The Art of Introspection: Creating a Mandala

Tibetan Monks Working on a Mandala

An Ancient Spiritual Tradition

A mandala is an ancient artistic tradition associated with Hinduism and Buddhism. Very loosely defined, it is a series of symbols arranged aesthetically into a circle.  Traditionally, they have been used as a focus for meditation, allowing deeper access into the unconscious mind.

How Can a Mandala Help Me?

The famous psychoanalyst CG Jung used mandalas in his practice to identify emotional disorders that could then be treated.  Why?  The symbols that a person chooses to represent their individuality or emotional state in the creation of a mandala are highly revealing. As such, it is a powerful tool for self-analysis.  Understanding the self is one key to wellness.

what is a symbol?

Choose a number of symbols (I like the number 7) you feel represent yourself.  Anything can be a symbol.  A symbol is simply something that represents some other concept.  Over time,  symbols have come to have recognizable meanings. For example, white represents purity and innocence.   If you’d like to explore commonly used symbols, explore the online dictionary of symbolism.  Symbols can also be deeply personal, like my labyrinth.  It represents a spiritual journey, a reminder that there is a way out of the maze of my illness (See About Me).

How do I Choose Symbols?

When choosing symbols, try to avoid shallow or obvious connections such as, “A football means I like sports.”  The key is to ask “Why?  Why?  Why? Why does this symbol define me?” and you will have a much richer experience. For example, if the football represents sports, why is it so important to you?  Perhaps it represents your struggle to please a parent by participating in sports.  Perhaps it represents your need to receive respect from your peers.  Perhaps it represents your desire to get a scholarship and “get outta here.”  Perhaps it simply represents the sheer joy you get from physical activity.  The more you dig, the more you will get out of the exercise.

Create Your Masterpiece

Once you have your symbols, arrange them in a circle in a way that pleases you. Be creative. When I was an English teacher, I used to have students make mandalas for themselves.  Sadly, I don’t have those beautiful creations anymore, but here are some examples of student created mandalas from a different classroom.

Oliver's Mandala

This was from a student named Oliver.  He described his work this way:  “The outside of my Mandala is blue water. The next layer is fire and then there are spines and mountains that you have to climb. The orange layer represents sharks and the green layer has red poisonous snakes. The center represents world peace.”

analyzing relationships

You can also choose to create a mandala to represent another person in your life such as a spouse, a grandparent, or best friend. This can be a solitary activity used to identify and purge some emotions you’ve been holding inside about this person, or it could be used as a relationship builder.  Create the mandala and then give it to the person as a gift.  What a lovely way to communicate appreciation for someone you care about!

Notes from the Author

Gretchen Rubin, author of the book and blog The Happiness Project, also writes about choosing personal symbols in her post on 8 Auspicious Symbols .

The labyrinth, as I mentioned, is a powerful symbol for me.  If you feel comfortable doing so, I would love to hear what you would choose as your personal symbol!!!!

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About emilyrossiter

Ever since I was little I was interested in reading and learning. I was the type of kid who did research for fun. Along the way, I have picked up interests in traditional Geek fare such as video games and tabletop RPGs. Science fiction, horror, and fantasy are my "brain candy." I have a B.A. in English and an M.S. in Education. I taught high school English for a while, but unfortunately, I developed an illness that made it impossible for me to work anymore. Staying at home, I rely on my "Geek Profession" to pass the time.

3 responses to “The Art of Introspection: Creating a Mandala

  1. Deb

    I never knew the history of the Mandala!

    • Eastern philosophy fascinates me. I’ve been leaning in that direction more and more, and I can also see a prevalent influence in current personal development literature with its emphasis on mindfulness and simplicity. Thanks for reading Dr. Deb. :)

  2. Pingback: A Visual Effect of the Mandala Kind [YouTube] | John'z Place

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