The stories behind the songs - Mandala

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The Story behind "Mandala"

Hi Everyone,

My next story begins on a restless Spring afternoon in 1980, a few months before I began recording the album “Celebration”


I was living in Highgate Village, London and experiencing an acute attack of writers block on my return from a TV promo tour of Germany


The Ferris Wheel


 One evening during this trip, my record company ‘minder” and I had been lured to visit a fairground that was regaling the night air with festive music near the hotel.

There was a daunting-looking Ferris wheel looming in the centre of the park and I have always been both attracted and repelled by the thought of flying around at speed far above Terra Firma!


However my intrepid friend persuaded me that I could overcome my nerves and maybe even stir up the creative juices for my next album.

I felt up to the challenge that evening and as the wheel began to climb I felt  mildly excited and thought “Yes, maybe I can overcome my nerves this time”

 But then  ‘horror of horrors” my heart began to pound in my chest as we went over the edge at the top of the cycle and soon I was in the grip of a monster panic attack, hanging on to my friend for dear life!





Excitement and Fear – Two sides of the coin



At the age of 21 I experienced a spontaneous “near-death spiritual experience” and ever since then  I have studied spiritual teachers from many different devotional paths.


In the midst of my terror on the Ferris wheel that night I was able to recall the words of  Dr. Deepak Chopra who said something like  ‘The difference between the hormones of fear and the hormones of excitement is but a hair’s breadth and can change one to the other in a heartbeat with a  “SIMPLE CHANGE OF INTERPRETATION”.



The next horrifying cycle of the Ferris wheel began and just as I was about to throw up I recalled these words of wisdom and sent out a prayer for angelic intervention.

I tried desperately to focus my thoughts on being EXCITED by the ride and ELATED that I was safely soaring above the sparking lights of the fair – instead of thinking “OMG I am about to pass out!”


I will never know how my experience suddenly transformed, but as I tumbled over the next precipice on this wheel of death,I began to feel a faint sense of  excitement as the pounding of my heart began to transform from the hammers of hell into a slowly building sound of -----an interesting bass and drum riff!



The rhythm  started to build in my head until it became more and more hypnotic,holding my attention so much  that my panic attack began to slowly transform into exhilaration and inspiration. 



“It must have been an angel” were the words that came to mind as I gave thanks that I in fact I was not having a heart attack but had just had a great idea for a new song!

The Ancient Magic of Highgate Wood


Back to that “restless spring afternoon” in Highgate London.


I was inspired by the seed of my new song, but the melody and lyrics stubbornly refused to manifest- except that I knew the song would be born on the dancing keys of a vibraphone.

So I had duly installed a beautiful set of “vibes” in my home studio.




However I had spent the past few days staring blankly at the golden keys and trying in vain to invoke my muse.

Completely fed up, I thought I would go for a run in nearby Highgate Wood, donned my track suit and set off through those ancient woodland paths.

 I LOVE being in woods and forests and my heartbeat began to increase with a sense of well-being as I ran and felt the delicious cool breeze on my face.


Suddenly I had a vivid flashback  to that night on the Ferris wheel and wondered if a similar transformation might be about to happen as another spiritual/psychological teaching came to mind:

“Memories are state-bound” - This means that when  we are in a state of strong emotional arousal, the brain connects to similar past experiences as if they are still happening and, like a row of dominoes, intensifies the present experience.


The Vibraphone Comes to Life


Back in my flat, totally elated,I picked up the vibraphone beaters and spontaneously began to play the main instrumental riff of ‘Mandala” as the melody and lyrics gradually took shape.


“Hey! My heart is beating- letting in the wonder!”

Oh Lord! I can feel the Mandala!”


The song was completed that evening and the process of writing it became a spiritual lesson for me as I became aware of the cyclic nature of all creation, of nature, the seasons and of our human experience itself.

The beautiful, religious symbol of THE MANDALA seemed to be a perfect title for the song- with the point of shining stillness in the centre, from where the profusion of life radiates outwards to infinity in perfect symmetrical  patterns……


SO-  if you want to do something, don’t EVER let fear get in the way!


