The Sacred Art of Mandala Making
This published article is taken from my chapter in Bumps in Motion…
I became fascinated with the idea of mandala after it became fascinated with me. It wasn’t until I was already well into the process of the creation of my first mandala in the spring of 1995 or what I was calling my “map of consciousness” or my “picture of the soul” that I even recognized what I was actually doing, and that the whole experiment actually had a name.
Once I began to investigate more about this ancient technique it was clear to me that intuitively I was utilizing a sacred form of visual meditation that was practiced all over the world, I became even more excited and inspired by the idea that I was connecting to something much deeper than just a simple “technique.” With this new awareness my inner process was somehow validated and it seemed to more deeply open the doors to my unconscious and allow myself to be a witness to what was revealing itself to me through this process. Sometimes that outer validation and the understanding of the system or the container that you are using can free any personal judgments of your process.
What began as an exploration, continued to unravel itself for next 5 years. The process of the creation of this five panel mandala or my “picture of the soul” became a powerful catalyst for my own healing and transformation, understanding my own language of personal symbols, and became an unexpected vehicle for deepening in Self-awareness.
In fact to this day, the piece still reveals more of my Self to me in ways that I could never imagine. Part of the magic of this journey is that you will never be able to figure out what is going to be revealed, what aspect of you is going to be discovered, and what ripple effect that it is going to have on your relationship with your Self and your reality…
The term mandala originates from a Sanskrit word meaning “circle” or “completion.” Though the term is of Hindu origin, the intrinsic meaning of the idea of Mandala has been utilized as an ancient “alchemical” practice in countless cultural systems to inspire the meaningful exploration of awareness through its expression of beauty, unity, and wholeness.
The contained environment of the mandala can be seen as an intentional and sacred space where you can explore and then recognize a meaningful reflection of an aspect your being. This space allows for the unconscious to express itself as a metaphor from your inner world through color, form, symbol, and pattern.
The mandala is considered the intersection, vehicle, and container of sacred technology employed by the inner world of Spirit to find its expression in the outer world, and therefore it is considered more than just an artistic rendering, pattern, or symbolic representation. It is experiential, witnessed, and truly alive as the power of intention breathes the world of spirit into a physical reality. Through its creation, the mandala becomes a living and breathing manifestation of consciousness.
The function of the mandala can be described as a living temple or an “abode of the deity,” created to house the essence of Spirit in our outer world. Each individual mandala is a snowflake of the Divine, uniquely created through the direct invocation of the presence of Spirit into the artist and made manifest through the ritual of creation. These living, creative meditations can be made from almost any material and take an array of forms: sacred geometry, specific yantras*, symbolic representations, intricate patterns, abstract color fields, dream imagery, or circles and medicine wheels.
The representation of this sacred art can be found throughout history in the structures of ancient temples, churches, altars, architecture, sites of worship, manuscripts, art, and writings from cultures all over the globe. It has been utilized by artists, adepts, and seekers as a powerful tool to illustrate metaphoric representations of religious and spiritual ideas, cultural and cosmic narratives, and symbolic patterns to express our relationship to the Universe and to ourselves. Through this practice, many ancient traditions believed they could create a personal relationship and connection with an aspect of Universal intelligence utilizing that influence to empower themselves and transform their lives.
In more modern times, it was adopted in the work of the renowned psychologist Carl Jung as a powerful method of revealing the hidden treasures of an individual’s unconscious through, not only the process of creating the mandala, but also through meditating on the completed personal symbol to gain greater self-awareness.
Many believe that the sacred technology of the mandala is profound because it is universal. Kaleidoscopes of intricate patterns can be found within nature and are seen in biology, geology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and thus spirituality. Through this practice we are connecting the inner and outer realities and the microcosm and macrocosm of our Universe. The basic structure of our physical world such as cells and atoms, as well as something much more cosmic such as galaxies and solar systems, are illustrations of impermanent and ever-evolving mandalas. The expression of these profound impressions reflect not only our fundamental humanity, but they also reveal a cosmic “eco-verse” that contains yet surpasses our human consciousness.
No matter what you believe, the undeniable reflection, expression, and practice of mandala is ever-present in any reality. Profound earthly, cosmic, and spiritual impressions of this truth appear in every aspect of our known and unknown Universe. As spiritual beings, we have been exploring this fundamental relationship to our inherent nature since our ancient beginnings in our ongoing quest to create, experience, and discover a deeper relationship with something more, other, and beyond ourselves.
*Yantra “A machine or geometrical contrivance by which any aspect of the Supreme Principle may be bound to any spot for the purpose of worship. They function as revelatory conduits of cosmic truths; Yantra, as instrument and spiritual technology, may be appropriately envisioned as prototypical and esoteric concept mapping machines or conceptual looms. Certain yantra are held to embody the energetic signatures of, for example, the Universe, consciousness, or ishta-devata.”
The Mandala Meditation:
“When you choose to create in true Awareness, it inspires a deeper connection and experience to that Awareness
and eventually the source of that infinite Awareness reveals itself to you.”
You are embarking on an invitation into Self. Creating this mandala is a sacred act of self-love, gratitude, healing, meditation, exploration, and connection. This active and conscious act of creating is powerful and transformational. This is an opportunity for a profound connection to not only Self, but also to the beloved being within you. The mandala you create will resonate with the energy, intention, sacredness, and love that you put into it. Respect the process. Below are some instructions, hints, and suggestions to guide you on your journey. Remember to be open and to trust your path.
Materials and Preparations:
Follow your intuition… Use your intention and pay attention to that awareness that rises from deep within you and allow that source of intuition to guide you in this process. From that space, go on the treasure hunt to gather the objects and items that are meant to be the components of this creation. The most important thing about this process is to honor your inner guidance and the messages to the best of your ability.
