mandalas

5 Reasons to Start a Mandala Practice

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Mandalas are everywhere. We see these circular designs with repeating patterns in coloring books, clothing, linens, and home decor. Mandala is a Sanskrit word that loosely translates as “circle” or “center.” While mandalas are rooted in Buddhist and Hindu traditions, humans have been fascinated by circular design motifs across all cultures and times. Celtic spirals, the Chinese yin/yang symbol, rose windows, and Navajo sand paintings are a few examples. In nature, we find mandala patterns in nautilus shells, pinecones, and the seed heads of sunflowers.

The practice of creating and coloring mandalas is more than making pretty pictures. Here are five reasons to start a mandala practice.

1. It relaxes the body and mind. A mandala practice can be as simple as coloring mandalas found in the many adult coloring books on the market today or downloaded for free from the web. When we unplug from our electronics in order to sit quietly and color, our bodies and minds relax. Focusing on filling the repeating shapes with color gives our minds a break from the worries of the day and the busyness in our schedules. As our minds relax, our bodies follow. For maximum benefit, turn off your phone and other devices, turn on some relaxing music, diffuse your favorite essential oils, and drink a warm beverage. Take it even further by practicing yoga, dancing, or soak in a warm bath before sitting down to color. The relaxation experienced from coloring mandalas eases stress and anxiety and helps you sleep.

2. It activates your creativity. Drawing your own mandala designs requires no artistic background. I tell my students, “If you can print your name and the alphabet, you can draw a mandala.” We use the same lines and shapes—vertical, horizontal, curved, diagonal—whether we draw the mandala freehand or within a grid. Within 15 minutes, I see students take flight in drawing their own mandala designs and discovering their creative abilities. Activating our creativity in this way helps us bring creativity to other areas of our lives.

3. It improves focus and enhances clarity. When you’re drawing a mandala, you can’t think about anything else. That clears the mind to be able to focus. After constructing the mandala, we shift gears to color it, and our attention may shift to our thoughts and feelings. We can quietly reflect on the day and use this time to brainstorm a solution to a problem, or consider possibilities for a decision that we need to make. One of my favorite practices is to focus on an intention, such as gratitude, while creating my mandala. I may even fill the shapes and spaces of my mandala with words and phrases to acknowledge what I appreciate in myself, others, and my life.

4. It centers and connects you. What’s the difference between coloring and drawing within a circle compared to other designs? The circle offers a safe container to focus one’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas—whether the mandala is in the traditional style, with the shapes radiating from the center, or a contemporary design that’s more freeform and abstract. As we draw a mandala and color it in, we see patterns emerge before us that may reflect the centeredness and connections found within ourselves, friends, family, colleagues, and communities, both local and global. These connections foster understanding and compassion toward ourselves and others.

5. It’s fun! Perhaps the number-one reason to start a mandala practice is the joy that comes from witnessing a work of art emerge from your own hands. A warning: Once you get started, you’ll find it hard to stop!

Originally written for Kripalu.org.

How to Get Your Mandala Practice Started

Read a Book: My book, “The Mandala Guidebook: How to Draw, Paint, and Color Expressive Mandala Art” is packed with beautiful illustrations and easy step-by-step instructions covering a wide range of styles, techniques, and mediums. Sample It! Download the first chapter.

Watch these Videos: I’ve taught thousands of people how to draw mandalas in my YouTube videos. Get your pen and paper ready and Tune In Here.

Take a Class: My book and YouTube videos are just the start. This 10-part series will guide you in creating mandalas quickly and successfully. Get the Deets & Sign Up!

Join a Mandala Community: The Sharing Circle is a private website for mandala enthusiasts. It’s the best place on the web to get encouragement, especially when you are just starting out! Join Here Did I mention it’s free?

how-to, mandalas

Product Review: Arteza Water-based Brush Pens

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Arteza reached out to me asking if I would give an honest review of three of their products: 48 Water-Based Ink Real Brush Pens, Water Brush Pens, and Premium Watercolor Paper.

Run Time: 14:27

Related Links

Color I Course – For more product demos and lessons on creating color harmony. 

Mandala Drawing I Course – Learn how to draw mandalas. Ten video lessons, each one under ten minutes to get you started creating mandalas quickly and successfully. 

Sharing Circle – I’d love to see you in our online community for mandala enthusiasts. It’s FREE!

