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: 16
  • #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.