Mandala: The Magic Circle
“The nature of God is a circle of which the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere.” ~Empedocles
I have always loved drawing and coloring mandalas. They are like a portal to me that can transport me into a mystical place where I can most always find balance, internal calm and integration. I have probably made hundreds of mandalas in my life and shared this practice with many of my students and clients as well. I have yet to find a person who hasn’t benefited from this age-old practice of making art, rather they are dealing with anxiety, depression, trauma, substance abuse, grief or someone just in need of a quiet centering space. The etymological meaning of mandala is “magic circle,” and to that I say, “Of course it is.”
Carl Jung for a time in his life sketched a mandala every morning in his journal. He began to see how the circular drawing corresponded to his inner situation at the time he drew it. He described the mandala as the “Self,” with a big “S,” or the wholeness of one’s personality. He started to recognize that the urge to create the mandala comes at moments of intense personal growth that results in a re-balancing process of the psyche and a better-integrated personality.
~Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
Spiritual traditions and religions have utilized the image of a mandala as long as they have existed to aid in focusing attention, restoring balance and establishing a sacred space. The Medicine wheel of the Native Americans is one of the most sacred of all mandalas, reminding us that we are all connected and part of the web of life. Christianity uses the mandala as a way to illustrate the journey from the outer world to the inner sacred center where the divine is found. The mandala is a common symbol found in Buddhism and Hinduism, holding many meanings and serves as an aid to meditation. One of the most common symbols is that of the entire universe and the notion of impermanence. After days or weeks of creating an intricate pattern of a sand mandala, Tibetan monks will dismantle their creation in a matter of seconds, brushing the sand into a pile to then spilling it into a body of water, to spread the blessings that were held in the mandala.
When we think about all the forms that mandalas take we can’t deny their sacredness and so there should be little wonder as to why they feel so powerful to us. The circle is the symbol of unity, wholeness, infinity and the Goddess. The earth is a circle, as well as all the planets, moons, and the Sun. Labyrinths, Stonehenge, Sacred Geometry and the flower of life, wedding rings, the One Ring of Rivendale, ying and yang, the celtic knot, the movement of the seasons, and even the beginning of time as the big bang are all circles. The first formed rendering by children across the global is most always some form of the circle.
It is no surprise as our world is becoming ever more complex and challenging that people are looking for more mindfulness methods as a way to find relaxation in the busyness of their day. Mandala coloring books have become very popular these days as a way to respond to this need. Susanne Fincher, the author of Coloring Mandalas: For Insight, Healing and Self Expression describes making a mandala this way:
“Making a circle always bring order to things. Order begets patterns that the mind can grasp and understand. Each time you turn a circle or color a mandala, you invite a little harmony into your life.”
I have found tremendous comfort creating and coloring mandalas in the last few weeks as I move through waves of immense grief in my personal life. It has become a daily healing practice for me benefiting me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I have no control over the situations in my life right now; there are intense moments of despair, uncertainty and internal conflict that feel overwhelming, unpredictable and sometimes unbearable. Sitting down with my colored pencils and my pad of paper and drawing within the confines of a circle opens within me a new place that for a time I can find peace, a sense of wellbeing and a renewed belief that there is something much bigger and greater holding me and all the beings in the world.
Maybe stepping into the circle of the mandala is like stepping into God where the center is everywhere and the circumference is nowhere. Could it be that simple?
To end I would like to share these words about Mandalas by Pema Chodran I got from Creativity for the Soul Blog site. She always knows just what to say.
“Each person’s life is like a mandala- a vast, limitless circle. We stand in the center of our own circle, and everything we see, hear and think forms the mandala of our life. We enter a room, and the room is our mandala. We get on the subway, and the subway car is our mandala, down to the teenager checking messages on her iPhone and the homeless man slumped in the corner. We go for a hike in the mountains, and everything as far as we can see is our mandala: the clouds, the trees, the snow on the peeks, even the rattlesnake coiled in the corner. We’re lying in a hospital bed, and the hospital is our mandala. We don’t set it up, we don’t get to choose what or who shows up in it. It is, As Chogyam Trungpa said, “the mandala that is never arranged but is always complete.” And we embrace it just as it is.
Everything that shows up in your mandala is a vehicle for your awakening. From this point of view, awakening is right at your fingertips continually. There’s not a drop of rain or a pile of dog poop that appears in your life that isn’t the manifestation of enlightened energy, that isn’t a doorway to sacred world. But it’s up to you whether your life is a mandala of neurosis or a mandala of sanity.”
If you want to learn more about how mandalas have inspired me go visit our pinterest page and you’ll see examples of mandalas I have been part of and others that serve as continual inspiration.
Here are some other great sites to learn more about Mandalas….