This post comes from contributor Kristen Hedges.
Of all the things that drop me down gently into the present moment, drawing & coloring mandalas has to be my absolute favorite practice. It heals me faster than yoga, snaps me out of frustration better than meditation, and somehow stitches together all of my loose, weathered layers, over and over again. For me, dragging a pencil tip over the paper, bringing loops and geometries and lines into existence out of what once was only white, is like building a bridge between the chaos and chatter of my daily life, and the peace and calm of my meditative mind.
Though the word ‘mandala’ comes from the Sanskrit language in ancient India, these ‘sacred circles’ have been found in hundreds of cultures. They are always symmetrical, and they always draw your eye in towards the center.
Mandalas also occur quite often in nature. In the nesting rings of a tree trunk, the sectioned slice of an orange, and the way the great Universe itself spins around and cradles its clouds.
There are many different vignettes and bits of symbolism that go along with the mandala, all more beautiful than the last. To you, the sacred circle could represent wholeness, or the strength and unity of community, or the lovely, cyclical progression of time.
Whatever meaning you pull from your experience, the practice of both observing and drawing mandalas may be the most natural meditation you ever try. I’ve gotten into the habit of doodling them everywhere, whenever I can – on gift bags, in the margins of my bookwork, and the waiting pages of my sketchbook.
To draw a mandala, you absolutely don’t need to be a professional artist. I encourage everyone to give it a shot – children, adults, spiritual seekers, and stressed out human beings alike.
First, you need a bit of paper. Find whatever you can. A post-it note. A page in your journal. A birthday card to a friend.
You’ll also need something to write with, and you might want a compass – but only if you already have one lying around. Drawing mandalas with the aid of a compass or a protractor is totally optional. It will only make your drawings a bit more tidy. Some days, I’ll use my compass, and others I’ll scrawl my mandala in a wild oval, without regard to the pressure of perfection.
As you begin to draw, be aware. Bring all of your attention to the page. Feel each pencil stroke as a vibration in your hand. Allow it to become a meditation.
Start in the center. Draw a dot, or a circle. From there, build another layer. Fill it with triangles, with circles, with squiggles, branches, or leaves. Draw the petals of lotus flowers, squares of all different sizes, and lines that almost touch. Build outward until you feel that your mandala has settled your mind & your spirit.
If you’d like, you can give your mandala a bit of color. Splash on some acrylic, or watercolor, or plain pencil, if you wish. Or, end with the lines. It’s up to you!
You can also find plain mandalas online, or in books, to color yourself. You can try saving & printing the outline below, and filling it in mindfully with some of your favorite pigments.
I’m a habitual doodler, so this might be a good way to make it relaxing. Great idea.
I love making mandalas! I just made a bunch of cards with watercolored mandalas across the front. It’s so soothing to make them, and once I get started on one I have to finish it!
I drew a mandala and layers around it on my lime green side table with a brown paint pen!
Such a wonderful way to find peace and serenity and a sense of presence. Thank you for sharing the process so clearly and beautifully! http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheWeaverOfWords
Ahhh yes I love mandalas. I spent last weekend at a spiritual retreat, and after I led meditation and taught Yoga, I had everyone make mandalas. So important.
I just started making mandalas and I love it. I have found that I can relax better than when I try to meditate because I stay focused and my mind doesn’t wonder.
I meant to say, Wander.
Art therapy at it’s finest! Makes all the stress just melt away.
It’s so weird but so true – Nothing calms me down more than doodling. Sometimes even just simple spirals make me feel so much more calm.
I am a doodler too… I tend to doodle even during phone calls and meetings at work, it helps me concentrate on what’s being said as well. I doodle so much at work that I created an entire sketchbook of doodles I made while “I should be working” for a wonderful mobile library (and a stationary art library) of sketchbooks called The Sketchbook Project.
I love these! Drawing mandalas is my favorite, it reminds me of this shirt I made: http://instagram.com/p/kFs1M6G_Xp/
Every time I see them I feel like drawing them, they are so beautiful!
These are wonderful, I love doing them with objects as well. Like paper cut outs, little bits I collect and crystal grids. There is nothing like losing yourself in drawing though. Best moments are in the flow of creating…
Love these and the simple break down. Thanks!
I saw an image for Technology Mandalas, which made me think of your free people board with the pins and the string. It would be a great place for a mandala. Thank you for this post. I had been intuitively doing this for years with a flower design doodle. Now I know how it was helping me and I’ve been branching out. There really are so many possibilities. Thanks for sharing this!
Another doodler here. I actually didn’t know the name for these types of doodles. You gave me such a great idea for an art project I had been putting off for lack of inspiration. Thank you.
It’s important to remember the cultural and spiritual history of the mandala as well, before just doodling away. The mandala traditionally is used in a religious ceremony (a puja) to represent the universe – drawing one meant that the universe was symbolically represented as a presence and a witness to the ceremony.
My whole world is about mandalas, so to read this article is a delight. My desire is to introduce the whole world to the calming, replenishing, grounding and sacred play of creating or colouring mandalas. I thank you for being part of this movement! Yes, they can be as simple or as complex as you desire. Anyone can draw or colour them. They are universal! They also look amazing on furniture! http://www.sarahclarkdesign.ca
i am making a mandala for myclassi am going to do it digitaly it will be AWESOME THXXXXXXXX
Thanks so much for this inspiring article. I lead a meditation group and have been contemplating having the group color mandalas. This was great information to share with them!
Cool of you to inspire others! I see lots of Mandalas on iphone cases these days! :)
First of all, what a great article.
For me Mandala drawing brought me back to drawing all togheter after a gap of years. Now I am using mandalas and my watercolours to get out of my burn out and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to find theirselves and be happier again.
I recently even started a youtube channel for my mandalas and watercolor obsessions. If you want you can check it out at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCg-reOhQUasV_JBoHawnaIw
Very nice Artwork :-). My ife is a Mandala Painter too. She teach how to paint a Mandala on http://mandala-malen.de. Best wishes Karsten
Love it. I also love mandala painted stones. SO beautiful to have in a garden or meditation area. My sister makes them and I love to help her when I can…or is it her helping me by letting me paint along? http://painteddandelion.etsy.com