The practice of mandala making is based in Buddhism, but the complex circular designs have been adopted by others for their beauty and serenity and can be seen in Christian cathedrals, stain glass, and even adult coloring books. While the practice of coloring can be relaxing, the practice of mandala making is much deeper, especially when paired with the practice of mantra.
The basic idea of a mandala is a circular design originating at one point with repeating patterns spiraling out. Usually, the design spreads out in four main directions like a compass with other leaves budding off and between the four main directions. The thought is that the circularity and complexity of the mandala captures the essence of the world.
Like how the complex design draws into the singular center point, mantra is a word or syllable that is meant to encapsulate the whole of a passage or text. The practice of repeating and focusing on the word is thought to evoke the text that it represents. Most common is the Buddhist “Om” which represents the text that tells of the three main Hindu deities. It can be thought of as a prayer in some ways.
Creating a mandala takes focus and detailed thought. It can be done with a variety of mediums from pen and marker, to paint, to colored sands or stained glass. I will be creating my own mandala throughout this week guided by a mantra.
First, choose a word to be the center point of the mandala/mantra. This will be the word you wish to meditate and center your focus on for the week while creating the mandala. Everything branching off of the mandala will be pulled back to this center word.As I am doing this meditation series for Lent, a word such as “Easter” or “Jesus” or “Lent” may be appropriate choices. Or something such as “Love” or “Friendship” or “Listen”…
This practice is often paired with a rhythmic music such as drums. I like the music of the hang drum. If you can match a beat or note to your word, listening to the song can help you stay focused by bringing your attention back to center every time you hear that beat or note.
On the first day, listen to your song and meditate on your word, drawing only a single dot in the middle of the page and maybe some guidelines or points around it as you focus on what the word means to you.
In the next days, start with your word at the center point of the mandala, then branch out to related words as you draw out towards the edges of the page. Start with your inner views on the topic, then as you near the edges of the page consider the world’s perspectives on the topic. Let the icons you draw represent a singular word or phrase and meditate on it as you draw, always tying back to center. Don’t let your thoughts get too complex, focus on single words, shapes, and rhythms as you build the complexities around your word.
Reflect on the complexities as you come back to center. With each session, start with the middle and spread outwards with your mind, then follow your drawings and the words they represent back to center.
When your design is complete, choose a series of colors. Use specific colors to highlight each main direction while moving in a spiraling fashion around the image. Leave the center point black or white, allowing it to absorb the complexities around it to create it’s true color. Perhaps you are affiliating a word, idea, or rhythm with each color adding more depth to the shape and word it represents. Meditate and listen, absorbing how these concepts meet and intertwine as you fill in color. Are there gaps or voids? Meditate on these empty spaces as well, allowing your mind to empty and recognize that voids exist even within complex systems. How do these voids add to the mandala?
If you are listening to music while you draw, focus on a singular beat with your centered word then allow your attention to branch out, opening to the complexity of rhythms and melodies in the song even as your mandala is branching out into more complexities yet always working together with that base word or beat as one complete whole.
Carry the working mandala with you throughout the week, looking at it throughout the day to recenter yourself.
At the end of each drawing session, reflect on the movements of your mind. Follow the path back to the center, letting your word be your last thought.
Once your mandala is finished, look at it as a whole, observe each detail, start from the center and spiral out and back in. Take in the whole as one piece. There should be a consistency throughout the complexity. Meditate on your word and all of its complexities which you have been exploring. What does the topic mean to you? What does it mean to the world beyond you? And how do these perspectives unite in the mandala?
Hang your completed mandala and return to it as your word comes up in your life. Return to your journey creating it and remember its complexities – how it relates to you and the outer world and how those views are threaded together. Perhaps over time the shapes and colors begin to represent different things to you as your perspective shifts and your experiences grow.
*If you create a mandala, I would love to see it and support you! Feel free to comment on this post with a picture and the word you centered on. I will post an image of my mandala once I complete it.
**Cover image from Pinterest