Mandalas: Sacred Circles

Summer is for many the season to be outdoors painting and drawing. Art often begins with looking and touching – inside ourselves for feelings, impulses, images and outside for inspiration, beauty, colour, and subjects… wherever calls us, stirs a creative response.

In this season we can enjoy very simple beginnings in creativity – by responding to mandalas, circular radial forms everywhere in nature: Daisies and dandelions, roses and mid-day sun, herbs and young oaks – all growing outwards and upwards in radial Fibonacci spirals.

Outside – with a tiny hard-back sketch book and colours – sit amongst flowers and make mandalas of all kinds in response to the plant life around you. How are you like a mandala?

This is fun to do with children of all ages. How many can you find in nature? The smallest? The largest? The most colourful? Find one you like and use it as the starting point for a picture of your own.

This simple form, used by cultures across the world to express the seemingly layered human self, the meditation process, the spiral journey of life and the architecture of sacred buildings is a helpful basis for our self-exploration.

20080820_garden.jpgSelf as Mandala
For self expression we can take this structure and process and draw inwards towards our self, bringing our attention gently inwards to quieten, or outwards – reaching into the wider world to connect. Try both of these on large, non-precious paper to discover the different feeling qualities of each.

Many books and workshops now exist to help us play with mandalas – but without any of these just try your own.

Make a circle on a sheet of paper and mark the centre point.

Then here are 2 strategies to try:

1. Beginning somewhere on the circumference, draw or paint using strokes flowing in towards the centre – imagine drawing into your life and yourself whatever you need, long for and desire for your health and happiness. Choose colours and media to harmonise with this.

Combine this with mindfulness of your breathing, focussing on the qualities of the in-breath.

2. Beginning at the centre, draw or paint in an outwards direction, towards the periphery, using strokes that move away from your centre as if your own self extended out in to the world. Imagine sharing your gifts or sharing and releasing your pains, sorrows, burdens into the greater world. Imagine reaching out to meet, connect, touch and experience dynamic interactions. Imagine receiving playfulness, being truly drawn out of yourself in spontaneity. Re-connect with distant friends, or lost friends.

Combine this with mindfulness of your breathing, focussing on the qualities of the out-breath.

This can be a simply but powerfully cathartic exercise. Good for releasing and centering after a busy day at work or a stressful love affair.

With awareness focussed gently on both in-breath and out-breath, using strokes in both directions – notice your own rhythm and flow of feeling.

Let yourself go outside the circumference, beyond the boundary. Notice what you feel. Imagine yourself spacious, unbounded, able to connect with every part of life. How does it feel to be so open?

Experiment with mandalas to find and express just the amount of openness, permeability and protective, boundariedness you feel is most comfortable.

How does it look?

What, if anything, would you like to change?

Make mandalas to try different forms of yourself.

Size isn’t everything. Making a tiny mandala can be an intense form of expression: tiny mandalas can be exquisitely beautiful and surprisingly intense and powerful, a visible concentration of energy. A lovely mini-activity for small children. A meditation for adults.

Make a Mandala Diary – make a daily mandala in response to your local nature and your changing moods and life.

Invitation to Join Our Discussion Forum
Do please share your experiences and discoveries on the forum – you may inspire someone else and pick up a new idea to try. Visit: /forums and contribute to the thread, Art Therapy. You’ll need to register with a username and password first, then click on the link to the private Global Family forum.

Some food for thought to share on the forum:

Are you doing these monthly exercises?

How are you are finding them?

What effects have you noticed?

I hope we can try something as a group later this year…

Beverley A’Court
August 2008

To find out more about Beverley and her work

Golden Wheel Mandala

GW 6.jpg
Golden Wheel (detail) 75x100cms – a high summer painting.

This image, of a huge golden wheel dissolving into the sky-space around it, arrived in a dream and kept pressing itself insistently on my mind.

Some dream images seem to come with the instruction ‘paint me’. I often wonder what this is. Perhaps it’s the psyche’s way of making sure we pay sufficient attention to an image to receive its message.

I worked on this picture for 5 days non-stop, obsessively painting all the tiny circular dots.

Golden Wheel detail 1.jpg

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