Fear is just a bunch of adrenal hormones masking the possibility of transformation into the excitement of a challenge that could lead you to the fulfillment of your highest aspirations.

The single “Mandala” charted in Germany and the album “Celebration” went gold.


The original recording in 1980 was based around the vibraphone, but later I recorded a new version using synthesizers instead of vibes - which you can hear on the album ‘The Enchanted Way”. I am told the song is often used by spiritual groups for dynamic mediatations.



See the video for "Mandala" here:

Write a comment

Comments: 41
  • #1

    Gus Gleiter (Saturday, 22 June 2019 22:04)

    Loved reading about my second favorite song from you...thanks for sharing!

  • #2

    Paul Ybarra (Saturday, 22 June 2019 22:07)

    Thank you for sharing this, Ms. Oldfield. Just the message I needed to hear, especially right now.
    Blessings and Light to you,

  • #3

    John Whitaker (Sunday, 23 June 2019 10:36)

    A nice reflection and understanding of spiritual connection. Being aware and tuning in is not common for many . It’s another consciousness and you have used it to produce some wonderful music over time. Music is timeless. It’s also a language and has empathetic tones. From nostalgia to memories, music captivates and enchants. I really enjoyed reading this and listening to the new version.

  • #4

    Joe M. (Sunday, 30 June 2019 03:18)

    I always appreciate hearing the stories behind the songs that I love. It’s so interesting to know the spiritual origins. I was excited to hear the reworked version on Enchanted Way.

  • #5

    Jarle Lilledal Nyvoll (Thursday, 11 July 2019 22:14)

    Hi, Sally!
    "MANDALA" was my first encounter with your beautiful music. My uncle played me the first two tracks from the "CELEBRATION" album in 1983, and I was hooked! There was beauty in your music that I never found elsewhere.

    Thank you for writing about these two important songs. It´s always interesting to read the stories about how music came to be.

    By the way, I saw you play live in Stavanger, Norway in 1984, and I remember you playing two songs that were never released on any albums. They were mor rock-oriented than your usual stuff, and you jokingly said that you had a "rock bug that you just had to get out of the system". :-) One of them was called "MR. COOL", and the other one was "VOODOO MAN". (You also sang a lovely cover of "KILLING ME SOFTLY".) Have any of the rock songs ever been recorded by you, or were they only ever performed live?

    I must mention that there was a wonderful moment towards the end of the concert. The atmosphere during the concert was light, but serious. You were clearly very much into the music, and it was a great night out. Towards the end of the concert you moved towards the edge of the pallets that elevated the scene from the dance floor. You suddenly fell from the pallet, and one of your musicians was quick enough to grab you before you fell "overboard". I still remember the smile you gave when you realised what had happened!

    Once again, I must thank you for all your lovely music over the years. I have been a fan since I heard those first tones from "MANDALA", and I have played your music on a - very - local radio station I used to work at. My record collection thank you, too!

    Will the latest remastered/remixed compilation be released on CD as well?

  • #6

    Sally (Friday, 19 July 2019 01:26)

    Hi everyone! Thanks for your comments - I feel honoured that you appreciate my music and reflect it back to me with your insightful comments. By the way Jarle - I have a vague memory of that concert in Stavanger and my unintentional flying leap off the stage! Thank heaven for my wonderful musicians and their unexpected talents- xx

  • #7

    Jarle Lilledal Nyvoll (Saturday, 20 July 2019 22:40)

    He, he... So right. I guess you never asked your musicians about their "grabbing abilities" when you auditioned them... :-) As if the music was not enough - an it was! - that smile of yours was enough to make me remember that concert fondly, 35 years later.

    If you have the time - did you ever record "MR. COOL" and "VOODOOMAN"?

  • #8

    Lea Capkova (Monday, 19 August 2019 15:47)

    Hi Sally,

    Thanks a lot for sharing your wonderful stories behind the songs. They ´ re like beautiful pictures or mini-films I can watch...

