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Natural Awakenings Fairfield Cty/Housatonic Valley, CT

Mandalas, Meditation and Manifesting: Coloring for Therapy and Relaxation

Dec 02, 2015 02:02AM ● By Meg Reilly

Mandala Artwork by Meg Reilly, all rights reserved

What can happen when you combine creating and coloring mandalas with meditation? Manifestation.

What is a mandala? The word comes from Sanskrit for magic circle; simply put, it is a circular design. It represents you in the center as the creator and, at the same time, the entire cosmos as the circle. It is the container and the contained, all at once.

Mandalas have been around since the first human dragged a finger in the earth to draw a circle. They can be found in all cultures throughout time and run from the esoteric detailed religious works of Tibetan monks to the sublime smiley face drawn by a modern-day child.

The benefits of meditation are widely known. East came West in a popular way in the 1960s and 1970s when the Beatles met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and began learning transcendental meditation. Then Dr. Herbert Benson wrote his classic 1975 bestseller, The Relaxation Response, which he characterized as “a physical state of deep rest that changes the physical and emotional responses to stress... and the opposite of the fight or flight response.” Fifteen years later, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced us to “flow”, characterized as “a state of consciousness [in which one is] completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities.”

Qualities of the relaxation response include decreased heart rate and blood pressure, slower breathing and pulse, relaxed muscle tension, and a reduction in cortisol and noradrenaline. The latter two are hormones associated with stress. Flow, on the other hand, might involve higher heart and breathing rates when, for example, an experienced skier is flying perfectly down a mountain slope. But flow is also that moment when someone is so fully and flawlessly involved in whatever they are doing that they lose track of time and feel as if everything in this moment is simply effortless.

Sparked by Johanna Basford’s 2013 surprise hit, The Secret Garden: An Inky Treasure Hunt and Coloring Book, adult coloring books have recently blossomed into a craze. A walk through a bookstore these days will usually reveal an entire table devoted to the topic with dozens of titles to choose from. There are Basford’s books, along with many books of paisleys, patterns, fractals and, of course, mandalas.

While all forms of coloring can be very relaxing, creating and coloring one’s own mandala can be therapeutic. Combining meditation with mandala drawing can create great opportunities for self-examination and growth. Carl Jung famously worked with mandalas as he developed the foundations of 20th century psychotherapy. According to The Mandala Workbook by Suzanne Fincher, drawing “mandalas offer[s] us a profound way to examine our inner reality, to integrate that understanding with our physical selves, and to feel connected to the greater universe.”

There are as many ways of creating a mandala as there are moments of time. One way is to begin by meditating on an issue you are trying to work out or something you want to attract into your life (manifestation). During meditation, you are tapping into this inner reality, this unconscious side of yourself. After spending time in guided meditation, you are ready to manifest change by drawing your mandala. Placing a pencil in the center of the circle, and being mindful of your meditative state, you plant the seed of your mandala. Take your time. There is no reason to rush. If a color or shape or direction or pattern seems right, that’s what you should draw. If nothing comes to you, just wait mindfully with your pencil poised. As you work, you can turn your paper around and around. Slowly, methodically, the creation will blossom. As you continue to draw, the mandala will come into full bloom and eventually rest at completion. Drawing is meditation too. Even as your eyes are wide open, your focus and attention should flow effortlessly as your mandala manifests.

This combined meditation/mandala drawing is like the old Chinese game Go—simple to learn, a lifetime to master. The benefits are many from simply lowering blood pressure or finding a few quiet moments to relax to full-blown enlightenment. You can do this all by yourself or in a group where you also gain the energetic influence of other meditators and the opportunity to hear commentary to give you even deeper insight.

So grab a box of pencils, a blank sheet of paper and find a quiet space. Center yourself. Take a deep breath in, and let it out as you begin to meditate. And now, let the coloring flow.

Meg Reilly, MS, CH, is a holistic lifecycle counselor and consulting hypnotist. She is a wellness director for Camp AmeriKids, consultant for The ELM Project Mentor Program, and a wedding officiant with the Universal Life Church. For many years, she has helped teens and adults examine, understand and integrate their multiple body, mind and spirit lifecycles. Connect with her at or [email protected].

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