Mandala Journalling

The mandala was first mentioned in the context of therapy, as far as I know, by Carl Jung. He did his own mandalas and talked about them in his memoir and in The Red Book. He worked with his patients using the mandala. The word mandala means sacred circle. The mandala is thought to be a symbol of the self.

I have often invited new patients in the first session to create a mandala. I find it best done on dark or black paper for the mandala to emerge out of the “shadow”. Also of course many people, even artists and art therapists, feel frozen in the therapy session when presented with a blank piece of white paper, so the circle makes a big difference between anxiety and feeling grounded…

The mandala makes a wonderful holding environment and it can feel very soothing to draw one. I usually have my patient trace the circle themselves, using a paper plate about the size of a face on big enough paper to provide room for extending the mandala outwards and for drawing outside the circle. The boundary of the circle will be emphasized and not crossed when a person has a great need for boundaries in his/her life or if one is by nature very conscious of boundaries. Some have rigid boundaries, some fluid…

This first session mandala is not only useful as an “ice breaker”. I find mandala making most helpful when I make them over time and can compare them with each other. I often suggest to patients that they keep a small sketchbook and try to make one mandala per day as a form of journalling with images. I myself have done this form of Journalling from time to time. For me it is a great thing to do to make sure I am making time daily for art making which I need to do most of the time to ensure good self care. If I happen to be at a crossroads in my artwork or a bit stuck, the mandala is always there for me. The following are images from different journals: the ones on the black background are from June 2005 and the others are from 2010.

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I just now remembered that my patients actually sit facing a wall with a huge mandala collage on it (7 foot diameter) in my studio that I made many years ago when I was only making a series of mixed media mandala collages of different sizes. It is very abstract and chaotic looking. Over the years various patients have commented on the piece as a whole or noticed small parts of it where they see and recognize some image that I did not consciously try to make in this piece.
I hope this post inspires you to make your own mandalas or do them in a group or with individual patients. I have also led several workshops incorporating art and meditation in which the art making part involved making mandalas on black or brown paper with the non dominant hand to help facilitate a level of comfort with image making, ie. this is my other hand so I don’t have to worry about making a “good drawing”…

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5 thoughts on “Mandala Journalling

  1. Thank you for a great post. I also feel very connected to the mandalas. I find the circle to be helpful in getting started. It is a safe amount of space to use and it is rewarding when it is complete. Thank you for the reminder on this very useful tool.

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    • Thanks. I will check out your website. I love mandalas. At the moment I’m trying to start a dreams journal but I’m sure I’ll return to mandalas. I’m thinking of doing them in the therapy group I started…

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