  • #9

    Sea blu (Saturday, 02 November 2019 17:28)

    From the start of your (solo) musical travel - the words, music and vocals seldom failed to come together wonderfully. There is a sense of the 'magical'. It's enhanced by the songs opening up a space for the listener to co-create, by the imagined worlds the listener stepping into those spaces you created for us. Thanks. Interesting the background events that inspire the works. Whenever the energy and time permits, please do share the stories behind the songs.

  • #10

    Anne Marie (Monday, 06 April 2020 23:14)

    Dear Sally, I have only just realised that you went to the same secondary school as me. How did you find it? My sisters Patricia and Margaret Brian went there also. Margaret had nine children! I went there from 1970. I am a poet and a musician too. My husband was a musician and my son is also. If you would like to chat my email is

  • #11

    Johanna derenburger (Thursday, 09 April 2020 20:59)

    I gave been listening to your music for a while,please never stop making music, IAM looking forward to your next album.i just your music.

  • #12

    John O Donnell (Monday, 22 June 2020 00:33)

    Hi and greetings from Harbourside ,Inverkip ,Scotland . I just can’t believe my luck in discovering this page and hopefully being able to leave some words of gratitude and thanks .I have recently retired from my work as a divorce lawyer (of all things) having practised for over 40 years .That retirement has coincided unfortunately with major changes in my personal life .The one thing that keeps me on the road Sally is your music .I have listened to and been in love with your magical music my whole adult life .That goes way back to the early 1970s and I have been in love with all your lovely beautiful songs and always will be .Thank you from the bottom of my heart ,Sally .God bless you all the days of your life .

  • #13

    Grant Atwell (Monday, 29 June 2020 05:06)

    Hi Sally just found you on line. Delighted after all these years. Glad to see you wonderful Woman.

  • #14

    Grant Atwell (Friday, 10 July 2020 23:28)

    Hi Grant - Thank you for your message! Lovely to hear from you after so much water under the bridge. Great to see Hayley doing so well also! She has the genes of their wonderful mum and dad - -All best wishes to you for everything x

  • #15

    Sally (Monday, 13 July 2020 17:53)

    Hi Grant - thanks for your message! Lovely to hear from you after so much water under the bridge. Great to see Hayley doing so well also! She has the genes of her wonderful mum and dad - All best wishes to you for everything x

  • #16

    James (Tuesday, 25 August 2020 15:11)

    Hi Sally,

    I have enjoyed reading your 2 blog posts, when can we expect another one?
    I have enjoyed your voice since I first heard Mirrors, even though I knew about you through being a big fan of Mike's music. One of my favourite songs of yours is Natasha, I would love to hear about that song from you.
    Take care.

  • #17

    Andrew Rudkin (Monday, 19 October 2020 08:25)

    Hi from Australia,
    there is a starry night outside ...always thought of you as a cross between Diana ( and Artemis) and Goldberry

  • #18

    sea blu (Wednesday, 28 October 2020 02:32)

    After the frantic noise of panic buying, came the sudden silence of lockdown here in UK. With limited digital access, the experience grew stranger venturing out for supplies, supporting a parent 'shielding'. Throughout this experience, one thing has stopped the stress overwhelm. Music. Your brother Mike's and yours. On ventures out for neccessities - initially eerily deserted streets or later with people, uncomfortably travelling on bus or train, warily look to spot the likely covid-infected. At times like these, your songs were, and are, an oasis of calm, peace, and hopeful. The music make more sense than the political noise that surround us. A pity then, unlike your brother, your albums are not available in music stores like hmv. There are still some of us who have little access to the internet. Even so, your earlier music has been enough as a place of sanity: tho it's become a very familiar place. Hope in future can get hold & hear the albums still to be experienced.

