Mandalas have been used since ancient times to represent spirit and life’s journey. A symbol of wholeness and unity, the word ‘mandala’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘circle’ or ‘container of sacred essence.’ Inherent in the mandala are all the layers of existence: the macrocosm, the microcosm, infinity, impermanence, and the interconnectedness of all things. Cultures throughout the world for as long as we can remember have created mandalas as a spiritual expression of our part in the universe and the universe that dwells within us.
The mandala finds its roots in ancient India, where they were not even a visual art but rather were infused in the hymns or sutras; the universe was said to arise out of these original sounds. They soon became a visual tool throughout the East and were used for meditation, contemplation, a way to express and make sense of the universe and our place in it. The cosmos itself is circular, the earth, sun and planets are round, nature abounds with circles, spirals, arcs and curves. These geometric themes sound found their way into mandalas.
While they are certainly a form of art, the creation of a mandala is at its core a spiritual practice or meditation. Patterns and symbols usually revolve around a fixed point at the center. Radiating outward from that center are deities, the elements, the directions, geometric shapes, and the many wondrous aspects of nature. Sand, powders, and clays are common materials used for creating mandalas, although they can be painted, chalked, constructed, made of rock, wood, shrubs, flowers, herbs, fur, fabric, feathers. Sculpture, stained glass, labyrinths and even architecture can be created as a mandala.
The experience of making a mandala is transformative. What story might you have to tell through your mandala? How can you express something about yourself and relate it to a larger whole? What materials speak to your intent? What textures, colors, objects call to you? Give it a try, tie it into an auspicious day or time such as the Solstice, the Equinox, the full or dark moon, a special ritual or celebration. The Sufi poet Rumi once wrote, whatever circles comes from the center. Indeed, when it comes to mandala making, that’s the perfect place to start. – Jen