Art In Nature: The Mandala
When we remove ourselves from the busyness, slow down and tune into the natural environment answers emerge.
The insights unfold in the most curious ways: Sometimes through the chatter of a barred owl, or the wind rustling through the trees, a sideways glance of a fox silently slipping through the underbrush, a snake perfectly coiled basking in the warmth of the sun, or the lull of a rhythmic tide. At other times, they come through the objects we collect as we wander: The quintessential pinecone, the leaf with optimum hues, a unique shell, a flawless feather, an abandoned nest or hive, even the mineral that calls you to take it home. What is it that these bring forth in us?
Through my exploration of the sacred Mandala in nature, some clues have emerged.
With Mandalas, the center (bindu in Sanskrit) is the focus and most sacred part, from which all originates.
In Buddhism, it symbolizes the ideal universe. When one creates a Mandala, they are describing the self in relation to the universe. That self that is indistinguishable from the whole. Meditating or concentrating on one’s Mandala is believed to bring one closer to perfection.
Today, the ancient tradition of sand Mandalas is used by Buddhist Monks to bless the earth. Painstakingly created, they must be destroyed once complete to symbolize the impermanence of life. Christianity, Islam, mystical Sufism, and many Indigenous cultures embraced the Mandala in their architecture, plans and charts, ceremonies, rituals, astronomy, art, dance and spirituality.
The sacred circle is renowned as a symbol of the connection of man to nature and creator.
It is no wonder that the Mandala took on such significance in our human development. It is a mirror of our natural world.
Carl Jung explored the Mandala extensively with his patients, extracts of which were published as Mandala Symbolism (1972). The book is a stunning assemblage of Mandalas with depth and meaning. Jung asserted that the source of transformation was found in exploring the unconscious (530). He believed individual Mandalas expressed the “totality of the individual in his inner or outer experience of the world” (717). “This is evidently an attempt at self healing on the part of nature,” he surmised, “An archetype of wholeness...and at the same time an image of God” (714, 715). He concluded, “The fact that images of this kind have under certain circumstances have a therapeutic effect on their authors is empirically proved...but only when it is done spontaneously” (718). It seems that deep within us, embedded in our subconscious, is the work of Creation.
The individual instructions are few: You are going to create a Mandala now; Your materials must come from nature and return to nature; and, Listen with your senses to what place and materials call you.
Here are a few examples of the creations
Magic, beauty, perfection and connection to something larger than themselves.
The freedom associated with this activity is unparalleled. There are no boundaries to their canvas, nor shortage of materials nor rules to bind the creator. This is the work of the individual in partnership with the Earth. From that relationship arises something inexplicable, yet at the same time affirming. Regardless of what is happening in their lives, what comes forth is something so pure as to remind us that the unadulterated soul has been our companion all along. As Jung stated, “The God image expresses itself in the mandala” (626). Within each of us is wholeness, profound connection and a microcosm of something much greater. Perhaps, every experience in and with nature, is just a reminder of that.