As you leaf through the mandalas in my four mandala
coloring books you may notice distinct Nepalese and Tibetan influences in some
of them. This is no coincidence; each of my mandala
coloring books, and the third volume in particular,
is linked with the East. Two separate incidents led me to visit the
first happened in
Before creating my third set of designs,
however, I felt the need to infuse myself with fresh images. Few regions in
the world are as rich in mandalas as the Indian
subcontinent and the
The second significant event occurred on the winter solstice of 1993 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even though subsequent surgery gave me an excellent prognosis, I knew that I had to reach for something beyond the realm of traditional Western medicine. To heal my psychic wound I needed to engage in a personal challenge that celebrated my health, my life.
One day I saw a photo of a radiant young woman
on a mountain summit, holding up her arms in that universal victorious pose
that says: "I made it!" Laura Evans, too, is a breast cancer
survivor. In her book The Climb of My Life, she chronicles her
courageous journey from the edge of death to the victory of a lifetime. She
describes how she and other breast cancer survivors made a heroic ascent of
the highest mountain in South America,
And so, in
search of mandalas and "my" mountain, I
With the assistance of Chitra,
my Nepalese guide, I headed into the mountains. We hiked for a grueling two
days before reaching a small village where we intended to spend a couple of
nights. As it happened, our guest house was owned by a very unusual Tibetan
monk, Kalsang Lama. In addition to his native
Nepali and Tibetan he spoke fluent French and English. He explained how years
ago a Western doctor had sponsored him to pursue a college degree in
And so it came to be that in this remote Nepalese mountain village, a Tibetan monk asked foreigners to sponsor local children so they too can attend boarding school in Nepal's capital, the only way most of them can receive an education beyond basic literacy acquired in village schools. Like a proud father he showed me photos of "his" 25 girls and boys, many still attending school in that far-away city. Realizing how rich my own life has been as a result of educational opportunities, I decided to leave a gift I hadn't even known I'd brought: a 10-year commitment to send a 9-year-old girl, Jyotsna, to school in Kathmandu, something she very much wanted but could never do on her own.
The next day, still wanting to climb a mountain, I asked Chitra to guide me to the top of a particular hill. A surprise awaited me at its 12,000 ft summit: an ancient Buddhist shrine. As I leaned against its white walls, surveying the quiet Himalayan panorama, I felt jubilant: I, too, had made it.
as I was finishing drawing the designs for my third book, I finally
understood how these events are connected. When I was a teenager, a book by a
Tibetan monk rekindled in me a deeply buried memory of something Himalayan
cultures have always had in abundance: mandalas.
Thirty-five years later I visited
The other great news is that Jyotsna and I connected in a new way as she is one of the children whose Peace Mandala design was included in my fourth mandala coloring book (publ. 2000): Peace Mandala Coloring Book from Children around the World. Her photo as a 13-year old is on the back cover along with those of many other remarkable children who contributed to this Gift of Peace in the New Millennium. This book plus my growing international mandala family of many children and adults are one of the highlights of my life.
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