In the depths
of night, alone in my bedroom during a period of great personal challenge, I
started to doodle on a diary page. As the clock ticked I became absorbed in the
growing doodle, found myself enjoying it and wanting to colour it in.
This was a
solitary and private activity, not for other people. My drawing started with a
cross. I am from the Christian tradition and since God was one of the very few
certainties in my life at that time, I wanted to represent my Original Source.
With that the drawing became sacred, something to take care with and spend time
I let my mind
wander where it would, mostly focussing on the strokes of my pen and the
emerging shapes. I recognised the childlike naivety of my drawing but didn't
criticise it. This was just for me. For once I didn't try to direct or analyse
the process. As I finished colouring in my cross, I went on to draw petals
around it, then a broken circle, then a square and yet another square behind it,
finally capturing the whole thing in a circle. I drew and coloured in with
metallic gel pens, which were at hand for diary entries and the shimmer of which
I have always loved. As I ran out of pens I used old powdered food colouring and
a little bit of watercolour.
process ended it was with regret. Yet I looked upon my little creation with
great love. Something of myself had gone in there and it was precious. As I
looked at it I realised that it could be a mandala of sorts having seen pictures
of mandalas before. Thus a growing
interest and involvement was born.
that first mandala indeed heralded a period of personal transformation and
healing, which continues to this day.
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is a Mandala?
Mandala is the
Sanskrit word for circle and symbolises wholeness.
It is normally two-dimensional. There is a central point of focus from
which the design radiates, often in a symmetrical fashion. Mandalas are
frequently rich in religious, traditional and personal symbolism.
the non-sectarian Tibetan Buddhist Teacher, defines it as: "An integrated
structure organised around a unifying centre".
Khyil-Khor, the Tibetan word for mandala refers to the centre of the
universe, that place where a fully awakened being resides.
To me mandalas
are organic, starting from a central core and growing in an often unpredictable
fashion, reflecting obstacles and victories on the Soul's journey. Mother Nature
herself must like mandalas, as she has created many - from the beautiful
simplicity of a daisy to the compelling intricacies of the eye's iris. Is it any
wonder that we call the eyes the "windows to the soul", being as they
are our own, unique, God-given mandalas? From our cellular structure, with
protons and electrons revolving around a nucleus, to our very solar system, we
are in many ways mandalas incarnate.
archetypal an expression, mandalas span across human cultures. Although they are
commonly associated with Eastern traditions, they have for centuries been used
in healing by the Navajo people. St Hildebrand von Bingen, a 12th
century Christian nun, also created many mandalas as an expression of her faith.
Labyrinths (not to be confused with mazes) have mandala-like properties, as do
formally laid out herb gardens.
In the sciences
mandalas could be associated with fractals, which are images based on numerical
sets and which consist of repetitive patterns in literally infinite detail.
became interested in the psychological application of mandalas. As well as
making his own, he incorporated mandalas into his therapy. He believed that
mandalas are an outward projection of the psyche, representing a safe refuge and
movement towards psychological growth and healing.
involving group construction of mandalas indicate their suitability to bridge
personal differences and encourage co-operation. As group projects they
holistically encourage individual expression incorporated in a collective
representation. Imagine what would happen if Arafat and Sharon made a mandala
before sitting down to discuss politics...
Mandalas can be
represented on paper, or as in Navajo and Tibetan tradition, sand. Sand mandalas
are often group projects constructed in staggering detail and beauty, using dyed
sand or crushed semi-precious stones. After completion Tibetan sand mandalas are
ceremonially dismantled to demonstrate the impermanence of life.
The sand, which is blessed in the process of creating the mandala, is
swept into a jar to the deep sounds of tonal chanting. The jar is then emptied
in a nearby body of water to symbolise the cycle of life. The blessed sand is
also seen to benefit the water and land it comes into contact with.
of working with Mandalas
As we become
involved in the creative process our attention is diverted from the external to
the internal. In a busy, often chaotic and over-stimulated world it is
increasingly difficult for many people to find a place of silence and inner
calm. Creating a mandala is an ideal opportunity to escape the rat race for a
while and connect with the Self.
mandalas is an essentially simple activity. We do not in fact need to be
taught how to do it. We have access to the magical calm of the mandala process
any time we want, no matter where we are.
Mandalas can be
created in any medium. If one is uncomfortable around pencils and paintbrushes,
and possibly without ready access to a convenient sandpit with quantities of
crushed semi-precious stones, one could work in anything from needlepoint to
soldered metal, plant a mandala garden, make a collage, the imagination is the
inevitably capture part of the mandalist's essence. Over a period of time,
working with our own mandalas can lead us to identify behavioural and emotional
patterns in our lives which, once identified, can be cleared.
