When I learned of the ancient mandala, it radically changed the way I thought of art and how I approached painting. The word “Mandala” is from the sacred Sanskrit language and literally means circle. Symbolically, the circle represents wholeness. Every circle has a circumference and a center. The circle is complete and fully contained within itself. The center is contained within the circumference. The circumference surrounds the center. The wholeness of the circle lacks nothing. It is timeless and endless. Mandalas help us become centered and aid in our personal quest for wholeness. Some refer to mandalas used for healing as sacred circles or magic circles.
Circles have been used in art all the way back to pre-historic times. They were found in cave paintings and carved into rocks. For centuries they have been used in ancient spiritual ceremonies to heal and to meditate. One of my favorite types of mandala is the Tibetan sand mandala. These mandalas are made with colored grains of sand. They are extremely intricate designs and are made by Tibetan monks who, over the course of several days, slowly pour the colored sand to ‘paint’ the intricate mandala. I saw one being created once and it is beyond words to describe its beauty. The painstaking care it takes to lay all those tiny grains of colored sand into their exact home in the design is amazing to watch. The patience and focus of the monks was inspiring.
Many people today are on a journey to discover who they are at their core. The mandala art form is a great tool to use in this exploration since it can open a pathway to our own center. When creating a mandala we get to tap into this wisdom that resides in the deepest part of ourselves; that part we call spirit or soul. We get to reveal all the layers of our soul as we make our way to our center, our core.
As we travel along this pathway, we get this great sense of relaxation. Like the Tibetan monks who had strong focus as they made the sand mandalas, the process of creating a mandala is like a meditation. The outside world drifts away as we turn inward. And with all of our focus turned inward we receive powerful insight. Mandalas are alive with symbolism and deep meaning. Creating a mandala brings you into the present moment. They offer a snapshot of you in that moment in time, usually expressed in a symbolic way, not a literal way. These symbols bring you to a safe and sacred place that is all your own. The process of creating a mandala and the energies that are released can lead to much healing. The power of the mandala is that they help us bring to light those buried aspects of ourselves so that we become more whole , which leads to more and more emotional and spiritual healing.
There is no right way or wrong way to create a mandala. It is not about perfecting a “technique” of art. It is not about creating something of museum quality. It is simply about self-expression. Whatever you put in that magic circle is a true expression of who you are and what you feel at that moment. If you are angry and see only red, then a big red “X” in the circle is a beautiful expression of that feeling. It cries out “here I am and I’m angry!” If you are happy and draw colorful flowers blooming under the sun, then that clearly expresses the blossoming and enjoyment of life that you feel. The mandala is a safe place to express whatever you are feeling. They are much like a journal of pictures, colors, and symbols.
Again, there is no right or wrong way to create a mandala. Sometimes you may start your drawing in the center and work your way out; sometimes you may start around the perimeter and work your way in; sometimes you may start at the bottom and work your way up or start at the top and work your way down. Other times you may create a collage of different pictures within the circle, each with a different scene or symbol. Sometimes you will use bright colors and other times you will use dark colors. The key is always to fully express yourself and what you are feeling. Go with the impulses as they come up and trust in the process.