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Arteza Affiliate Links

Arteza provide the products for this review. I was not paid for this review. I’m now participating in the Arteza Affiliate Program, which means if you click on the product links in this post and make a purchase, I receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. I use these commissions to purchase products to giveaway in my monthly mandala challenges or to use in my workshops and courses.

Arteza Watercolor Real Brush Pens (Set of 48)

Arteza Water Brush Pens (Set of 6)

Arteza 9×12” Watercolor Pad (140lb/300g, 32 Sheets, 2 pack)

journal, mandalas

Tears for Fears

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Truth telling will set you free.

It sets you free from what’s haunting you, what’s keeping you up at night, and what’s percolating under the surface of your daily comings and goings.

What truth have you been avoiding?

For me, I’ve been neglecting my body and taking care of my health. Lately, I’ve been feeling stuck. I know what I need to do, it’s just doing it that’s the problem.

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Yesterday, Facebook reminded me of how I’m not taking care of myself when it posted this photo, a memory from six years ago of one of my first dates with Mr. Wonderful. Wonky, windswept hair aside, what I see is a healthier me. It was a time when I was feeling so good. I had lost a lot of weight by eating healthy and exercising. And, I had so much fun those days buying new clothes. When invited to an event, I didn’t panic thinking, “What will I wear?” I felt more comfortable in my own skin. I had energy and I was radiant.

Comparing the today-me with the 6-year-younger-me actually came at a good time. Thank you Facebook.

It’s been a stressful week. I drove down to Boston (ugh) for my first appointment at the Tufts School of Dental Medicine (double ugh). I no longer have dental insurance and the dental school offers reduced priced services. The tradeoff is that I have to drive down to Boston and the appointments are super long. Time is what I have these days with my new working arrangement and keeping up with my quarterly cleanings is a priority for me.

I came close to chickening out. A voice in my head served up a lot of excuses why I should cancel. But I showed up anyway. On the drive navigating the tunnel and the swarm of cars, I kept saying, “Kathryn, you’re doing a great job.”

I’m so glad I showed up. When I started my health journey years ago that led to a 60 lb. weight loss, it began with my oral health. Not only is one’s oral health vital for the health of the entire body, but our mouths are an important vehicle for communicating our truth.

Since my initial dental appointment this week, I’ve scheduled an appointment with a Naturopathic doctor, started daily walks with a dear friend, and prepared healthy meals including my favorite, wild caught salmon.

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The Gift of Letting Go

Truth telling is the art of naming the unnamed and letting it go, releasing it, and surrendering it. My need to surrender anxiety that I was feeling this week came at a good time as it helped me to prepare for a new lesson that I’m working on for my Great Round mandala course. The theme for the lesson is about letting go and one of the mandala exercises is to give a safe place for our fears.

In my “Tears for Fears” mandala, I drew a circle with a strong, solid boundary to create a safe place to let the tears flow.

I pulled out some new watercolor brush markers to use for this mandala. (I’m crushing on these markers from Arteza.*)

The element of water is connected to strong emotions and I like working with water color paints or markers when exploring my feelings. Working with watercolors is tricky. There is an element of unpredictability with them and you have to let go of control. Use too much water and it will bleed out. Colors combine and move in the watery surface in unexpected ways. When you let go and accept the nature of watercolors, it’s fun.

I filled the circle by scribbling in some watercolor ink and then pushing it around with a water brush. The gray colors reflect the foggy unknown and lends a haunting feeling that surrounds my fears.

“What do my tears have to say?” They are asking me:

“Will I succeed in my business?” “Did I make the right decision to quit the “safe” day job?” “Can I find the energy and motivation to get healthy again?”

I like to create pockets in my journal to tuck in pieces of paper with journal writing that I don’t want to share publicly. Here I cut the top of the mandala and taped the side and bottom of the page to the next page.

Here’s what I’ve learned about how to let go.

Naming the fear helps to disarm it.

Telling a dear friend releases it further.

Creating a place to put the fear, in a journal or work of art, takes it out from rattling in the head.

Taking a step, even a small one feels empowering. It gets you moving in a positive direction.

Letting go feels so good.

At the start of the week, I was racked with anxiety anticipating the dental appointment and knowing that I needed to get honest about what I was doing and not doing for the health of my body. I was also feeling uncertain about my business.

