Monday, July 25, 2011

Mandalas in Art Therapy

A group mandala showing how people saw themselves in the group.

Making a mandala is a discipline for pulling all those scattered aspects of your life together, for finding a center and ordering yourself to it.  You try to coordinate your circle with the universal circle.
                  -Joseph Campbell
                  The Power of Myth

Mandala means “magic circle” in Sanskrit.  It is a circular design that has been used since ancient times to invoke the spirit of healing.  Mandalas have been used in Tibetan meditations, the rose windows of Gothic cathedrals, the Aztec calendar stone, and Navaho sand paintings. In the East, mandalas are used as a focusing device for meditation.  Carl Jung used the mandala as an integrative and centering device in psychotherapy.
A mandala can be created as a self-symbol for a visual representation of one’s inner and outer world.  The outer circle suggests wholeness, unity, and/or the expression of your outer life.  The center of the Mandala represents your center or inner life, and/or your opening. Mandalas, or circular images, occur frequently in nature.  The mandala appears in all aspects of life: earth, sun, and moon, as well as conceptual circles of friends, family, and community. It is a pattern found in nature and is seen in biology, geology, chemistry, physics and astronomy.
A group mandala showing how people saw themselves in the group.

I use mandala making in therapy to help clients feel calm and centered, for self-expression and as a way to help people explore who they are in groups. The following photos are of mandalas made in a classroom showing how each person ‘saw’ themselves in the circle. They painted how much room they felt they took, how they felt their energy or self looked in the classroom and how they felt they fit in the whole. I have used this exercise as:
1.    A device to explore group conflict
2.    A visual representation for families in therapy
3.    A device to work with bullying
4.    A device to work with boundaries and shared space
5.    A tool to explore aggressive, passive and assertive behavior.

A group mandala showing how people saw themselves in the group.

 Seeing how we represent ourselves in our circle of friends, family or peers can be a powerful way to change or express our behaviour.


Carole Reid said...

Wow, I had never thought of that.

Karen Wallace said...

Carole, Thanks for dropping in. Hugs Karen

Roia said...

Periodically I'll do (complete? draw?) a mandala on my own, but I love the idea of using it with a group! Thanks for giving me some new things to think about.

Karen Wallace said...

Rola, You are welcome. Warmly, Karen

Natalie said...

This is fab! I love this idea and can think of many situations to apply it for myself, in groups in school and just my circle of friends...what a delight, thank you!

Unknown said...

Karen, thank you for this wonderful post. I am a user of this marvellous tool in my own life and work in Sydney. Please feel free to go to where I post some of my own musings on life and art.

Unknown said...

It's great way to Ground my self in life I've been using them in my nursing prof. has a teaching tool with people young and old ... It's a very simple yet ingenious tool to center and bring order into oneself inter chaos (y)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this blog.
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Unknown said...

Technical Q: do you give each participant a cutout piece, or have them all work on the whole?

Unknown said...

I never heard about Mandala meaning "Magic" circle in Sanskrit! It's simply Circle, or circular.

Leslie said...

I love your site.

Anonymous said...

That was a fantastic post! I had no idea Mandalas & meditations are so prominent. These days, I've been studying and reading a lot about mandalas. I'm curious if any of you have any further resources to contribute. It appears to be difficult to discover the latest information on the website. I came across a couple of websites that are related. One of the websites is The majority of the website does not update frequently enough to help me learn faster. Is there anyone eager to help?


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