For sports fans, the “Holiday 6” college football bowl games dominated New Year’s weekend. The Rose and Orange Bowls did not disappoint, nor did the (Pasadena) Rose Parade floats, including the one with surfing dogs. Crystal bowls, however, provided the highlight of my holiday.
Rothko Chapel hosts a Crystal Bowl Sounding (co-sponsored by MD Anderson) on the first day of each new year. Dana Shamas from Bayou Bliss Yoga “plays” an assortment of crystal bowls, each emitting a sonorous note on the musical scale. In addition to creating a mesmerizing symphony, the bowls also emit vibrations that resonate with different areas (or chakras) of the body. I know it sounds crazy, but try it.
For an hour on New Year’s Day, Eliza, my mom and I sat amidst the spectral sounds of crystal bowls and the masterpieces of Mark Rothko. At one point, Dana asked us to set our intention for the new year and let the vibrations transport that intention into every cell of our bodies. The concept of accepting a different future, one that doesn’t look like I thought or imagined, came to my mind. The meditative state held within the Chapel was transcendent until, during the planned moment of silence, a grumpy old man practically belched out: “Question! Where can I buy one of these bowls?”
During the closing Q&A, Eliza asked a more gentle and appropriate question of Dana: “You mentioned earlier that the crystal bowls reset our bodies to a frequency that’s hard to maintain in a big city. Can you elaborate?” Below is my paraphrased version of her answer:
We know from physics that everything emits a vibration. We also know that different parts of our bodies operate optimally at certain vibrations. Big cities are full of dissonant sounds creating harsh vibrations which throw our bodies into misalignment. That’s why people return from vacations in nature more calm and centered – nature has a harmonic, organic vibration that restores us. The bowls mimic that therapeutic state of balance.
Now eight treatments in, the most dissonant aspects of chemo remain fatigue, hair loss (although I’ve started going out sans-wig more and more) and, most recently, insomnia. My #comewithCarrietochemo partner today was dear friend and fellow Rothko Chapel guide Jay Stailey. We first met walking a labyrinth three years ago and since that time, he’s become somewhat of a sage for me and also for Eliza, who accompanied him on two Sacred Sites Quests. Jay is also a master storyteller and as he held my hand, he shared that gift with me at my bedside, ending our time with the poem Before Dawn in October by Julia Kasdorf.
After arriving at MD Anderson at 6 am for the blood draw and 7 am port access, I finished chemo by 10 am, leaving time to: try for the first time the healing prayer ministry at St. John the Divine (which was fantastic); run by Wigs by Andre to again try and make the wig look more like me (Isabel nailed it this third time); take Eliza to an appointment; run to HEB; and drop Hampton and his friend at Rogue One. I’ve learned to take advantage of feeling good and the steroids I receive prior to chemo temporarily transform me into an Energizer Bunny before I crash like a hungover Pillsbury Doughboy.
Long before crystal bowl soundings surfaced as tools of healing and spirituality, Dutch artist Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) sought sacred equilibrium through art. He adhered to a form of spirituality called theosophy which affirms an intelligent order undergirding all life and believes the further removed humanity is from nature, the greater its need for the spiritual. For Mondrian and other founders of the Modern Abstract movement, such as Wassily Kandinsky and Frantisek Kupka, geometrically-driven art provided a portal to the Divine.
To arrive at the elemental state of something, Mondrian deconstructed an image so that the viewer no longer focused on its form and color, but on the relationship between shapes of the image. He used only primary colors and black vertical and horizontal intersecting lines to represent the basic opposing forces of nature: positive and negative, dark and light, male and female, etc. It is as if Mondrian looked at an image through a microscope, focusing in on its DNA. By removing all but the essential, he felt we had a better chance of seeing the Divine.
“I wish to approach truth as closely as is possible, and therefore I abstract everything until I arrive at the fundamental quality of objects.” – Piet Mondrian
Mondrian founded the De Stijl art movement, the modern abstract art genre and the language we use for abstract painting. Other terms one hears in association with Mondrian include “rectilinear” (i.e. rectangles), “geometric” and “neo-plasticism,” a term Mondrian coined to define his post-WWI “new art.”
Breast cancer abstracts unessentials, just as Mondrian did. My pace of life has slowed substantially and I like it. I’m reading more, running around less. My prep time each day ranges from zero minutes to five, depending on the day ahead. And the kids are helping clean the kitchen (well, Eliza is). She said today that the only times I slow down are when I had mono and now cancer, and we can’t get much worse than this so I better take note. Her message was crystal clear.
Here are instructions on how to make your own Piet Mondrian painting, as well as five things you need to know to understand Mondrian. If you live in Houston, check Judy Jellison’s web site for information on her monthly Full Moon Crystal Bowl Soundings.