So, I just went on my annual silent retreat and it was another great week of silence! This year I got in touch with my creative artistic side when is discovered Mandalas! Mandalas are an ancient eastern meditation and can take form in a variety of expressions although up until now I have always thought that mandalas were the sand pictures created by Buddhists. As I learned more about this form of contemplation I found that any kind of shape- geometric or natural, symbol, or color centered within a circle can be used to express what is inside of you. These mandalas are a way to see and express your inner self, mind, spirit, journey or whatever. There is a ton of resources out there from every area of study- religions, cultural, and psychological (especially Carl Jung)- so I’m not going to try and sum up all the common motifs and symbols here.
I did read a few articles while I was on retreat and many said that you should start with a symbol, which represents you, in the middle of the circle. I found that this method didn’t really work for me so what I did was to trace a circle and to lay out all of my crayons (I’m very fond of crayons but anything will do). I would try to breath deeply, clearing my head, and then quietly ask God to guide me and to show me what God sees in me. Then looking at the colors one would seem to pop at out me and I would start with that color in the center and move out from there with whatever felt right.
Once you have drawn your mandala you can reflect on it right away, the experience of drawing it, and anything that has occurred to you through the process. Later, you can go back and meditate on what you drew. I found the steps for reflection provided by the retreat center to be very helpful.
- Quiet: Stop, breath and relax
- Intention: What am I grateful for? What do I want right now?
- Attention: Look over the entire image. Is there a figure, shape, color, texture, or word that calls you attention?
- Notice: What feelings, thoughts, or desires do you notice? What could they reveal about God and your life?
- Respond: Speak to God as you would one friend to another.
- Close: Offer a prayer or gesture as a way to close the experience. Maybe journal about the encounter, or share the experience with others.
My first mandala felt a little forced but as I drew my second, and third they became more organic and much less of an act of my conscious mind. I look back on my fourth and fifth mandala and I see God speaking to me through what I drew in a still and silent space, and it is like being able to see your reflection in a still pool of cool water.