  • #19

    Jim Fleming (Friday, 27 November 2020 12:28)

    Hello Sally, I too love being in woods and recently I have been met by a crow that flies from tree to tree along the path that I usually take at dusk while walking with the dog. it flies low overhead and waits for me to come below it. I have taken to talking to it and it listens with head turning from side to side. When it reaches a certain point on the edge of the territory where it feels safe it turns and flies back in the direction from where it joined me. Somehow through wondering what it meant I thought of you on the first album that I ever bought back in 1968 when I had just left home and started at university. "Sallyangie" I wondered what had happened to you and were you still signing. Your voice is still as beautiful as ever so I will try and find some of your cds to buy. I hope all your music isn't just on download nowadays. I prefer something physical to hold.All the best to you in the future. Jim

  • #20

    Andi from Munich ( Germany ) (Saturday, 05 December 2020 14:27)

    Dear Sally ( Ms Oldfield ),

    when I heard your first record I was very impressed of your voice the melodies and the words.
    The song I most loved was Song of the Lamp.
    This was the time I was studying at he University in a town called Regensburg in Bavaria 120 km from München. There I started making music in a band.

    For some years I give Solo-Concerts only with acoustic guitra and voice ( for few people )

    A few yeras ago I saw a cd of yours in a shop, bought it again and was impressed again.

    And still there was my love for Song of the Lamp.

    I play it in my concerts and you might get some shares hopefully.

    But this year all my concerts ( 90% ) were cancelled because of Corona. Very sad, cause I love doing concerts.

    So I tried to record some songs in my sleeping room because there was nothing to do. It was just something like practicing with a small laptop. After having recorded some songs the idea came up to record a whole CD. I released it end of octobre. So it is not really perfect because I had to play all instruments live of my own it might be full of mistakes but it is something I have down in this terrible time. I was juust working till February 2020 in a studio somewhere else but could not go own.

    So on my new CD is also my version of Song of the Lamp.

    I would like to send it to you if you like ( agree ). My homepage is mail :

    I wish you all the best and have beautiful christmas days.

    sincerely Andi

  • #21

    Uwe (Friday, 18 December 2020 10:44)

    I also heard the song Voodoo Man, when Sally was in Germany on a Song Festival. (And some other new and never released Songs). I liked Voodoo Man and ever hoped she will release it sometimes. I believe it would be a really good idea for a new album. (including the other never released songs)

  • #22

    Jarle Lilledal Nyvoll (Tuesday, 22 June 2021 17:52)

    Yes, I loved "Voodoo Man" as well, and "Mr. Cool", too. Not many rock songs by Sally, but I loved those two!

    And yes, by all means - let´ s have a CD of unreleased/rare songs! That would make my year!

  • #23

    Henk de Heij (Sunday, 05 September 2021 11:25)

    Dear sally .

    Thank you so much for your wonderful music , i really enjoy all your songs.
    Hope your doing fine and stay healthy for many years.
    Greetings from Gouda, Holland

  • #24

    Dieter (Tuesday, 14 September 2021 08:47)

    Dear Sally,
    I am so excited to write you a massage. Beside the Beatles no other singer/songwriter has had more influence on my life than you. Your music is so magic. Especially the first 5 albums belong to my Olymp of the greatest music ever. Your songs bring me to another dimension and nothing and no one ever could find my deep inside better than your songs!
    One I had the chance to meet you personally. It was a concert at Neuss (close to Düsseldorf) in the nineties. What a particularly emotional moment!.
    I hope you are doing well. Germany is missing you so much and I recommend to visit our countryside because here we feel the special connection to your songs.
    I hope in the near future we see, hear more from you. Would be great to see any comment on this message.
    Your greatest fan

  • #25

    Fred (Thursday, 16 September 2021 00:53)

    Good morning mrs.Oldfield,
    I was lucky to see you performing in Germany in a nice location in Münster, Germany some 25 years ago.
    Still remembering this performance and listening to your beautifull voice and music once in a while.
    Maybe you'l find some inspiration to make a european tour once again and we will have the possibility to hear and sea you again.
    Wonderful sunny OM you got designed.
    May god bless you and let you feel the nature.

  • #26

    Michael (Sunday, 19 September 2021 12:53)

    I’m compiling a retrospective list of favourite songs, and I remember getting great enjoyment from the Strange Day in Berlin album, which was consistently good. If I had to pick a favourite, it would be Path with a Heart. Like Jim, I would like to get hold of a CD version of this album. Just wondered if you had a favourite song, both amongst your own, and more generally.
    I’m also curious about why you gravitated towards Germany, but perhaps you could write about that in an autobiography?
    All the best,

  • #27

    Sea blu (Tuesday, 28 September 2021 23:28)

    From last December (2020) til about a month ago, music and other joys didn't exist. Covid turned life upside down. For myself and those round me. For a long time not even music (nor food) could sustain.

    It seems it is not possible to find joy again in that which makes sense of this strange experience called existence. The life and death struggles of others is a layer of guilt on top of the personal train crash that comes rushing at one, meant tears which should have flowed, were stemmed prematurely.

    Then recently one day, began momentary visits to playlists, like a old familiar friend. Over weeks, stayed a little longer with the songs. Cannot say 'the joy' is fully back again. Train crash this time drove through me. It did do damage. Not just one's physical being, but importantly, those you lost.

    So, it is a surprise, that the 'joys' of before, somehow it's rays are felt again.

    Last few weeks upgraded the old phone. Basic, but does the job. Finally discover the world of u-tube and so on. Lack of retail outlets here in UK meant many songs of Sally's remained unheard. Now, hearing and adding to that playlist. If only the physical CDs were available in stores.

    By the way, know somewhat the pressure you Sally felt while trying to live one's life. Attempting to complete an art degree with flu in younger days, I too have chronic fatigue. Learning to balance responsibility and rest is a life long journey. Often not well travelled.

    There comes a thought at times, what has been my life? Well, whatever the ups and downs of our own life journeys, Sally you should be proud of the visions you have generously shared with us. It is a 'joy'. And yes, the background to songs are welcome, as was the blog. May you find time at some point to write more of your thoughts.

  • #28

    Glenn (Tuesday, 16 November 2021 08:47)

    Hello Sally,
    I recently upgraded my hi-fi system and the first thing I played was the Water Bearer CD. It is still the most beautiful and mysterious piece of music I have heard. So, thank you.
    One question, though. Was the track 'Mirrors' an add on? It seems out of place in the context of the flow of the record.

  • #29

    Michael Corke (Sunday, 21 November 2021 15:39)

    I am truly blessed that you, your music and lyrics were in my lifetime.
    I have shed tears listening to some of your songs and so many happy thoughts as your music fills the rooms.
    A voice like crystal glass and the eyes of an angel, you have blessed us all.
    God Bless

  • #30

    Christian (Wednesday, 08 December 2021 16:41)

    It is always risky to re-record a classic song, even if the original is your own. But when it comes to Mandala you not only "re-invented" the song but obviously also your artists name. What made you change into "Natasha Oldfield" for the album "The Flame" and "Sally Natasha Oldfield" on the previous album "Natasha"? I do recall the titlesong's lyrics "Natasha come in from the cold..." Sounds like some alter ego being invited to take over. Of cause I don't expect to get any too personal reasons explained here. Mike also changed into "Michael" on one occasion, and that was definitely not an easy time for him and his music. Mentioning Mike in connection to your ferris-wheel experience: he suffered also an even more dramatic experience not much later on an almost desastrous flight to Spain. He created "Five Miles Out". Thanks you both survived and turned your experiences into excellent music. The songs Mandala and Five Miles Out are, more than 20 years later, still upon my most beloved songs from you two.

  • #31

    Mauro (Wednesday, 16 February 2022 04:34)

    Thank you for the story and the deep insights it brings, together with your wonderful music and art, Sally.

