Monday, July 28, 2008


FourSpirals Mandala - (Reflection Series) - © Sue O'Kieffe 2008
source image - shrubbery

When I first read Angeles Arrien's interpretations of the 5 basic shapes, I definitely felt a lot of truth in relation to where I am in my life at the present time. While I have been writing this article, I have also been trying to determine the best way to present the information I read in her book. With 25 different permutations of meaning based on an individual's preference, it would be impossible for me to delve any more deeply on the shapes' significance by ranking and shape than I have. I have decided, though, that if there are any of you out there desiring more knowledge than what I have presented here, I would be willing to answer the first five inquiries sent to my email address.

What is really fascinating about the Preferential Shapes Test is that Arrien has developed a use for it in couples' counseling, as well as business, family, and group applications. The test can be used not only to show areas of conflict, but also to identify the resources each person can use to actualize resolution of conflict. (pp.77-78)

Reverly Mandala -(Reflection Series) - © Sue O'Kieffe 2008
source image - shrubbery

In a couple of days I will offer an exercise based on Arrien's book on how to play with these five shapes. Stay tuned for that final installment!

Sue O'Kieffe
Sacred Circle Mandalas

Sunday, July 27, 2008


On Sundays, I like sharing the beauty I have witnessed over the past week with all of you. I am grateful for the opportunities I have to see such a variety of shapes and colors, especially now, after having focused so intensely on the meaning of different shapes in art for the past week on my postings here.

I'm not sure what kind of plant those mandala-like green leaves are. Maybe later, when the blooms appear, I will be able to tell.

(For those of you who view my blog in a reader, you will need to come to my site in order to see the slide show and hear the music I try to tie in to all of my posts.)

Have a joyous Sunday, everyone.

Sue O'Kieffe
Sacred Circle Mandalas

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


vision mandalaVision Mandala - (Reflection Series) - © Sue O'Kieffe 2008
source image - shrubbery

If you've been following my posts recently, you know that I've been writing about Angeles Arrien's book Signs of Life. After studying the art of many different cultures, Arrien discovered five universal shapes common to all of them. The meanings attributed to the shapes describes universal aspirations, needs, and fears; each shape symbolizes a specific inner and outer experience relevant to humankind. (p. 29)

CIRCLE - wholeness, completeness, the process of individuation - the circle remains humankind's primary symbol for unity and stands for the mythic theme of individuation.

EQUIDISTANT CROSS - relationship. This is a coupling, synthesizing, integrating and balancing process, which carries a need for connection - to a creative project, a group, another person, or oneself.

SPIRAL - growth and evolution; a process of coming to the same point again and again, but at a different level, so everything is seen in a new light. Strong need for variety, novelty and change.

TRIANGLE - goals, visions, and dreams. The triangle is associated with pyramids, arrowheads and sacred mountains. An inate gift of vision may not be recognized. Those involved in the triangle process have a great need to follow their dreams.

SQUARE - stability, solidity and security. The act of drawing a square mirrors the process of constructing a foundation. Those attracted to the square are ready to build, to implement a plan and to manifest ideas.
(pp. 31-66)

NEXT - putting it all together...

Sunday, July 20, 2008


sidways i slide thru the squareSideways I Slide Thru the Square - (Reflection Series) - © Sue O'Kieffe © 2008
source image - wild anise
On my last posting I introduced you to the concept of the Preferential Shape Test, which was developed by cultural anthropologist Angeles Arrien.

Thanks to all of you who have let me know the order of your shape preferences. I'm sure you are curious to know the significance of the order positions. Here goes!
  • Position 1 - Where You Think You Are - The shape placed here signals the process that now has your attention. It describes the part of yourself of which you are most aware...and most this time. However, it is not the most accurate indicator only shows where you think you are or where you would like to may mean you admire the qualities of the process it represents
  • Position 2 - Your Strengths - The shape you have chosen as your second preference exhibits an inherent strength predominant in you at this time, whether you know it or not. The shape in this position indicates areas of your nature that are currently fluid, strong, and resourceful.
  • Position 3 - Where You Are - This shape stands for the work that is really going on, at the core of your being. You must be aware of it in order to fully manifest the potential it represents. Think of Goldilocks ... when presented with multiple choices, the third choice was the best one for her (just right)
  • Position 4 - Your Motivation - Position 4 points to past challenges that have motivated your current process of change. The fourth position ...discloses the motivation that triggered your move into the core work to be done symbolized by the shape in Position 3.
  • Position 5 - Old, Unfinished Business - This shape identifies a process you have outgrown or one that you dislike. The fifth position is associated with unresolved issues you now wish to put aside and will reclaim at a later date.
(from Arrien, Angeles Signs of Life, pp. 23-28)

Next time I will talk about the shapes themselves. I'd love to hear what you think about this process.

Sue O'Kieffe
Sacred Circle Mandalas

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


Inner Landscape Mandala - (Reflection Series) - © Sue O'Kieffe 2008
source image - shrubbery

Angeles Arrien is a cultural anthropologist who wrote a book in the early 90's called Signs of Life. She wondered if all cultures had common symbols in their art and what meanings were attributed to them. After seven years of study she discovered that five basic shapes appear in the art of all cultures: the circle, square, triangle, spiral and equidistant cross.

From this research Arrien developed a Preferential Shapes Test as a tool for self discovery. I first took this test in the mid '90's and found it spot-on. If you are interested in trying this yourself, this is what you do:

After drawing the above shapes on a piece of paper, rank them according to preference. Do not spend a lot of time thinking about the order.

At this time in my life my preference ranking is 1) square 2) triangle 3) spiral 4) equidistant cross 5) circle. I know my preferences are different now than they were10 years ago (as they should be). I do remember at that time the square was in last place. The rest I don't really remember.

This mandala started out being about using the square as the primary shape in my mandala, but then it morphed into the equidistant cross!

Don't worry. In the days to come I will explain more about what Arrien ascribes to
the ranking and meaning of these shapes.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Fellow mandala maker and intuitive artist Milliande asked me to show the progression of the birth of one of my mandalas. I have been aware of the flowers produced by a certain type of palm tree for the last year or so, but this is the first year I have actually been able to get pictures before the blooms were spent. I've been trying to determine the species of the tree without any success yet, but I love the texture of the blossoms (not so apparent in this picture but totally captivating standing under the tree and pointing my camera lens upward!)

First step is to copy the source image and paste into a circle template.
Duplicate layer, flip horizontal, reduce opacity, merge visible layers a few times (I think 5 times) until a pattern emerges (see here for more detailed instructions). Looks kinda muddy and murky at this point, I know...think mandala in the raw ...
Now I begin the fun part of playing with adjustments, filters and blending modes. What will appear? Will I be able to capture the light the way I want to and let the story of the flowers really emerge?
More playing. Begins to feel pretty good to me. Time to choose a background

I may or may not be done, but right now this image feels satisfying. If I were to do anything else, it would be some kind of background embellishment (subtle textures, etc). Hmmm...I haven't yet named this mandala.

When I look at this image I have a feeling of an old soul telling a story. What do you see?

~Sue O'Kieffe
Sacred Circle Mandalas

Hey! be sure to visit me at Sue Doodles!

Sunday, July 06, 2008


Recently I discovered this beautiful sonnet by Rainier Marie Rilke:

Rose, you majesty-once, to the ancients, you were
just a calyx with the simplest of rims.
But for us, you are the full, the numberless flower,
the inexhaustible countenance.
In your wealth you seem to be wearing gown upon gown
upon a body of nothing but light;
yet each separate petal is at the same time the negation
of all clothing and the refusal of it.
Your fragrance has been calling its sweetest names
in our direction, for hundreds of years;
suddenly it hangs in the air like fame.
Even so, we have never known what to call it; we guess...
And memory is filled with it unawares
which we prayed for from hours that belong to us.
~Rainer Marie Rilke The Sonnets of Orpheus, Book 2:VI

I was especially drawn to this line ... In your wealth you seem to be wearing gown upon gown upon a body of nothing but light...

Isn't that just yum?

No matter how many different flowers I photograph for my art, I don't think I will ever tire of shooting different portraits of the rose in her many guises; and for this, on Sacred Life Sunday, I am most grateful.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


summer of loveSummer of Love Mandala - (Summer series) - © Sue O'Kieffe 2008

It was 1967 in San Francisco. In Minneapolis I was naively 16 with no idea of the social changes that would transpire over the years to come. I didn't even really know where San Francisco was. Now I live about 300 miles from "The City." Whenever I see neon orange, green, and yellow, it always takes me back to that time in my life. There was a time in my youth when orange was my favorite color.

And now I think back on that time...the music, the ideas, the philosophy, the revolution...we have made progress (at least women aren't wearing white gloves to work anymore!). The Age of Aquarius and the Information Age have come together, and it is easier to realize..interacting with a cyber community all over the world-... how we really are all One.

May we all be made whole in this Circle of Love.

Sue O'Kieffe
Sacred Circle Mandalas

Hey, for a lighter side of Sue, be sure to visit my sister blog SUE DOODLES!