Winter Mandalas

Mandala 2 Feb 14 2015 workshop

Mandala 1 2/14/15 workshop

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.

6 Comments

  1. Juanita Audre
    February 20, 2015

    When I thought of what I would us for my own Mandala, I was amused at the fact that my dog has been bringing materials from the garden i.e. dried leaves, sticks, even young green leaves hanging from her mouth – she is creating her own Mandala and, once again she shows me the way. Thank you for your posts, they are always inspirational

    Reply
    • Joann Calabrese
      February 20, 2015

      Thanks Juanita. That’s very cool….yes it sounds like Sophie was pointing the way!

      Reply
  2. Debra MacKillop
    February 20, 2015

    Under your tutelage Joann, I have been learning origami, and although not in a group activity, I experience origami as involving the aspects that help me with “finding” mindfulness and feeling calmer, very in the moment, and creative. Thank you. (I might need a remedial session soon!)

    Reply
    • Joann Calabrese
      February 20, 2015

      Debbie, Yes – we need to schedule more origami time! And maybe I will write about origami soon.

      Thanks!

      Reply
  3. Jennifer Hill
    February 20, 2015

    Remembering that every turn in life is an opportunity is so helpful. I’m constantly experiencing these “Uh Oh” moments which used to paralyze me with fear. As a child, I learned perfection without deviation was the standard and punishment was the consequence for not executing. Staying in the moment as an adult and welcoming opportunity is still new to me, but a welcome relief. This activity was a great way to practice and one I look forward to completing at our next workshop.

    Reply
  4. First Mindfulness Series a Success! - Colorado Mental Wellness Network
    February 11, 2016

    […] Continue reading on Joann’s Blog “Mindfulness Garden Games” […]

    Reply

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