Art-based meditation is a strategy to help center yourself and quiet your mind in moments of stress. Circular artworks, or mandalas, are a natural way to symbolize your place in the world and to represent the process of centering yourself. Making and looking at the orderly details and repeated patterns found in mandalas can help you to find calm when everything around you feels out your control.
Psychology Today says, “It is really the creative process of making mandalas that […] helps us to experience and reflect on the essence of who we are in the here and now.” The process of drawing mandalas can serve the purpose of recharging your energy in those “brick wall” moments when you don’t know how to move past the worries or insecurities that prevent you from being the most confident and powerful version of yourself.
Here’s how to get started on the meditation strategy of drawing your own mandala.
Step 1: Gather Your Supplies
For this exercise, you will need a piece of drawing paper cut into a square or circle and a thin sharpie.
Find a quiet space in which you can draw uninterrupted. You can work in silence or choose to turn on relaxing music in the background.
Step 2: Quiet Your Mind and Relax Your Body
Start by taking several deep breaths in and out through your nose. With each breath, relax the muscles in your legs, then your stomach muscles, your hands and arms, your shoulders, your neck, your face and your jaw. Focus on breathing in and out. When you are fully relaxed, return to breathing naturally and pick up your sharpie.
Step 3: Draw Your Mandala
Before you start creating your mandala, I recommend watching this video which walks you through the process step by step.
Start in the middle of your paper by drawing a dot or small circle. Choose a simple line to make and draw it connected to the center. Rotate your paper and repeat the line eight times around the circle.
Next, choose a simple shape to connect to your line. Draw the shape at the edge of your first line, and repeat eight times, rotating your paper until you return to where you started.
Choose another shape or line and continue the process of adding onto your mandala. You can continue to move outwards, connecting each line to the next, or you can create shapes to go in between. Make sure that you keep repeating each shape or line while rotating your paper.
As you draw, try not to think too hard about what shape you’ll make next. Don't try to anticipate how the drawing will look, but instead focus on the marks you are making in the moment. Focus on the movement of your pen, on your breath and on the present moment. If your mind starts to wander, notice it quietly and then bring your attention back to your drawing.
Avoid placing judgment on your attention span or on the way your drawing looks. Simply notice your thoughts and move your focus back to the marks you are making in the present moment. If you make a mistake, notice it but don’t place judgment on it. There’s a reason why you are working with a permanent marker, so that you don’t have the ability to erase. There are no mistakes in this process, only lines and shapes.
As you continue to work on your mandala, you may find yourself at a loss of ideas for what line or shape to draw next. If you are stuck for a shape to draw, consider using a letter from your name or a number. You can also consider repeating a shape or line that you have already drawn. You can keep your shapes and lines moving outward from the center, but you can also go back into the circle to add more marks.
Draw with care and take your time with the process. Be intentional about your marks. Use an attitude of mindfulness and focus on what you are doing in each moment while you draw.
When you come to a stopping point, you can end your mandala or choose to color it in with materials like markers or colored pencils. If you choose to add color to your mandala, keep in mind the same sense of care and intentionality that you used while drawing the lines. Let the process of coloring become a similar state of visual meditation in which you can simply focus on the process of making art.
Step 4: Reflection
After you have finished working on your mandala, take a bit of time to reflect on the following questions in a journal.
1. How was your state of mind before you started the process? Did anything change as you drew?
2. What did you think about and where was your focus as you worked? Why do you think that was the case?
3. Did anything unexpected or surprising happen?
4. Brainstorm how you can apply this mandala meditation strategy during stressful situations.
Making art and going through the process of art-based meditation with mandalas can provide a therapeutic release in order to quiet your body and calm your mind. How can you make creative meditation a part of your daily rituals?