“Mandala” is the Sanskrit word for circle. Some translate it to “spiritual circle”. It is generally used to represent a spiritual wholeness or a representation of the universe. Mandalas are often circles filled with a repeating pattern.
Mandalas have had a long history. They have been used in many cultures to represent a spiritual wholeness. Tibetan monks used to create huge mandalas out of sand and precious stones. After taking days or weeks to complete them, the monks would sweep up the whole design and dump the pieces into the closest body of water as a representation of the circle of life. The Navajo Indians had a similar practice, despite the fact that they had never seen the mandalas that the monks created.
Mandalas have showed up all over the world in a variety of ways, but they all represent the same general concept: Mandalas are circles that represent the individual or group of individuals creating it, or the universe as seen by those individuals.
Using this concept, mandalas can be very revealing when used for art therapy. The first step in creating a mandala is to meditate, clearing your mind of all things. Meditation seemed pretty far fetched to me when I decided to start my own mandala, but I found a great website that taught me how to meditate properly. This technique, called the Vairochana’s posture, helped me relax enough to clear my mind before starting to draw.
Before I began meditating, I drew a circle on a piece of paper. If you are anything like me at drawing circles, you will probably want a compass. Or else you will end up with something more reminiscent of an egg, or an alien head, than a circle. After I had a perfectly assisted circle, I split it up into 8 pieces because I had seen so many mandalas with repetitive patterns, usually in 6-8 generally sections.
Clearing my mind completely took me half an hour in a dark room. It probably wouldn’t have taken so long if my adorable, and slightly needy, pup hadn’t been knocking her thick head against my door for the first 20 minutes. Once I was completely cleared, drawing took over. Meditating lowered my heart rate significantly and drawing seemed to keep it down significantly.
My reduced heart rate didn’t seem to be enough to completely keep my mind clear through the process. All of the studying that I’ve been doing on the nervous system kept popping up in my head. Quite honestly, I’m surprised that I didn’t start drawing neuronal processes in the middle of my mandala.
When attempting your own mandala, I would recommend continuing to focus on only your breathing and the muscle movements in your hands as you draw. If you’re like me and you start wondering exactly which muscles you are using to move your hand, just stop! It ruins the meditation and then you have to start all over again, which is extraordinarily frustrating.
I personally like to begin drawing everything in pencil and then filling it in like a coloring book, but most people just go right in with color. If you are a dive into color type, feel free to just start with whatever paint, crayon, or marker you prefer! And more power to ya!
Once I finished my basic sketch, I began filling it all in with color. Color can be an important symbol, so make sure to let your mind run free and choose colors without thinking. You should still be in a relatively meditative place here, so just relax and do what feels right in the moment!
Completing your mandala should feel good! Look at what you created! Go you! Now you get to interpret it.
There is no book to tell you exactly what your mandala means because only you can look at your mandala and say what it means in your life. Each person interprets colors and symbols just a little bit differently. That’s what makes each person so unique and wonderful!
However, I did find a great site, called Creative Counseling 101, that gave me some great questions to ask while interpreting my mandala:
- Are there any repeating patterns in my mandala?
- Does anything represent my past or my future?
- Do I see anything that represents something about my life that needs attention?
- Do I see anything that represents something about my life that is competing for attention?
- Do I see anything negative? Is there anything I drew that I am blocking?
- Do I see anything that represents pain or trauma?
- Do I see any hopes or dreams?
- Do the colors I chose mean anything important to me?
- Are there any unique parts that stand out as important?
- Does my mandala tell a story?
- Is there an overall “big picture” feeling about the mandala?
With these questions in mind, I looked at my own mandala. The fact that I chose to use a lot of colors of pink immediately stood out to me. I view pink as a superficial color, so it’s odd that I would choose to use so much. Then I noticed the stormy clouds and dark skies on the outside edge. These darker areas are very separated from the rest of the circle, which looks very bright and natural. Overall, it looks like the center circle is a small protected area set away from the dark skies on the outside. This is pretty representative of my life. In the past few months I feel like I have carefully constructed my own little world by cutting out negative people and things out. My mandala is very representative of this stage of my life, not that I could’ve consciously thought about that when I was drawing.