One of the expressive arts activities facilitated during our recent “Creative Renewal Retreat” was a group Mandala project. Participants were invited to work together to create an image that represented their prayers for self, local community, and the world. I share the intuitive process of how this project unfolded below. My intention is that you may use this process yourself or may facilitate something similar as part of a group dynamic.
Let us begin by defining what a Mandala is. The Sanskrit word Mandala translates to “circle.” Historically, Mandalas have been used in sacred rites and rituals in Eastern traditions and in Native American culture. Often considered a practice of meditation, mandalas can represent aspects of the Universe; serve as a symbolic expression of the circle of life; or as a reminder of the connection between humanity and spirituality.
Mandalas have gained popularity across the globe as a contemporary art form. Some individuals utilize the circular format with a sacred function not far from its ancient roots. Others pick up Mandala coloring books purely for relaxation and enjoyment. These beautiful works of art first crossed my path as an expressive arts form for self-awareness and discovery. The psychologist Carl Jung himself was known to create them and encouraged his patients to do so as well.
- Set Intention: For our group project we began by setting intention together. I explained the concept of a Mandala and that we would be creating a circular image that radiates from the center. I shared that each participant will be adding to our image, colors, symbols and shapes that represented their individual prayers. These will be coming together to form the whole.
- Create Your Background: As a group we choose the colors for our background using sheets of 12″ x 18″ construction paper. These were then taped together at the back, flipped over and placed at the center of our table.
- Meditation: Then I led the group in a guided meditation setting our focus on concepts of community. I began by bringing awareness to the individual’s role in community; then to the energy of the group working together; then to the extended community of the world.
- Spoken Word: Bringing our awareness back to the moment and our project I invited everyone to share one word into the circle that we could hold together. Peace, Love, Community, Earth, Sky, Family.
- Creating a Center Point: I invited one participant to start us off by drawing a small circle at our center and adding a pattern if desired. The rest of the group held the space prayerfully as she drew.
- Draw Rings: Next individuals took turns drawing the radiating rings of our Mandala shape. Circles, Petals, Waves, Starbursts.
- Choose Personal Space: Each member then decided which ring they would like to focus on.
- Draw Images: Using oil pastels shapes, symbols and patterns were drawn using intuitive guidance. Participants were encouraged to choose the colors and forms that felt right to them. All the while we kept our intention and shared words in mind.
- Flow With the Process: The group moved and flowed in and out of the space. Standing, sometimes sitting and changing seats flowing around one another to reach different parts of the paper.
- Completion: As individuals completed smaller rings, they were encouraged to join in making the background or offered to help others with larger rings until the group was complete.
- Gratitude: At the conclusion of the project we offered a prayer of gratitude for the experience, for the finished work of art, and for our answered prayers of community.
As the facilitator and as a participant it was beautiful to witness the evolution of this project. I felt the energy of the room shift to a space of deep prayer and meditation. I witnessed six individuals who had just met a few days before interact with such love and compassion. The final image captures the shared energy of the room. It is truly a community prayer of love and wholeness.
As one participant said, “It is more beautiful than I could have imagined.”
Please feel free to use our experience as a guideline for creating your own Mandala projects. Allow yourself to be guided by intuition to know which parts of our program you may need to alter to meet the needs of your particular group.
If you have any questions or would like to share your Mandala experiences with us, please leave a comment below.
In Love & Blessings,
Rev. Jen Hutchins