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CW// stroke

I am Canadian.  I grew up in a small town of Québec in a really francophone region. When I moved to Ontario for work at the age of 20, I could not hold a conversation in English.

I was a creative kid.  A Sears catalogue, homemade glueing paste, and a pair of scissors would keep me entertained for a long time.  I would spend hours making paper dolls and their clothing from scratch.  

As an adult, I put all my creative activities aside to focus on my professional career and did not pick it back up until I was in my late thirties.  At that point I started making paper models, paper tole, Pergamano, and 3D stereo-photography.

When my daughter was a toddler she would ask me to draw animals, objects and people. I was doing a terrible job, nothing I drew looked like anything I was trying to draw but she kept asking for more.  

Out of desperation I looked for step-by-step drawing instructions on the internet.  This is how I fell upon zen doodling and mandala drawing.  

I was hooked.  Drawing mandalas became my escape from my busy and stress filled life.  When I drew I would stop thinking and get lost in my work.  I discovered a thriving online community and made lasting friends from whom I would get encouragement and inspiration.  

I participated in many workshops. This is how I discovered Julie and Mandala Magic.

I participated a couple of times in the free program, at the end of 2022 I decided to take the plunge and join the Mandala Magic School.  It was money well spent, I do not regret it.

One night in the fall of 2016 I had a stroke while driving back from work at 3 am.  

Unknowingly at the time I was also suffering from post viral encephalitis.  

My life took a tumble, it is as if I had gone to sleep being me and woke up being someone else.  

My life had changed and would never be the same.  I was only 41 years old. 

In the weeks following the stroke, I could not read, watch TV or even surf on the internet. I had no clue what any numbers meant, I did not know what money was worth and I could not even figure out the time.  I was in my bubble disconnected from the world around me.  

At the time my mandala practice was well established so we included it as a part of my rehabilitation program.  

My therapists also suggested that I pick the guitar back up after a break of over 20 years.  They explained that art and music were proven to be beneficial to recovery after a brain trauma. 

A few days after my stroke I remember struggling while holding my compass and wanting to give it up.  I looked at my pre-stroke drawings and I was unable to figure out how I had constructed my mandalas.

But I kept going. Little by little, circle by circle, one pen stroke at a time, it started to get a bit clearer in my mind. It did not take long for me to be able to make beautiful art again.  

When I was drawing my mandalas I did not have time to dwell on the things I had lost.  It kept me busy, it kept me connected to other people who loved drawing mandalas and most of all it kept me from sinking deeper into depression.  

Not only it saved my sanity, it was also helping me heal my injured brain by keeping my brain challenged and active. It was very beneficial in math and pattern recognition.

After my first 6 weeks of rehabilitation I had graduated to the math level of a kid in kindergarden.  

By the end of my rehabilitation, I was evaluated to be up to a level equivalent to an eight years old kid in second grade.  

I am convinced that I would not have gotten there without the magic of mandala drawing.  

Unfortunately, I did not recover completely and I have some mild cognitive impairments, they are not visible.  People who did not know me before can’t perceive any of them even though it changed me dramatically.  

My job was stressful and cognitively very demanding. I had to be at my best, mistakes could cost many lives. Because of this I was forced into retirement after being unable to obtain medical clearance to get my professional certification back.   

My aviation career ended abruptly and I am still in the process of mourning the loss. I am once again counting on my mandala friends and my mandala journey to get me through. 

What appeals to me the most in mandalas are the magic of the geometry, the precision and the symmetry.  

I feel safe within the constraints of the circle.  

With the Alignment program of the Mandala Magic School, I am venturing out of my comfort zone and I am loving it.  Julie’s exercise suggestions are bringing me to places I never ventured before.  

Adding accompanying words to each mandala is new to me, I find it difficult but love the challenge.  

I have chosen to do the Alignment program with watercolour so it is naturally forcing me to be less precise and I am learning to loosen up.

Watercolour is also quicker than colouring pencils.  The majority of my mandalas are made in ink and coloured pencils.

From the planning, drawing, inking and colouring, I often spend days working on one mandala.

The unpredictability and pace of watercolour are welcomed.  

28 Comments

  1. Diane Hellig

    Dear Nathalie – your story has so much power and your images are beautiful and strong and gentle at the same TIMe. Being challenged with chronic illness myself, your story is brave and INSPIRATIONAL and so validating of the power of art to heal, not just any art but the mandala process itself. I wish you continued healing.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Diane, art is powerful.

      Reply
  2. Michaela Rosenberger

    Oh my, Natalie! What a journey you have been on, and continue to be on. I am so glad that you are healing, and chose to share this with us. Your mandalas are beautiful, and i appreciate how transform they have been in your life. You have so many losses, including your parents, and yet you still move forward. Much love and appreciation to you. Thank you for your inspiration. Love, michaela❤️💕❤️

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Michaela. my mom and Dad were often to only one who would get to see my art. I work mainly in sketchbooks.

      Reply
  3. Kelli Kennedy

    Oh, Nathalie! I am inspired and so very encouraged by your story of how mandala making has brought you through such a difficult ordeal. Thank you for taking the time to share it here. And, to think that your creativity began with the SEars Catalog! That takes me back to my childhood also, but we never had access to scissors, glue or tape, so I just looked and dreamed. As an adult I always have several pair of scissors, more glue than I will ever use up, and tape of all kinds. ha. But, seriously…your work is beautiful, delicate, and yet strong. Watercolors are a challenge to me…honestly, this whole mandala making is a big challenge, but I began to work with Julie’s magic during covid when I was very much isolated, and will always be thankful to have found her then. I”m so glad you’re here, too.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Kelli. Your comment about having a life time supply of scissors and glue made me giggle. My daughter and I sorted my mom’s art supplies after she passed: We ended up with a big shoe box full of scissors and a banker box full of all sorts of glue and tape…

      Reply
  4. Dayle Lambert

    I AM so glad to know that you are recovering so well and we all will benefit from your wonderful artistic ability and your ability to be so fluent in your second langauge. I am from western canada and even though required to take
    some french in school, my ability to retain it was not there, you are brilliant on two fronts. You inspire me. Many thanks for sharing your work and your story so far….there will be some excieting new chapters ahead I am sure

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Dayle 🙂 !!!

      Reply
  5. Wendy Winters

    I find your story to be inspiring and encouraging.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Wendy !

      Reply
  6. Penny Lamnek

    Thank you for sharing such a personal story Nathalie. Your courage and determination is inspiring. I love how the creative spirit cannot be quenched but continues to work its magic on the artist and all those around. Your work has a delicate gentle quality about it. Your drawing is sensitive and colours are just lovely. Very moving and touches the soul.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Penny !!!

      Reply
  7. Pamela Dintaman

    Your story encourages me. Thank you for sharing.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Pamela !

      Reply
  8. Kathleen Steelandt

    Dear Nathalie,
    what a strong and inspiring person you are overcoming and growing though such adverse experiences. I feel very humbled by your story and am in absolute awe of your mandala creations, they really are worthy of exhibiting or printing onto cards to sell. Thank you so much for trusting this community with your story. Feeling very blessed to be connected with you in this way.
    Loving wishes, Kathy

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Kathleen. I usually do not share my drawings, I keep them in my sketchbooks. I think it would become work if I were to print or expose. I probably would not enjoy the process as much.

      Reply
  9. Linda Biggers

    Thank you for sharing your story, Nathalie. I admire your determination to keep going after such a frightening life changing incident. Your mandalas are gorgeous and am glad they were a part of your healing.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Linda

      Reply
  10. Wendy Ells

    Such beautiful work, Nathalie and an inspiring story of how mandalas help us through the darkest of times.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Wendy 🙂

      Reply
  11. Karen Nimmo

    I’m so moved to read your story.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Karen !

      Reply
  12. Maria Day

    Nathalie, thank you for SHARING your story of how mandalas are HELPING you. It is power to read how your art is HEALING you and keep you connected THROUGH DRAMATIC life changes. I simply love the patterns and vibrant colors of your mandalas.

    Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      You are right, art is healing. Thank you Maria !

      Reply
  13. Monica

    Beautiful! Amazing story and amazing mandalas.

    Reply
    • LeeAnn Myers Foltz

      Nathalie, your images have so much depth and resonance. What a gift that the mandala process has been so healing and a POWERFUL place to hold your journey. Thank you for sharing your story.

      Reply
      • Nathalie Dale

        Thank you LeeAnn.

        Reply
    • Nathalie Dale

      Thank you Monica !

      Reply

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