Today, I’m feeling relief, ease, and excitement. I feel a renewed commitment to my intention to say yes to me and my creative dreams in each moment.

How about you? What truth are you ready to tell? What fears are you ready to release? What small step will get you started?

Spill it in the comments below or shoot me an e-mail. I’d love to hear from you.

If creative journal keeping is your jam, or would like to get started, consider joining me for my next online Journal workshop.

The Great Round mandala course is a fascinating series. I offer it each January. You may want to put it on your bucket list for 2019. I’m thinking I may develop and offer a “lighter” version sooner. Subscribe to my newsletter to get updates on when new courses release.

Of course I couldn’t post about Tears for Fears without a little music…

mandalas, monthly mandala challenges

May Mandala Challenge

I’m often asked where I get all of my ideas. For this month’s challenge, I thought I would show you how I take inspiration and turn it into my own unique mandala art. The theme this month is Mexican Inspired Mandalas.

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Here is a look at my design notes inspired by pieces of Mexican folk art.

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Here you can see how I applied the design elements to a final mandala design.

Watch the quick 4 minute video to get the contest details and to see the fabulous prizes donated by our mandala sister, Mary-Anne Betrand Schoenike.

I can’t wait to see the colors, shapes, and patterns that will show up in your Mexican inspired mandala art this month!

~ Kathryn Costa

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Challenge Details

  • Create a mandala inspired by Mexican folk art.
  • For inspiration check out my Mexican Art board on Pinterest.
  • Post a photo or scan of your mandala in the Sharing Circle.
  • Not a member? Join the Sharing Circle. It’s Free!
  • Deadline to enter is May 28, 2018 at midnight, EST.
  • One winner will be randomly selected to win the prize package of assorted Mexican gifts.

 

mandalas

When to take a pair of scissors to your mandala.

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What do you do when you are working on a mandala and you love one part but there are elements that simply don’t work in the design?

I faced that challenge this last week when I was working on this Squaring the Circle mandala. I loved the center sections with the lotus flowers but felt like the outside petal motif was unbalanced, busy, and took away from the serenity of the center. It was an idea that just didn’t work.

Sometimes when this happens, I cut my losses, learn from them, and start over.

Not this time.

This time, I “cut my wins.” Since the center was an easy save, I pulled out a pair of scissors and cut it out. On a fresh piece of paper, I redrew the circle and outer sections.

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Here you can see how I carried the semicircle with lotus motif to the outer section. With a little glue the mandala came together beautifully.

Ahhhhh, now that feels much better.

I’ve been posting a series of Squaring the Circle mandala motifs on my new True North Arts pages on Facebook and Instagram in response to a comment from Roberta Warshaw, “I like this mandala design too but I have a hard time figuring out what to put inside.”

I hear this a lot from people who are starting out creating mandalas. To spark some creativity in myself and others, I thought I’d create ten mandalas with the same layout and vary each day how I finish it. Ten mandalas in ten days.

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Meanwhile, I was invited to have two pieces of my mandala art on display at Yoga Balance in Manchester, NH. I decided to create a companion mandala using the same basic layout but used blue in place of the green.

Another way to explore a design concept is to create a series where you vary the colors.

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Compare and contrast these two mandalas and you’ll find some subtle variations between these two.

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Here they look in the waiting area at Yoga Balance.

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They seem to be right at home here.

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I’m quite fond of the crisp white mat and simple black frame. The colors look striking.

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A note about the Squaring the Circle design.

I love the Squaring of the Circle motif because it is not only easy to draw but it has a balanced, calming feeling to it. Why? The squares offer a very grounded, solid design where the circles, flowers, and other design elements feel held together. They don’t float around. It’s a well balanced design.

As you look at these mandalas, imagine you are standing in the center, “four square.” This mandala is about knowing where you stand and deciding which direction you are heading. You can keep doing what you are doing or move forward by starting something new.

How about you? Where do you stand with your mandala practice?

Learn how easy it is to draw the Squaring of the Circle in my online Mandala Drawing I course.

Visit Yoga Balance in Manchester, NH to see my artwork on display during the month of May.

Looking for something new to try? Check out my new Soul Journey Mandala series. Each lesson includes a guided meditation, an art activity, and journal prompts. Try the first lesson for free.

Join the Sharing Circle a free membership community for mandala enthusiasts.