Let go of judgment. Trust yourself… Judgment is the enemy of creativity. Give yourself permission to completely trust the guidance you are feeling from yourself and from your baby. Take your time and collect the materials that call out to you. You may not always understand why you are selecting what you are selecting, but allow yourself to go with it. The reasons for the selection may reveal itself at a later time.
Do not limit yourself… You can choose material for this creation, but whatever objects you gather, allow yourself be guided to them in some way or let them hold some kind of value or symbolic meaning for you that reflects the intended purpose of the piece, the relationship to your own consciousness or your deepening connection with your child within you. Feel free to create, purchase or use found items. This is your process. Do what feels right. When it comes time to assemble the mandala, you may not use everything you gather, but keep on collecting. It is better to have more to choose from instead of feeling like something is missing.
- You are going to be using these materials to make patterns, so remember to create different “collections” of color, shape or form with material, and size that feels meaningful to you.
- Some examples are: stones, rocks, pebbles, crystals, semi-precious gems, coins, material or fabric, pieces of wood, metal, photos, paper, buttons, pins, found items, pencils, crayons…etc.
- Also collect meaningful significant or symbolic items, articles or materials from friends or family members
- Choose your canvas material: canvas, wood, board, or poster-board…etc.
- Consider building the mandala on a special fabric, meditation scarf or altar cloth
Allow the creation to reveal itself to you…This mandala is a living, breathing expression of intention, love and consciousness. Ideas, inspirations, and symbolic themes may reveal themselves as you engage in the process. Pay attention to what is evolving and allow yourself to express those messages. Some people feel guided to sketch ideas and inspirations or keep notes in a journal. Whatever happens, be true to your own unique creative process. Since this creation has a life of its own, it may not manifest as the idea that “you” originally had in mind. Be fluid and open. Inspiration is an evolving process of discovery.
Create the Sacred Space:
Create the atmosphere… Find a place that feels safe. Create privacy and do not be disturbed. Create an atmosphere that nurtures your creativity. Do personal affirmations, invocations, prayers, and mantras to set the energy. Invoke your spiritual guides, and make your divine connection.
Bless the items and treasures you have gathered with sage, water, alchemical sprays or essential oils. Use sacred music, candles, and incense to help create the desired atmosphere. Consider creating a playlist of meaningful music (with specific, minimal or no lyrics) that you connect to and invokes the mood and energy of your creative space. Some examples are: sacred chanting, mantras, kirtan, meditative, ambient, nature sounds, world or orchestral. Remember to ensure that all aspects of the sacred space also resonate with your baby. The atmosphere you are co-creating sets the mood and helps focus your intention. The space functions as a living altar.
Intention is everything… Meditate on the desired intention for this mandala. Does this piece have a particular intention? Is the mandala an expression of devotion, a protection talisman, an expression of nurturing, a symbol of gratitude, an honoring of the family lineage or a voice of expression for the unborn being within – you decide. A particular intention is not necessary, but if one does exist within you then allow its inspiration to guide you. Here is an example of a general but powerful intention:
“With gratitude, I open myself to the highest energy of love, inspiration, and healing, and I allow myself to be an instrument in the process of this creation…”
Create and Honor the Mandala:
The consciousness you are in when you create, is what you create… Relax all aspects of your being and allow the focus of your consciousness to sink deeply into your core. Open yourself to your own creative and divine potential… Experience the connection to the deepest part of your consciousness. Once you align with your Self then connect to the consciousness of the child you are carrying. Open an intuitive dialogue with this miraculous being within you for this co-creative adventure.
Lose yourself in the quest to find your Self… As you begin creating your mandala remember: Soften your mind and release your thoughts. Be present. Ask for divine assistance. Follow your intuition. Stay connected with your baby. Be aware of your intention. Keep it sacred. Trust yourself and your process. Express yourself. Be free. Have fun. Enjoy the journey… There are no mistakes, only unfolding opportunities. You are an infinitely creative being.
How long should I allow for the process? If you feel that you are unable to maintain the “zone,” created space or the present consciousness for this project, then it is wise to complete the mandala in one sitting to keep the energy focused. If you are able to step aside from your process and return to your creation unaffected, then use this mandala ritual as an active and ongoing mediation. Each mandala is unique, each journey is different, and every creation is sacred. Experiment with the process.
Honor your Self, the process, and the creation… In Tibet, large groups of monks devote months of meditation to creating their mandalas, using different colored sand to design intricate patterns and beautiful, symbolic yantras. Once they have honored the finished creation, they discard the creation as an act of non-attachment and a gesture of the impermanence of life. Some people approach the experience with their mandalas as a pure, meditative process and keep the only record of that journey in their heart. But like many sacred traditions that cherish the mandala as a sacred art or a map of consciousness, many maintain their creations for the energy and intention that they emulate as an ongoing tool for meditation—for themselves or as a sacred gift for their unborn child. Some choose to disassemble each physical mandala but document their creations and journey through photography. There is no “right” approach. Just Follow your heart and allow the mandala to reveal the answer to you.
Gratitude is one of the highest forms of prayer… Always honor your Self, your child, your connection, your evolving consciousness, your creative result, all aspects of your journey, and all the seen and unseen influences that allowed you to be a co-creative instrument in this process. Often times we forget to express our gratitude for powerful experiences that help cultivate our deepening understanding of our Self. Gratitude comes from the simple and humble awareness that we are connected to a greater spiritual mandala of consciousness through this human sojourn. One of the most profound prayers we can offer to our Self and to the Universe is our loving gratitude for this truth. This journey, your deepening awareness, and the birth of this creation are gifts to be treasured.
-Markus William Kasunich
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