Mandalas as a Stress Management Tool

Updated: Jan 17

What are Mandalas?

A mandala is a complex abstract design that is usually circular in form. Mandalas were originated in India. As a Sanskrit word, Mandala means "circle". Mandalas have been used for thousands of years as tools for meditation and spiritual practices. Practically, Mandalas are all around us, and they really represent life as we know it.

Mandalas may be represented as symbols in many cultures and religious practices such as halos and prayer wheels for example. Mandalas are even seen in architecture and widespread throughout nature. Hence, Mandalas are not restricted to any specific cultural or religious practice. In fact, the circle within the center of a Mandala is the basic structure found in nature, biology, geology, chemistry, physics and astronomy. Think about it. The sun is a circle. Sunflowers have a circular center. Cells have nuclei (circles with centers), atoms are circles, our solar system is made up of circles/paths/mandalas, anatomy of flowers are circles, rings on trees and minerals are also formed by circles.

Mandalas are apart of the building blocks of nature and the universe and this is why they are used as meditative gazing and focus points to relax the mind while viewing or creating the mandala for simple creative expression and/or spiritual practices. Mandalas generally have one identifiable center point, from which emanates an array of symbols, shapes and forms.

Mandalas may be actual drawings or paintings. They may also be temporary creations, such as sand mandalas. Mandalas can contain both geometric and organic forms. They can also contain recognizable images that carry meaning for the person who is creating it.

In essence, mandalas represent the connection between our inner worlds and outer reality. Designing your own mandalas can be both inspirational and therapeutic.

How can Mandalas be used as a stress management tool?

Mandalas are often used in art therapy and as a therapeutic art tool to reduce stress, anxiety, change unhealthy habits (smoking, overeating etc )and may even help one cope with a terminal illness or disease. It is also a useful tool for children to creatively express themselves whereas, typically, young children find it difficult to express their emotions and feelings.

The process of creating a personal mandala is not only therapeutic it is also symbolic in nature. Mandala therapeutic art and the healing that takes place can be a great source of reflection on the unconscious mind and a focus point for meditation.

Meditation itself has been shown to reduce stress, combat depression, reduce pain, and lower blood pressure. In fact, people who color or draw Mandalas often experience a deep sense of calm and well-being. It may also boost the immune system and stimulate the release of melatonin, a hormone believed to slow cell aging and promote sleep. While it is unclear what impact visual mandalas may have, people may find that they are a useful tool for their meditative practice.

Mandalas are not just something to look at or meditate on. There are now mandala coloring books that can be useful to anyone. Coloring a mandala using pencil crayons, crayons, paint, or pastels combines the benefits of meditation and therapeutic art into a simple practice that can be done at any time and place.

Drawing and coloring Mandalas as a form of therapeutic art can reduce anxiety, tension, worry and overall stress.

These activities can also enhance individuation, promote self-discovery, stimulate creativity, help one to release emotional blockages and helps to calm the nervous system. For those diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), for example, drawing or coloring a personal mandala can also be a useful tool to decrease the trauma symptoms.

The creative process is a pathway to mediation and centering yourself. As with most therapeutic art, it is not just about the final product; it is about the journey. May you experience Mandalas as a source of stress relief, healing and wholeness in your life.

Mandalas are popular symbols in India, and are gaining popularity elsewhere as well. But, what exactly are they? In this lesson, we'll explore the meanings within the mandala, and see how they are used in spiritual circles.

The Mandala

When is a circle not a circle? How about when it's a map of the entire cosmos? Many people may recognize the intricate Indian patterns called mandalas, which roughly translates to ''circle'' in Sanskrit, but there is much more to this than a single, simple shape. Mandalas, in both Buddhist and Hindu traditions, are sacred symbols that both symbolize cosmic power and help promote it in the physical world. In fact, mandalas may be called several things, but a simple circle isn't one of them.

Symbols of Mandalas

The term mandala describes a basic pattern of geometric shapes contained within a circle that has immense spiritual potency as a representation of the metaphysical cosmos. This sounds very complex, and it is, so there are many different kinds of mandalas that deal with different sets of symbolism. Here are a few of the basic symbolic elements that define many mandalas.

First, we need to look at the mandala as a cosmic map. The entire shape represents the cosmos- all of it. That which is seen, that which is not, everything is within the mandala. This illustrates the first symbolic use of the mandala as a representation of wholeness and unity. The mandala is foremost an indicator that all things are connected, elements of patterns within the same cosmic reality. That's an important concept in many Indian religions which see things like time as immaterial and seek to explain cycles of existence.

Secondly, the mandala represents a spiritual journey within the individual viewer. Understanding the unity of the cosmos is the first step, but each person must find their own place within it. This journey is represented through the layers of the mandala, with each layer indicating a quality that must be mastered, like humility or devotion. In many Hindu traditions, the center of the mandala is seen as the home of a deity who can help the individual and is accessible through rituals and meditation in accordance with the levels of the mandala.

In Buddhism, the center is seen as enlightenment or sometimes the essence of the enlightened Buddha. Again, each layer of shapes within the mandala represents a part of the journey, including meditation and rituals. The fact that layers are contained within each other represents the idea that the journey and the arrival are still connected in a synthetic whole. Take a minute to wrap your head around that.

Uses of the Mandala

The idea of a sacred and eternal journey through the metaphysical cosmos is cool, but what does this actually mean? How are mandalas used? By adhering to the rituals represented by the mandala, the individual can connect with cosmic spiritual power to resolve conflict within oneself. In Buddhism, some paths are believed to bring a person into enlightenment (although this may take multiple lifetimes to perfect).

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