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Mandalas for my Sanity

Want to know a secret? Chaos overwhelms me. I mean, really overwhelms me. If I walk into a room and there is unfolded laundry I get anxiety. Being in a state of disarray makes it hard for me to concentrate. I can't be productive or creative when my surroundings are a mess. However, anyone who has visited my home knows that I am not a neat freak. My life pretty much is constantly surrounded by toys my children left behind. dishes from my last cooking adventure, or sequins leftover from a craft project.

This combination of being untidy and feeling anxiety from messes does not yield a great outcome. And so I strive to find calm and inner peace where I can, and in a way that works for my schedule and sanity. I have never been able to really incorporate a meditation practice into my life that worked for me, though I was desperately needing something to help turn off the noise and bring order to my world.

When I was studying to become a coach, I was introduced to the practice of creating mandalas, intricate abstract designs used in Hinduism and Buddhism. A mandala represents completeness or perfection, and is a model for the organizational structure of life - reflecting the world within us and the world beyond us. The practice of creating these complex shapes is incredibly relaxing and helps me to quiet down the noise of the outside world. It is a practice of bringing out the quiet calm within me and displaying it in a purposeful combination of shapes that help me see order in the universe. For fifteen minutes I am transported to a place of creating structure and quieting the ever-busy narrative inside my head. My sole purpose is the placement of objects into their place.

If you are someone like me, who finds it hard to just BE, who loves to create and be surrounded by beauty but lacks an outlet for that need, I suggest incorporating mandalas into your daily life.

You can start, as I did, by downloading and printing beautiful mandalas to color in. Adult coloring pages are all the rage, and I understand why. Picking out the colors and filling in the shapes is relaxing and calming. However, after a while, I wanted to be the one creating the shapes and I loved the challenge of finding materials in my everyday life that could be transformed into symmetrical designs. I started making mandalas out of everything I could find: dried beans, lentils (as in the photo below), buttons, checkers, coins, leaves... every material offered a new challenge and an opportunity to discover what I could create with it.

To make a mandala I find a material that calls to me, and block out 10-20 minutes for creation. I begin by taking a deep breath and releasing all the noise, thoughts, stresses, and distractions from my mind. I focus on the material, and start in the center, building a shape that grows out of that central place. I don't overthink or over plan the design. I just let my hands work, adding on organically, surprising myself with what comes out. The word mandala literally means "circle" in Sanskrit, but I don't limit myself to circles. Some days end up boxier, or sharper, or smoother, or more whimsical. I love seeing what I can create when I work through my hands and heart, and not my head.

When I finish, I take some time to look at what I created. I don't judge it, I don't pick it apart, I just enjoy it. I take in another breath, breathing in the experience and releasing any need to hold onto it. Before breaking it apart, I take an extra moment to vocalize my gratitude. I am grateful to myself for taking the time to do this, I am grateful to the world for providing the material to create this, I am grateful for the stillness of my mind that is still accessible, even in this non-stop, noisy world we live in.

When I do this first thing in the morning, I notice a big difference in how I approach the day. I am better able to manage my time, set priorities and be clear about my goals for the day. It's like a daily dose of clearing out the clutter.

Please share with me your own experiences with mandalas. Do you have any photos of ones you've created? What was the experience like for you? How did it shape the rest of your day?

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