Lately I have been creating nature mandalas as a contemplative practice.
Mandalas are a type of circle art. Humans have been fascinated with circles all throughout history. Circles are everywhere in nature, both in the nature around us (like flowers and forests) and the nature above us (like planets and galaxies).
Because of the symmetry of circles, people have long associated them with the Divine, infinity, harmony, balance, enlightenment, and perfection. (You can read more about this here and here).
Circle Art in Various Forms
Circle art shows up in every culture in various art forms. Many people use some form of circle art to meditate or pray.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about a labyrinth, a type of circle art, I built in my back yard. I also wrote about the way labyrinths play an important role in many people’s contemplative practice. (You can read more about this here. And you might also like to read more about a groundhog who visited my labyrinth here.)
This is a very simple labyrinth. Most labyrinths are more complex than this.
Recently, I have been creating nature mandalas, which are another type of circle art, as a part of my morning contemplation. You can read more about mandalas here.
This is a mandala I made this morning. The rocks in the center are some rocks I collected at a river I visited on vacation a few years back. All of the rest of the items are from my back yard.
How to Make Nature Mandalas
Mandalas are just a series of circles, so they are easy to make. To make a nature mandala, gather any natural items around: flowers, leaves, twigs, rocks, shells, or petals. Arrange the natural items in a series of circles, each circle becoming larger as it encompasses the circles inside of it.
This is a nature mandala my friend Annemarie made.
I have been making my nature mandalas while sitting on my back porch in the morning.
As I make my mandalas, I focus on the beauty of nature and the gifts it supplies me. I also think about growing closer the heart of wisdom and God. And I also spend part of the time during my mandala construction letting go of thoughts. I practice being present with myself and the silence around me.
This is a form of meditation.
Here is a garden mandala with herbs and sea shells I made the other morning.
Mandalas and Mindfulness
The concentric circles of a mandalas are soothing to our minds. They help us focus peacefully, which helps us let go of repetitive and intrusive thoughts. This can aid us in meditation. (You can read more about this here.)
The color of mandalas is soothing and delightful to our emotions. They can inspire thoughts of gratitude, such as for the beauty of nature, art, and peace. It is also relaxing to walk around and collect items for nature mandalas and feels a little bit like a treasure hunt.
This is a fruit mandala I made this morning. The cool thing about this mandala is that I get to eat it. (Note: the flower in the center is not edible and is just there for decoration.)
Because the process of building nature mandalas touches our mind, body, and emotions, it can be a wonderful contemplative practice. But you don’t have to build nature mandalas to experience their benefit.
Other Types of Mandalas
You can use mandalas as a part of your contemplative practice in other ways, too. For instance, you can create your own mandalas through drawing, coloring, or painting.
This is a mandala I painted with watercolors this morning. I made up the pattern as I went along.
There are also a lot of coloring books with mandalas that you can purchase in the store or on Amazon.
Here’s one I got from Amazon.
And you don’t even have to call them mandalas if the word throws you off. You can just think of it as circle art.
However you decide to incorporate mandalas or circle art into your contemplative practice, here is a way you can approach it, if you like:
1. Collect your items for your nature mandala or your materials for your other mandala art like art materials or a mandala coloring book and crayons or pencils to color.
2. As you build, create, or color your mandala, here are some things you can do.
One, be silent and let thoughts go while focusing on the circles.
Two, meditate on God, if you believe in God.
Three, think about going closer to the heart of wisdom or love or understanding.
Four, dwell on gratitude for nature, colors, shapes, peace, art.
Five, breathe in and breathe out slowly and peacefully.
3. Let yourself feel whatever comes up, and also give yourself permission not to feel anything.
Contemplative practices create space for things to show up in our life like our self, our creativity, our emotions, peace, God, love, and the voice of wisdom.
Sometimes a lot of things will surface during your contemplative practice and sometimes very little will. Both of those kinds of experiences are okay.
Peace to you, Friend.
If you enjoyed this post, please consider sharing it on social media.
Have you ever worked with mandalas or circle art as a part of your meditation or contemplative practice? What was your experience like? I would love to hear.
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Published by shellypruittjohnson
My name is Shelly Johnson, and I am a writer and philosopher with a Ph.D. in philosophy. One of my primary personal and philosophical interests is how we can learn to love ourselves and each other better in order to cultivate personal and political resilience. I teach ethics and a variety of other courses at a local college. I am the author of the blog Love is Stronger. I am also the author of three logic and critical thinking books for high school and middle school: _Argument Builder_, _Discovery of Deduction_ (co-author), and _Everyday Debate_, published by Classical Academic Press. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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11 thoughts on “Creating Nature Mandalas: A Contemplative Practice”
Wonderful post, Shelly! Thank you! I love circle art, as I don’t consider myself to have terrific artistic abilities and this practice lets me be creative without worrying about my talent (or lack thereof). I can celebrate what God, though nature, provides and the beauty that surrounds me and forget about myself a little. What a gift! 🙂
Jen, that is so wonderful you love circle art, too! I love learning more about it and folks who use it in their own practice. And I agree–there is something so simple about circles that it allows us to let go and think about God, nature, etc. Thank you so much for reading and commenting.
These are just beautiful! Give me that fruit one, it looks absolutely divine on a hot day like today 🙂 You’re so good with art, Shelly! <3
That is the sweetest, M.B.! I had such fun with these! I can’t wait to create more in the different seasons of the year and at different locations when I go on vacation.
Holy AND whimsical. Nothing more beautiful than a creative soul at work producing meaningful art – that would be you, Shelley.
That is the sweetest, Debra! I always appreciate your comments.
Your mandalas are beautiful! What a lovely way to spend an hour!
Thank you so much, Ali! I really enjoyed these and am looking forward to doing more of them in the future.
They are fabulous – congratulations, & thank you for sharing them. Mandalas are one of my favourite things to colour 🙂
They are indeed wonderful!