This painting hangs in my bedroom, where lying in bed I travel it in meditation daily.
The sacred chakana is the “stepped cross” from the Andes; it represents Mother Earth and the Southern Cross, a constellation in the night sky which ancient people believed to be the Center of the Universe. The Inca cross, like a compass, points in four directions. The shaman following the steps can move between the underworld and upper world. The hole in the center is the portal by which the shaman travels between worlds, between heaven and earth.
The Center of the Mandala.
A mandala begins in the center and radiates outward. In sacred geometry the circle represents the infinite divine and the square represents the solid nature of Earth. Together they remind us of the interconnectedness of heaven and earth, and of the finite and infinite.
There are two circles of life: The inner circle with red steppingstones represents the Red Road, our physical life and our experience of being fully human. The Blue Road in the outer circle is marked with blue stepping stones to represent the spiritual path through life and defeating obstacles. Jaguar guides us across thresholds as we walk both Roads.
The Four Archetypal Totems
South: The healing totem of the shedding Snake moves between the upper world (conscious mind) and the underworld (unconscious); it represents the shedding of our old selves, beliefs, and limitations in rebirth and transformation. Being close to the earth, it reminds us to tread mindfully on the earth. When I was painting Chakana Mandala it was during the early transition of Birthing From Within. I was truly in the underworld, shattered, and overwhelmed with feelings of loss and unworthiness. I underwent a ceremony to remove unworthiness. Smudged with sage, the continuous sound of a rattle while I was led through a visualization in which I imagined every particle, grain, and speck of unworthiness was shaken from my body. I saw the grains of unworthiness falling from my being and piling up beneath the table . . . and painted the ceremony into the South. To this day I no longer feeling unworthy about what happened, although I am not quite free from all attachment and loss—more Medicine is needed.
West: Jaguar and Black Panther (are same species) is the totem of. Alberto Villoldo, author and founder of The Four Winds, remembers observing don Ramon, a shaman in a nighttime healing ceremony, singing to a patient to “sing his jaguar down from the tree.” Like many people, the patient lived in constant fear, a fear that followed him from an early childhood trauma. The shaman explained, “This man’s soul is like a terrified cat who escaped danger and quickly clambered up a tree, where it remains, hissing at anyone who comes near. The cat must come down, relax, and resume walking on the terra firmaof the rainforest, or there will be no healing of the illness this fear has engendered in him.” A jaguar is able to let go of fear-flight-freeze and return to the jungle, but humans can remain partly frozen for a life time. The Jaguar lives in our belly, in the place we face or retreat from threats.
The time and place to face what we fear the most, which is the unknown and our annihilation through death, in order to step beyond fear and claim life to fullest. Power ferocity to face. Night vision to see into human heart. Foreknowledge of things to come
North: In the Andes, Hummingbird belongs to the holy order of animals and symbolizes resurrection because on cold nights it appears to die but with the warmth of the sun, it comes back to life again.
Hummingbird, weighing only a few ounces, the tiniest of all birds follows its call and migrates hundreds of miles thus the association with the Medicine of determination.
When we contemplate its tiny wings move forward and backward (not up and down) and faster than any other bird allowing it to hover and change direction quickly, we receive the Medicine of being flexible, adaptable, playful, and lightness of being.
Hummingbirds drinking nectar from deep within a flower remind us we too can drink the nectar of life.
East: Circling the world from above, far-seeing Condor heals through the Medicine of vision, seeing with my eyes, spiritual in-sight, and unspoken messages in dreams and in the world. This direction is the Way of the Visionary, seeing possibility and unity in a world broken by suffering. One of the most lasting gifts from being with a shaman in Peru was medicine bundles and ceremony, which I practice to this day. Condor has my medicine bundle in his talons. . .
There are mantras on Hindu mandalas to help deepen the meditation, so I added mantras to this mandala.
South:Ha KO Ma,a mantra given to help quiet the mind and open the throat chakra
West: Hoka Hey
North: Infinity symbol, also representing perfection and empowerment
West: OM, the primordial vibration found in all living things
Upper Left: Turtle. Over New Year’s I went to Taos Pueblo and received a gift of a Turtle necklace made by the daughters of flute player Robert Mirabel, Aspen and Kona; it reminds us to “Go Slow.” I wore it ever day of 2017, when I began this painting.
Upper Right:Heart Meditation.
Lower Right: Scorpion and Frog. "Scorpion asks Frog to carry him over a river. Frog is afraid of being stung, but Scorpion promises he wouldn’t do such a thing because if he stung Frog, both would sink and drown. So, Frog felt assured and agreed to do the favor. In the middle of the river crossing Scorpion suddenly stings Frog—for no apparent reason! When asked why, Scorpion explains, “I can’t help myself, it’s my nature." —The Fable of Scorpion and Frog
Lower Left: Thorny Heart. This felt-image of a heart covered in thorns came to me during a meditation, a symbol that represented 2017.
A Note to Critics who think my painting this mandala is inappropriate cultural appropriation. I went to Peru and had a profound experience that influenced this piece. And, if I am limited to draw from my culture and life, I guess I’d have to paint the Stations of the Cross. I do not claim to be Incan, but I am deeply moved by their symbols.
Would you like an archival print of Chakana Mandala?
I have had made perfect color reproductions on archival paper (produced by Carr Imaging, Albuquerque), in two sizes: 8” x 8” ($30) and 16”x 16”($60) plus shipping.