Yoga wellness educator. Certified to teach Hatha yoga, meditation, pilates, and Reiki. Oracle card reader. Yoga Therapy Foundations program.
What Is a Mandala?
The word ’Mandala’ means circle or center in Sanskrit. Mandalas are sacred symbols used for meditation, prayer, healing, and art therapy for people of all ages. It is a symbolic picture used in meditation. Its decorative design, pattern, colors, and geometry are designed to lead us to a deeper focus and inner peace.
Mandalas can be painted on paper, wood, stone, cloth, or even on a wall.
The main circle of a mandala is filled with an assortment of geometric shapes and symbols. These are repeated in symmetrical patterns with a combination of rich and vibrant colors.
Mandalas and Art Therapy
As part of a long-standing tradition, mandalas have been popular for a long time, and remain so. They symbolize what is profound and stable in ourselves. Their exquisiteness is a manifestation of intrinsic meaning.
Art therapists talk about the success of drawing, coloring, or meditating on a mandala in reducing anxiety and increasing self-awareness.
Meditating with a mandala can give us a sudden profound insight into the cosmos, an insight that does not solve its mysteries for us, yet perhaps helps us to grasp something of their awesome immensity.
— David Fontana and Lisa Tenzin-Dolma
How to Meditate on a Mandala
In all mandala meditations, you start by keeping your eyes fixed on one point, usually at or just above the center of the mandala. At first, your eyes and attention are drawn to certain parts of the structure. Gradually, you will find yourself led through other imagery.
- Choose a mandala that you find appealing.
- Sit comfortably on a blanket on the floor or in a chair and keep your back straight.
- Place the mandala about an arm’s length away at eye level.
- Gently gaze at the mandala, letting your focus relax so that the image blurs slowly.
- Start with 5 to 10 minutes and meditate on the centre of the mandala allowing its geometry to bring your mind into a state of balance. This is the space where the ego becomes less active.
- When you want to end the meditation, simply shift your awareness elsewhere and enjoy the deep inner equilibrium that remains.
You can benefit by spending ten minutes at least with a mandala. But you can benefit much more if you stay with a mandala for twenty to thirty minutes at a time. This will let you experience the benefits in a more profound way.
For my first mandala meditation, I chose to focus on the image of a yellow rose. A rose has an enclosed centre with several layers. I still remember the moment when my attention shifted from the petals to the space between them. I felt a little jolt in the center of my body.
Journaling and Mandala Meditation
It is helpful to write in a journal after mandala meditation where you will note your observations and any insights you may have had. The healing process of mandala meditation is in recognizing patterns that you might have previously chosen to ignore; a simple recognition that could help you start making required changes.
Spiritually speaking, healing is a state of internal and external harmony. It is about bringing balance to our minds and hearts. Healing makes us whole by reinforcing our connection with our real nature and the source of all things. With regular practice of mandala meditation, we become able to merge our consciousness with the mandala object of our meditation, thus imbibing the qualities it represents.
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DIY Create and Color
You can create your own mandala by learning simple patterning and coloring techniques. Shapes and lines are the basic building blocks of patterns. Patterns are lines that curve, zigzag, or loop any way you want. You can choose any pattern and shape that speaks to you and color it.
Color theory is nice to know. The primary colors are red, yellow and blue. When you mix two or three of the primary colors, you get secondary colors which are orange, green and purple/violet. When you mix a primary and a secondary color together, you get a tertiary color which could be a yellow-orange, yellow-green, blue-green, blue-purple rend-purple and red-orange. A tint is a color with white, whereas a shade is a color with black.
From time to time, I use a mandala coloring book. I use pencil crayons, crayons, paint, or pastels. Mandala coloring meditation is art therapy and can be done anywhere at any time.
Teaching, Healing, and Sand Mandalas
The three most common mandalas are the teaching, healing, and sand mandalas.
A teaching mandala is symbolic. Each shape, line, and color embodies a different aspect of a philosophical or religious system. Students create their own mandalas based on principles of design and structure, telling a visual story of what they have learned.
A healing mandala is the process of creating round, symmetrical images that are meant to heal. Spiritual circles promote mindfulness, focus attention, and stimulate healing. Healing mandalas can be used to:
- Draw inner emotional and spiritual strength to build self-confidence and inspiration.
- Encourage you to address and explore relationships in your life. This will help you find new ways to nurture yourself by making peace, forgiving and accepting challenges and difficulties in life.
- Help you find the strength and wits to overcome illness, loss, and loneliness to rejuvenate your heart and your mind.
A sand mandala is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition that consists of creating and destroying mandalas made from colored sand.
A sand mandala is a sophisticated focus of meditation that Buddhist monks study in depth. The main purpose of drawing a sand mandala is to guide those who seek enlightenment by purifying and healing their minds. When a sand mandala is completely done, monks pray over it and then destroy it to illustrate that nothing is permanent.
5 Popular Symbols in Mandalas
Most of the time, mandalas are represented as circles and will contain many other symbols.
- A circle represents infinity, eternal, feminine principle, spirit, the unending circle of knowledge, and spiritual perfection.
- The Cross represents the world of physical forms and the masculine principle.
- Fire symbolizes purification through destruction.
- The Wheel of Truth symbolizes a commitment to purity and wholeness.
- Yin-Yang symbolizes the balance between opposing and balancing forces that make up our world.
Clinical Study Outcomes
A clinical study called “Empirical Study on the Healing Nature of Mandalas” done in 2007 by Patti Henderson and David Rosen at Texas A&M University, and Nathan Mascaro Emory University School of Medicine determined that:
- Significant relative improvement with post-traumatic stress disorder symptom severity.
- Some children, depending on age and education, cannot adequately express traumatic experiences either verbally or in writing. Children are often ordered to keep it secret and are afraid to tell about being abused. When children are given the opportunity to draw a mandala, they could express a traumatic experience in a simpler and safer way than by writing or talking about what happened.
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.