“Mandala” means “circle” in Sanskrit. The Hindu and Buddhist traditions use circular designs with concentric geometric forms as sacred symbols representing an experience of unity or wholeness. These mandalas are used in sacred rituals as well as for visual focus during silent meditation.
I first discovered the value of working with mandalas when I was participating, and sometimes co-leading, holotropic breathwork sessions at a non-denominational retreat center where I’ve worked for over twenty years. Breathwork is a ritual practice in which participants lie down and breath very deeply for long periods of time while strong rhythmic, and often spiritually oriented, music is played. The experience often induces altered psychic states which can be quite emotionally intense and spiritually enlivening. At the conclusion of breathwork sessions, we provided paper and colored pencils to participants. The paper had a large circle pre-drawn on it. We invited people to try expressing the essence of their experience by filling in the circle with their own unique mandala drawing. The results were often quite beautiful and quite poignant.
I reconnected with mandalas last year when my wife and I started using some adult coloring books which contained various mandala representations. The outlines of the mandalas are provided, and a user simply employs colored pencils to fill in a unique color pattern of their choosing. I’ve never been very artistically inclined but over time I found myself relaxing into the act of adding color to some mandala designs that I found myself attracted to. I noticed that I could enter into a relaxed yet focused inner space while coloring in the sometimes-intricate patterns of the outlined mandalas. Sometimes I listened to classical music while coloring, and that often added to the positive feeling. My first enjoyable coloring experiences occurred while on vacation at a beautiful seaside house in Puerto Rico. Returning home, I found that I could often reproduce the feelings of freedom and enjoyment that I had thought were limited to “vacation time” by simply finding some quiet time and space for mandala coloring.
I’m sharing some of my home-made mandalas here on my blog. Over the last few months, they have given me a creative focus that I had begun to lose touch with in my writing.
We recently returned from a week’s vacation with four sisters at Lake Vanare in the Adirondack region of northeastern New York state. While there, I discovered that one of my sisters was also a fan of coloring mandalas. We had some quiet time together working on our latest creations and have begun sharing photos of them with each other. This has added a social dimension to the experience which only adds to the pleasure and satisfaction. I’m including some of my favorite hand-drawn mandelas below (and above).