Mandalas are ancient and found across many cultures. Mandala is a Sanskrit word which is usually translated as meaning ‘round’. The simplest description of a mandala is a pattern, often circular, that represents more than itself. They are ‘cosmic maps’ that can connect us to our place in the universe.
In her book ‘Mandala: the Art of Creating Future’ June-Elleni Laine offers the following alternative translation, which I feel is more helpful to us in our exploration:
‘Mandala is derived from the root Manda, which means essence, energy or spirit, and by adding the suffix -la to any Sanskrit word, it becomes the container or vessel for it; thus revealing the Mandala as a container for essence, energy or spirit.’
Mandalas are still an important part of Buddhist culture. Tibetan Buddhists create intricate Sand Mandalas and then let them go, brushing the coloured sand into a vessel to be poured into a river. This act reminds us of the impermanence of everything, the need for non-attachment and spreads the energy of the Mandala into the world.
The Medicine Wheel is a central part of Native American tradition connecting with the sacred directions and turning of the seasons. They see the circle as symbolic of wholeness and their traditional dwellings are round, not because they can’t make square ones, but because of the belief that evil dwells in corners.
Wiccans look to the Wheel of the Year and do most of their sacred work within a circle. Mandalas can be seen in Rose windows in churches and in Stone circles. Slice many fruits and vegetables across the centre to see Mother Nature’s own Mandalas, or admire the design of cobwebs! We have Mandalas in our bodies, such as the iris of our eyes and in our subtle energy we have the wheels of the chakras.
Why make Mandalas?
One of the greatest gifts of Mandala making is the way it can centre us, bring our perspective back into a place where we can operate from compassionate detachment, rather than being pulled this way and that by the currents of our lives.
Creating a Mandala can be seen as an active meditation, a way of stilling the noisy left brain and allowing a more intuitive energy to be felt. It is a right brain creative activity, which is a useful and necessary balancer for most of us given the way the modern world encourages left brain dominance. Approached with a sense of playfulness it also an activity that nurtures our inner child, who is starved of fun in many of our lives.
Mandala making can help us work through issues, allowing the Mandala to form as we focus our intent can transform our emotions, steady us, or give us insights, quieting the left brain chatter long enough for wisdom and guidance to filter through.
A Mandala can be kept for contemplation, manifestation or healing, or it can be released, depending on your purpose in making it. Once you feel the energy is getting ‘tired’ be prepared to let it go. You can always make another that is current with your life right now.
Many people enjoy colouring mandalas from colouring books that are available on the market, such as this one Coloring Mandalas 1 and these can be very therapeutic and satisfying. I particularly like making my mandalas from my crystals and enjoy the process just as much as the finished result. You can see some Crystal Mandalas I've created on my Touchstones Therapies Masterclasses page
Natural materials lend themselves to mandala creation including flowers, shells and rocks, but even man made materials such as bottle caps or mosaic tiles can be used.
For more ideas on creating and using mandalas in your life I'd recommend June-Elleni Laine's book.