How to Create a Group Mandala
What is a Mandala?
The word "Mandala" which loosely translated means circle is from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit. A Mandala is a representation of wholeness. The mandala is used globally and across different cultures.
The Mandala is used in many different spiritual contexts as well as in psychological healing. .
The symbolism of the circle includes all aspects of the human and the divine. The representation of the self from within in relation to a world which extends beyond our physical being such as the sun, the moon, the earth as well as circles of friends, family and community.
In therapeutic use the mandala created by a client will represent the essence of the inner self. The symbols may connect past and present realities as well as future possibilities.
In Tibetan Buddhism It is said that a mandala consists of five "excellences". The teacher • The message • The audience • The site • The time
In the Americas, Indians have created medicine wheels and sand mandalas.
In Christianity the Mandala is created in stained glass, such as the Rose Window found in many cathedrals and churches and in painted frescos with animal images representing the apostles.
In Asia, the Taoist "yin-yang" symbol is one of the most well-known mandalas representing the complimentary qualities of opposition and interdependence.
Labyrinths are a type of mandala found in many cultures and are used as a tool for centering.
In both the Navajo Indians and groups of Tibetan monks sand mandalas appear to demonstrate the impermanence of life in their spiritual practices.
“A mandala is...An integrated structure organized around a unifying center “ Longchenpa
Creating a Group Mandala
Whether you are creating a group Mandala informally with family, friends or co-workers, or in an educational, recreational, spiritual or therapeutic setting, the process is unifying experience. Participants express themselves individually within a specific structure which offers safety and supports exploration of their inner-self.
Creating a group Mandala can be suitable for one or more of the following::
- a short or long term project
- a series of individual Mandalas created by each group member; as an expression of their individual and collective experience
- a permanent mural
- a brief transitional or meaningful closing exercise
- an informal expression of unity or friendship
- a spiritual or values based representation of a group or organization
Depending on the number of participants size the Mandala accordingly. If working on individual mandalas in a group setting provide the same background materials to each participant.
Provide wet and dry medium for the participants and depending on the purpose of the mandala direct the group to paint/draw/attach objects. Offer them examples of Mandalas from a variety of sources if they are unfamiliar with the process.
Materials I like to use include acrylic and water colour paints, pastels, pencils and water colour pencils, tissue paper, glue sticks and hot glue guns, string and wool or yarn, acrylic medium, special papers and handmade papers, glitter, sequins, buttons, fabric, natural materials such as pine cones, leaves and dried flowers.
Have the group decide on how to create the outer edge of the mandala and final size they want to work with. In the case of individual mandalas, depending on time constraints encourage them to be realistic in the size - Mandalas can take a long time to complete when they are large.
As the facilitator, your role is to support the creation of the Madala by providing the materials and encouraging participants to participate in the process. I have directed groups to work in silence when this has been beneficial or part of the learning/therpeutic experience and allowed conversation that is reflective of the process - not chatter that takes them outside of the activity. Playing music appropriate to the group is also helpful in setting the mood and sustaining the atmosphere.
If this is an informal group exercise between friends, family or co-workers everyone should participate in the creation of the Mandala and share in the setting up, bringing materials for sharing and discussion about how to proceed/purpose of the mandala etc.
Starting on a Mandala
If you think a Mandala sounds like a fun, educational or appropriate therapeutic project for a group try making one yourself first. By experiencing the process you will better understand the time and what is involved as well as the infinite possibilities that can come from simple or intricate repeating patterns.
Carl Jung and the Mandala
Carl Jung practiced using the Mandala as a representation of the self. He believed that mandala occurred in dreams and visions and represented the centre or the message of the unconscious when created in spontaneous art.
I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego. ... I saw that everything, all paths I had been following, all steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point -- namely, to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the centre, to individuation. ... I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate. - C. G. Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections.