Article by Sinduja Krishnan
What Is a Mandala?
Mandala is roughly translated as “Circle” from Sanskrit. A Mandala is much more than that. In Tantra and Yoga, Mandalas are subtle essences of what we see in our day-to-day lives. Our lives progress as Mandalas – we always return to the source, from whence we came. We start at the beginning and go, as is said Full Circle and return, as it were, to the point of our origin.
Wise men have said that mandalas are mystical circles, full of the power of awakening the consciousness and have much deeper uses.
We, as ordinary people who are trying to live life organically, can use these incredibly powerful tools to help us make sense of our lives. Mandalas are (when we google them) beautiful works of art, with colour and patterns in repetitive swirls. This has a pleasing effect on the psyche.
After going through a particular rough couple of weeks, and before that, a rough few months, I was feeling pretty defeated – I was unable to find the drive to get up and do any work, and I was wasting even more time trolling the interwebs, when, lo and behold! I stumbled upon some stunning representations of Mandalas. The shapes, the colours, the beauty in each one drew me deeper and deeper into their secret world.
Simple Exercise to Draw a Mandala
I wanted to create a mandala of my own. I realised that in my case, what I needed was not beauty, but something I could more identify with at that very moment – words and ideas. I got out my pencils and my compass, and my sketchpad.
This is what I did: I drew seven concentric circles. The innermost circle represented the lowermost Chakra and the outermost the highest Chakra. I scanned myself quickly from the point of view of my seven chakras (a concentration/meditation practice).
I identified three words that were really empowering to me at each centre. I proceeded to colour each concentric circle with the specific colour of the chakra. Then I wrote the three words for each chakra, in order, in concentric rings. The words acted as focal points for my awareness to rest in. I absorbed each word and lived every word in that moment.
The layering of the words in the circles made sure that I could repeat the words and the meanings that they held for me. This last part really was the signal I needed and in that moment, I was able to surrender to the process that was unfolding within me.
The lowermost, Mooladhara is the instinctive, lower self. It is the seat of potential. It connects with the element Earth and embodies the qualities of this element – solidity, grounding and material wealth. It relates to the excretory organs. The words that I identified with were “Success, Prosperous, Stable”.
The sacral or Swadhisthana acts as the storehouse of your memories. It connects with the element water and has the fluidity and adaptability of the element. Creation of all types and various forms of art, music are associated with this chakra. It corresponds with the gonads/ reproductive organs. The words that I identified with here were “Creative, Satisfied, Passionate”.
The solar plexus or Manipura is the fire centre and the centre for will power, determination and corresponds in the physical body with the digestive system. The words that I identified with here were “Balanced, Healthy, Determined”.
The heart centre is the seat for the element air and is Anāhata (the centre of Unstruck Sound). It has the qualities of love for our close family and friends, but also is capable of universal love. The words that I identified with here were “Open, Giving, Sincere”.
The centre above is Vishuddhi, the ethereal centre. It has the expansive qualities of space and is the centre for purification. It also corresponds to the vocal chords and is the centre for speech and expression. Measured words, beautiful voice and the ability to move people with voice and words comes from this centre. The words that I identified with here were “Create, Silence, Communicate”.
Ājnā or the Command Centre is the next higher centre. It exists beyond space and time and is your connection to your higher self, the Universal consciousness, the higher power than your individual self. Here, we have the ability to awaken a sense of universal belonging and feeling. It corresponds with the Pineal gland. The words that I identified with here were “Truth, Direct, Awake”.
The Sahasrāra, while not really a Chakra is an expression of your higher self. It corresponds with the Pituitary gland. For this, I took the first shloka (couplet) from the Ishavasya Upanishad (last portions of Vedic texts), which at this moment is truly expressive of everything for me. This is how it is translated “That is whole, this is whole, from the wholeness comes the whole. If the whole is taken away from the whole, only the whole remains.”
What I Learnt from Drawing this Mandala
The exercise did many things for me – it led me to see the positives in my life while at the same time helped me identify what I needed to improve. It made me feel stronger and I slept better than I had in weeks. It helped me articulate myself better and I was able to talk about things that I had been terrified to broach. The doubts are not gone, neither is the fear, but I think I feel stronger focusing on the positives. This process also gave me some much-needed direction, which I was lacking. I feel stronger, lighter and truthfully, much better.
Each of our journeys is leading us down our very own paths. We have different strengths and weaknesses, different ambitions and different paths to walk. What works for me may not work for another.
Mandalas are special. Drawing a highly intricate pattern/mandala can awaken something very profound in us. For many of us, meditation can be a daunting step. With simple techniques, especially Mandalas, we can take our first step inward and learn to express ourselves better.
The geometry, the contained space, the non-threatening quality, has the ability to increase our focus manifold. There is energy in a circle that is mystical and magical.
Sinduja is a yoga-health therapist with interests in yoga, tantra, yoga philosophy and wellness. She believes that with conscious environmental awareness and yoga, the world can make a commitment to change for the better. Join her on surrenderyoga.wordpress.com.