  • #32

    Sally (Sunday, 20 February 2022 23:30)

    Just a heartfelt thankyou for all your comments!
    The last time I posted a message on my blog was nearly two years ago -quite early in this strange "pandemic" that has so decimated our world.
    I am hoping to continue my blog at some point soon and answer some of your questions - but meanwhile I send you love and greetings and hopes for the final lifting of all these crazy restrictions so we can all breathe freely again! Sally xxx

  • #33

    Jarle Lilledal Nyvoll (Wednesday, 04 May 2022 21:02)

    So great to hear from you again, Sally! It has been a tough few years for us all. With you back on the blog again, we know we have moved on to more normal days. Sadly not for all parts of the world, but that will hopefully change. Soon.

  • #34

    Nickey Bishop (Sunday, 08 May 2022 19:57)

    You are by far my favorite female artist. Considering the scope of my music appreciation, library, and the number of concerts I have attended, you place higher than a many great musicians. My great hope is the see you perform. I'm seventy-one. There is plenty of time.

    Child of Allah really gets me. What a beautiful song of hope.

  • #35

    Sea blu (Saturday, 14 May 2022 14:52)

    The Flame album has Sally in what appears to be dressed in traditional Japanese. Unless mistaken, the closest south east asian musical influence detected in Sally's works eg Waterbearer album is Indonesian gamelan? Recent online wanderings (turned off Tv xcept for brief news updates since end if feb) led me to Japanese enka music. A type of eastern trad folk genre. Don't know many singers yet, but last couple of days came across (female) yokohama(?) + (male) hikawa.

  • #36

    Sea blu (Saturday, 14 May 2022 14:57)

    Sorry, couple errors in message just sent. (1) end of feb NOT end if feb & (2) female enka singer is Nagayama, I think.

  • #37

    Michael Wörz (Saturday, 09 July 2022 16:10)

    Hi Sally , been listening to your fantastic 'Water bearer' record all day long . Got it in 1982 and still love it !
    Hope you are fine and healthy.
    Loved your voice for all my life ,
    Love from Germany.

  • #38

    Kirk Kelley (Wednesday, 10 August 2022 20:19)

    Sally, I first heard your voice walking into one of many record stores in Santa Cruz California, in 1975. They’re were playing Steve Hackett’s Voyage of the Acolyte. When I asked , “Who’s Voice is That!!? “They handed me “Sallyangie”. I was hooked from that day. Over the years I’d pick up anything, and everything, you were on. I’d often find your albums, on display, in all the eclectic Santa Cruz Record Stores. Great memory’s!!!

  • #39

    Arturo (Thursday, 01 September 2022 18:43)

    Una cascada de agua y su sonido trajo de nuevo a mi mente el recuerdo de tus canciones.A mis 59 años aún siento y vivo el recuerdo de todo lo que me hizo sentir tu música y hoy vuelvo a escuchar de nuevo tus canciones que me traen buenas sensaciones y hacen vibrar mi alma de nuevo.Gracias Sally por existir y por todo lo que nos das.Un abrazo.

  • #40

    Bruno Dziembowski (Saturday, 31 December 2022 02:36)

    There are only a few singers who have such a distinctive and special voice that you immediately recognise them by their voice.
    These special voices belong to singers like Sally Oldfield, Kate Bush or Annie Lennox. The special thing about Sally's voice is that she seems to easily switch between a deep timbre and extremely high tones within a single song, as in her beautiful song "Morning of my life".
    Sally's voice is unique and incomparable.
    The time is coming when Sally Oldfield's musical achievement will receive worldwide recognition. I am convinced that Mirror or Morning of my life would take off immediately if Adele or James Blunt covered it.
    Kate Bush has had a fortuitous renaissance after Wuthering Heights was played on a popular television series. Quality always wins out.
    Sally Oldfield would experience the same if Morning of my life or Mirrors were played on a popular series.
    There are very few performers whose voice I want to listen to on continuous loop. Sally's voice I could listen to for hours, enthralled and fascinated.
    Sally, your music is a special gift. Thank you very much for that.

  • #41

    Günter Winkel (Monday, 09 January 2023 13:38)

    dear sally,
    With all my heart I wish you the gift of passing on your music, because it fills me with the love and devotion of a true art. I cannot fathom how much I would have to thank you to do justice to how I feel listening to the words you sing. thank you for that.