Part I: Balancing opposites through mandalas
Opposites and the in-between intrigues me. An excellent means to explore the relationship between opposites are mandalas. An obsessive interest in art and music as therapy directed me into the magical world of mandalas. I want to share with you a psychological view on mandalas and how the making of mandalas is a powerful tool to manage anxiety and expand personal growth. Part I entails a brief overview of a psychological approach to mandalas. Part II elaborates on my own journey with mandalas.
What is a mandala?
Mandalas form part of many spiritual traditions and rituals and are used for various reasons such as mediation or to create a sacred space. The mandala has been used as a spiritual medium in various religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and early Christianity. This blog entry will not elaborate on the religious connotations of mandalas but rather focus on the therapeutic value of making a mandala.
Mandala is Sanskrit for “magic circle”. The Tibetan meaning of mandala refers to something that rotates around a middle point. In Hinduism, the Mandala symbolises the universe and is used in various spiritual rituals. In most basic terms, mandala refers to a circular pattern revolving around a centre.
A circle is fundamentally the most basic geometric shape. Since our eyes are circular in form, we perceive the circle with the least effort. The circle can be found everywhere, in and around us. Circles can be seen in organic forms and geometrical structures. The circle is primordial and represents the number one.
By looking at the meaning of mandalas it is safe to say that through observing a mandala a feeling of “oneness” can be experienced. The experience of becoming one involves a process of integration. This integration to oneness is exactly what intrigues me and what I want to achieve through making a mandala.
Mandalas as therapy
According to Carl Jung, the feeling of “oneness” is the core of a healthy psyche. In Jungian psychology, the mandala represents the self and the mandala process involves a balancing of the ego and self. The ego and self are two controversial concepts with various definitions. My approach throughout this blog entry is mostly based on Jungian psychology. The following link is an interesting read on the difference between ego and self. http://www.psychforums.com/self-esteem/topic6208.html
In simple terms, the ego is external. It is learned and formed through our interaction with society. A child first becomes aware of others and its environment and it is through others that a child becomes aware of itself. This perceived “self” is usually misidentified as the real self. The true self is internal. It has always been there.
As humans, we tend to lean towards the ego and forget about the self. Too much ego can lead to selfishness or self-destruction. As a coping mechanism, the ego tends to repress the self which is more empathetic and unconditional. Consequently, the self is mostly unconscious whereas the ego is conscious. What we don’t always understand is that change will be instigated by the self when the ego is “stuck”. Sometimes this change will seem like a disaster and the ego will resist the change. Contrary to most religious and spiritual beliefs that view the ego as “evil” and that one must become egoless, the question is not whether we should discard the ego or not. The question is: do we have a strong or a weak ego?
The weak ego is egocentric, self-destructive and self-sabotaging. The weak ego only thinks of itself and is unaware of the needs of others. The strong ego is self-aware without being selfish. The strong ego can be goal driven and aware of the needs of others. A balanced self/ego leads to a stronger awareness, more energy, and higher vibrations so we can think clearly and integrate into empathic and creative human beings.
Mandalas is a powerful tool to guide a process of integration of the ego and self. It is a way to delve into the unconscious, lay it down as symbols in order to interpret it and make it conscious. It is essentially a dialogue between the hand and eye, unconscious and conscious, ego and self. Through the use of different colours, shapes, and symbols, a dialogue between opposites can be instigated in order to create balance and stability within ourselves.