois where they enjoy raising golden retriever puppies.
I open the cover of a large scrapbook and slowly page through the contents: simple drawings, colored pencil or watercolors, a few words, sometimes a scripture text, all within the shape of a holy circle. Each page stirs something sacred in me. Certainly not anything one might call “good art,” but nonetheless, deeply symbolic and meaningful to me. These are the mandalas I have created at key times of significance, struggle and reflection over the past decade of my spiritual journey.
I no longer remember what prompted me to try drawing a “prayer mandala.” It was probably hearing about or seeing someone else using this ancient spiritual practice. A mandala is a design or drawing contained within a circle, a sacred symbol of wholeness and harmony. They have been part of many spiritual traditions as well as tools used in Jungian psychology. Nature even offers us mandala-like images for reflection – think of the invisible sacred circle that surrounds the bloom of a sunflower, a dandelion going to seed, or an icy snowflake.
Something in the human spirit responds to the sacred as expressed within the round.
My mandalas are humble attempts to put onto paper something representative of that with which I am spiritually engaging. When I began, I was facing a series of challenges and personal crises that were sometimes overwhelming. Being able to symbolically acknowledge both my deep angst and struggle, along with my intentions to muster trust in God, were potent facets of creating and hallowing those first mandalas.
Thankfully, other spiritual expressions have also found their way into my mandalas. One of my favorite more recent mandalas simply declares, “Cultivate Joy.” I take my art supplies on spiritual retreats and value the time away in which to create at least one mandala that captures a current aspect of where I find myself spiritually. I am especially grateful for how creating a mandala on one such retreat 2 years ago led to my claiming the freedom to enter a new aspect of ministry.
For a long while, the mandalas collected randomly, stuck carelessly in an art notebook. More recently, I recognized that I wanted to honor them as precious and transferred them into the pages of the large scrapbook. It is a treasure to me, this visual story of some of my spiritual journey.