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Types of Mandalas
are many types and styles of mandalas, two main categories are generally
recognised. These are the teaching and the healing, or intuitive, mandalas.
This is the
most formal style of mandala and its construction flows from the analytical left
brain. The composition of the mandala is prescribed and each colour, line and
shape has specific meaning. It is used as a "summary" of a philosophy
or doctrine, in which the student is already schooled to some extent. The
student of such a philosophy creates his / her own mandala in accordance with
specific prescriptions as a way of study. The mandala thus becomes a visual
representation of the study material and can be used to refresh the memory. It
can be seen as a beautiful and colourful, prescribed "mind-map" of the
mandala is less restrictive than the teaching mandala and often much simpler.
The mandalist (one who constructs and studies mandalas) draws far more on
intuition as the construction process flows from the right brain. This mandala
is intended for meditative purposes and aims to provoke a sense of peace, calm,
life and health. As opposed to the teaching mandala the construction of a
healing mandala often precedes cognitive understanding - the emphasis is on the
process rather than the product. While constructing a teaching mandala certainly
requires concentration, healing mandalas ideally flow from the place of inner
calm and wisdom within the mandalist. They are often used as a tool to focus
back on the Source, where all is as it should be.
Healing mandalas are sometimes created by mandalists for clients.
in Mandalas and Interpreting Mandalas
mandala is a very personal and intimate process. As such symbolism might very
well be unique to the mandalist. Where the mandala is created for a client, more
importance is placed on the client's interpretation of, and associations with
symbols within the mandala than on anything the mandalist might have had in mind
creating the mandala. Great caution should thus be exercised in offering and
accepting interpretations. It is furthermore important to remember that a
mandala represents a snapshot in time of the journey of Self, ever changing,
physical body integrates through the physical act of drawing, causing us to
experience our nervous system in ways that are often otherwise inaccessible to
us, the actual shapes we draw could be said to reflect our mental aspect, and
the colours we use could be representative of our emotional aspect.
Some of the
traditional Eastern symbols include:
Traditionally associated with the mind as indestructible and clear, yet capable
of reflecting different colours.
Associated with feminine energy, with emptiness and openness, leaving room for
wisdom to enter.
Associated with male energy and Buddha's compassion and active involvement with
Wheel: Eight hubs are associated with the eightfold path that leads to
perfection. The hubs represent right belief, right resolution, right speech,
right action, right living, right effort, right thinking and peace of mind
Flower: Symbolic of the teachings of Buddha, the lotus flower stands with its
roots in the mud but reaches ever to the light.
Problems Creating Your Own Mandala
Faced with a
blank sheet of paper with the intention of creating a mandala we are brought
face to face with some very powerful, learned, limiting beliefs about ourselves
and our ability to create.
barrier to overcome is the belief that "I cannot draw". Fortunately,
with mandalas this is an easy one to overcome. All of us drew pictures when we
were little. Drawing the way we did as children is not only permissible in
creating a mandala, it is desirable. Our Inner Child is still very much in
contact with the God-force, still speaks and understands the language of the
Soul which is based in symbols and emotions. Mandalas are in the first place
private journeys. Knowing that our mandala never has to be exposed to criticism,
analysis and evaluation, we can throw off the shackles of preconception and
allow the process to unfold naturally and with innocence and simplicity.
The notion of
"perfection" is another barrier to creating a mandala. We often get
stuck looking for the "perfect" symbol, the "perfect" line
or shape. If the mandala is to be a representation of who we are, it is again
quite "permissible" for it to be imperfect. Remember also that it is a
snapshot in time, what holds true right now might change tomorrow and that,
again, is desirable as Soul continues the earth journey.
mandala mostly makes use of repetitive patterns, we sometimes become impatient
with the process. Mandalas, as any other creative process, are not instant. They
do require time. Know that it is the Ego that becomes impatient and wants to
hurry the process. Often all that is required is to acknowledge Ego's impatience
for it to subside and inner calm to manifest in its place. In my opinion Ego
serves us well in this world. It is only when we lose touch with Soul that Ego
starts to play a more dangerous role. The creative process is Soul's time.
Honour it. And if you can't, set the mandala aside and return to it another
Lastly, it is important to listen to the inner voice when it tells you (as it will) that this particular mandala is finished. This often happens when even Ego has started to have fun with the project and would like nothing more than to carry on "fiddling". Be kind to Ego. Start another mandala.