This moment and this moment and this next moment….that’s what we have. These moments make up our lives, and yet we seem to be wired to be anywhere but in this present moment. Certainly more than at any time in our history, the information on meditation and mindfulness is readily available and yet people struggle with understanding what to do or how to establish a practice.
The Colorado Mental Wellness Network where I am a trainer has just wrapped up a three week class on mindfulness with two simple goals: help participants establish or deepen a foundational meditation practice, and help them find ways to incorporate mindfulness into their everyday lives.
The nature mandalas in the pictures above were created as our final activity. Mandalas originated within the Buddhist tradition and theirs is a very formal process over many days. Ours is more free form and much shorter but still has certain rules.
We work silently in groups to create the design. Each part of the process is intentional, from walking to the table holding plant materials, to selecting the materials, to placing them on the paper. Since there is no talking it gently forces us to be present to the design taking shape in front of our eyes.
Certainly mandalas can be created as a solitary practice, but working in groups adds the element of surprise. You may have a vision for how your mandala should turn out, but someone else in your group goes off in another direction. It is a metaphor for life, where we can chart a course and have some control, but life and other people throw the unexpected at us. It is a sweet and fun activity for allowing ourselves to just be in that flow, finding our part in the dance of creation but honoring what others are contributing as well.
I had my own challenges with the activity as I have always used fresh plant materials from my garden. This is the first time I have led the exercise in winter. I had assumed I would just collect dried leaves and stems of overwintering plants, but many of the leaves crumbled at my touch. The dry sage and lavender leaves were more cooperative, and I was able to find fresh yarrow poking up through the ground as well as lamb’s ear and rose hips, but it was not nearly enough. So I had a moment of “a-oh, now what do I do.” It gave me the opportunity to intentionally walk through my yard and home with fresh eyes to see what else could fit into the category of natural materials. You can see from the pictures that the design elements included grocery store carrots, stones, wooden popsicle sticks, beans, and glass pebbles. Life hands us constant opportunities to change and adapt our original vision and still create something beautiful.