by Victoria Woodrow, M.A., A.T.R.

Mandala (Sanskrit mandala "circle," "completion") is a term used to refer to various objects. It is of Hindu origin, but is also used in other Dharmic religions, such as Buddhism. In the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism they have been developed into sandpainting. In practice, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern which represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically, a microcosm of the universe from the human perspective.

In the Western Hemisphere a mandala is also used to refer to the "personal world" in which one lives, the various elements of the mandala or the activities and interests in which one engages, the most important being at the center of the mandala and the least important at the periphery. Depicting one's personal mandala in pictorial form can give one a good indication of the state of one's spiritual life. Today, many children in school create Mandalas in art class. Adults may create them also. They can be used for decoration and for museum display.

A mandala, especially its center, can be used during meditation as an object for focusing attention. The symmetrical geometric shapes tend to draw the attention towards their center. Psychiatrist Carl Jung saw the mandala as "a representation of the unconscious self," and believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.

Eastern stylized mandalas were generally used to create tranquility, while Western mandalas are often used for healing. Jung made a mandala every day for several years. Creating your own mandala has several healing components, beginning with the entering of a meditation. Mandalas are helpful for calming and centering, making a clear definition between your inner and outer worlds. No two mandalas are alike, although your personal symbols may continue to repeat themselves. Making your own mandalas on a regular basis seems to be an engine of change, raising questions from the depths of your subconscious, and revealing your own answers in a curative way.

As an Art Therapist, I enjoy guiding people through this process. I see their mandalas as magical stained-glass windows rising into their consciousness, spilling onto the paper to deliver a message. You are a mandala! What will come through you?

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