DENISE IN THE NEWS
Holmberg: Monks' artistry is perfect antidote to negativity
Posted: Friday, August 12, 2016 10:30 pm
The mandala at the Virginia Holocaust Museum in
Richmond will be swept up at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Denise Dolan watches as monks create
the temporary artwork.
This presidential election has been a sickening spin cycle that has seemingly sucked the marrow of decency and unity out of our national bones.
It can be so easy to focus on the negative energy these days, to soak it in and then radiate it.
Even the wonder of the Olympics — that international good vibrations tuning fork — sounds sour to many caught up in this seemingly endless season of discontent.
So I have come to the Virginia Holocaust Museum, to sit as close as possible to the mandala being shaped by Tibetan monks.
The soft chanting feels like a cool, damp cloth on my hot forehead.
The rubbing of the chakpur that so precisely dribbles out the colored sand sounds like the lazy chirping of night crickets or the insistent drone of distant locusts, seemingly in harmony with the shifting volume and tenor of the chants.
An ever-changing stream of humanity pools and drifts around the table, many perhaps not completely aware of the intricacies of this ancient ceremony, but also somehow understanding the essence of it. It’s like not knowing the language but following the conversation.
Amy Black, who invited the monks to come here, tells me she has watched people listening and feeling this since they started this spiritual exercise Wednesday.
One woman, staggered by a divorce, said she really had a breakthrough while watching, Amy tells me.
The concept of building, grain by grain, this symbolically and religiously rich piece of collaborative art, only to sweep it up and return it to the river, speaks clearly about “impermanence and letting go,” Amy says. “You can apply that to many aspects of your life.”
For example, “you don’t have to hold onto your anger, because it won’t be there.”
One woman nearby sits virtually motionless for a half-hour, her thumbs and forefingers forming the universal symbol for “OK” as she meditates by the oh-so-slowly unfolding mandala.
She is, I soon find out, Denise Dolan, a local instructor of communication and mindfulness.
She says she can feel the positive vibrations coming from the monks.
“They carry an essence of serenity and wisdom. ... They’re praying as they do this.”
It is in stark contrast, she whispers, with “the scattered, crazy, running around of Western civilization.”
“It’s like we’ve lost our minds,” I say quietly.
Denise offers a wry smile.
“I wish we would lose our minds — and live more from our hearts.”
The chakpur chirps as a monk taps it.
One of them looks carefully at me and smiles as I write these words.
I wonder if any of them was among the ones who made the mandala at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts several years ago. I watched a good bit of that one taking shape, then walked with them to the James and stood in the river as they released their swept-up sand.
Two hours earlier, it had been an amazing piece of spiritual art. It took only seconds for it to seemingly swim away in the ceaseless current as the monks smiled broadly.
The Richmond museum’s old, heavily scarred wood floor creaks occasionally under the monks’ soft shoes.
I am surprised at how many visitors are watching respectfully — almost reverently — with their eyes, instead of through cameras or cellphones.
The eyes of monks, meanwhile, seem almost closed as they bend over the mandala. Their faces are so still and calm, they could be asleep.
I feel better, grateful, more quiet.
They will sweep up this creation at 1 p.m. Sunday, followed by a walk down to the canal by 14th Street.
This mandala, by the way, is centered around the flower of compassion.
We could use some of that to heal up the marrow of this nation’s splintering bones.
Mark Holmberg’s work can be seen at Richmond.com and WTVR.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Award Winning Journalist,
two minute piece about
DENISE'S GUIDED COMMUNITY MEDITATIONS
that aired in November 2014.
Denise Dolan brings her wellness and relationship training to Ellwood Thompson’s; she’s shown in her office there. August 7, 2012.