The psychology of Mandala drawing

Creating a Mandala is essentially a kind of meditation.

Found throughout a wide variety of cultures across history — there is a long history of Mandalas being used as both as a spiritual practice for their creator, and as a point of contemplation for those who observe the finished piece. Being that rare kind of symbol which truly transcends all words, languages, or cultural narratives etc.

When we look at a Mandala — it is like a kind of Rorschach Test. Allowing us to gain knowledge of our psychological state, or emotional functioning etc — purely by what we see in these patterns before us.

And, equally, when we create a Mandala for ourselves, the process is even more profound. Because here, it is possible for the patterns we create to become almost like a geometric embodiment of our own psyche. Bringing out unconscious symbols or elements which we usually keep suppressed.

This is why Mandalas were of such interest to Carl Jung too — one of the founding fathers of modern psychology — in his explorations of using Art as Therapy.

Both with his patients, and in his personal life — Jung realised that the Mandala could bring out these often repressed depths of ourselves, simply by forcing us to create something intuitively.

After all, every mandala has a general structure— i.e it is circular in form, emanating outwards from a single central point, with layers of pattern all around. And, in that sense, it is a good metaphor for the form of the human psyche too — which, in essence, is shared by all of us.

But, though the structure of each Mandala may be the same — the patterns and the workings contained within are always unique to the individual. And, again, this is where we find parallels to the human psyche. Because the differences we see in Mandalas, also speak of the differences of temperament that we see in each other too.

So, one Mandala may have symmetrical patterns . . . another may be random.

One may be completed in full colour . . . the other in monochrome.

One may be painted . . . another drawn . . . another sculpted . . . another woven into fabric.

But whatever the case may be, there is a reason for such differences. And this is what we look to find, when we go about analysing Mandala art for ourselves.

If one pattern is particularly intense, or chaotic in nature . . . we can assume that the person who created it must have been feeling a certain sense intensity or chaos in their own life too — hence why it has been reflected in their Mandala.

Whereas, if another pattern is completed in black and white— perhaps involving lots of straight lines — we might then imagine that this person is a very ordered thinker. And likes to deal in absolute certainties — rather than ambiguities.

In truth, there are a infinite varieties a Mandala pattern can take — and, thus, infinite ways of interpreting them too.

But, the key thing to remember — in both the creation, and the analysing, of a Mandala — is that this is not about literally creating a work of art to be judged as “good” or “bad”.

Whether Mandala is aesthetically pleasing or not — it’s deeper meaning remains just as profound. And, actually, to anyone who might be thinking of creating their own Mandala as a result of this — my only advice would be to just try and create it with no expectations at all.

Simply let your hand guide you,

That way, whatever you end up with at the end of the practice, will be a symbol which has come through purely from the unconscious. And, thus, will hold the maximum amount of meaning for us, when we set about noticing the symbolism that has come out.

From here, the process of analysis can take as long as we choose.

Sometimes, the meaning of the Mandala will strike us instantly — as if our own psyche is reaching out to slap us in the face.

Other times, it may take a little longer. And require deeper meditation.

But, whatever happens, it is remarkable how just some simple geometric patterns contained within a circle can hold the key to such profound personal realizations for us.

The kind of which conscious thought alone can never bring us. . . because, in general life, there are always far too many other influences around us.

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