“Mindfulness” is one of those words that you’re probably hearing more and more within your social circles. It is a quality that has always been extremely important in our lives but is only recently gaining a lot of attention from a wider audience. The concept of being mindful (or mindfulness in general) has always been present, but we haven’t always called it that. Instead, people used to say “live in the moment” or “live in the now”.
But why is mindfulness important?
There are experts who have tackled this subject for years and there are studies that have shown the benefits of mindfulness meditation. Some of those benefits include:
- Enhanced ability to focus for longer periods of time
- Increased sense of tolerance/patience
- Stress reduction
More of the benefits will be discussed further down this page.
How would one start mindfulness meditation?
There are several meditation techniques and practices that people can use to get started in mindfulness meditation. This site, however, focuses on one unique method that helps people achieve high levels of concentration and mindfulness in just a few minutes. We call this method: Sand Mandala Art Meditation (SMArt Meditation).
What, exactly, is Sand Mandala Art Meditation (SMArt Meditation)?
Sand Mandala Art Meditation uses the tools of Tibetan Monks to ultimately develop focus, patience, connectedness, and, of course, mindfulness. We will walk you through how Sand Mandala Art Meditation works. But before, here’s a quick video of one of our users practicing SMArt Meditation:
In order to understand the effects of the Sand Mandala Art Meditation process, let’s step back and cover some of the basics first – so we make sure we start from the same page. Here is the order of the topics that will be discussed (you can click on any one of them to jump straight to that section):
- What is Mindfulness?
- What are the benefits of practicing Mindfulness Meditation?
- What are some of the most popular meditation practices?
- What is Sand Mandala Art Meditation (SMArt Meditation)?
- How does Sand Mandala Art Meditation work?
- How can I start practicing Sand Mandala Art Meditation?
What is Mindfulness?
The most straight forward definition of mindfulness is the ability to be here now. Most of us tend to live in one of two places: the past or the future. The systems we go through enforce this way of thinking. When we enter school, we think about the tests that are coming up, or the homework that has to be finished for tomorrow’s class. The same mentality applies to our work. Our productivity is measured on our ability to meet deadlines and the outcome of future events – which should be positive if we learned our lessons from past mistakes. Add to the mix our relationship with technology – and you have a recipe for disaster.
But, what’s so bad about not being present?
The impacts of not being mindful can range from plain rudeness to actual detrimental health.
Have you seen two people sitting at a restaurant and they’re both on their phones? When you look at them, don’t you think: “how sad”? It IS sad! Not to mention RUDE! It is as if the other person is not worth your time. This can really hurt personal relationships.
Not having the ability to be present (be mindful) can also take a toll on your personal health. Constantly worrying about the future can create enormous levels of stress, which can manifest itself in many different ways: heart condition, weight gain, and even depression. This problem also affects our children. Do you think it is a coincidence that there has been a steady increase in the number of children diagnosed as having Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)? These effects have led to the increasing popularity of mindfulness meditation. There are mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques and mindfulness-based meditation practices that have greatly contributed to the improvement and prevention of these health conditions.
What are the benefits of practicing Mindfulness Meditation?
Sure, a lot of people will agree: Mindfulness Meditation, and mindfulness in general, is good for you. But what exactly does “good for you” mean? Here are the main benefits of a mindful practice:
- Mindfulness Meditation can reduce stress
Mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques can help you cope with the stress in your life and, in general, turn you into a more calm person. By taking your mind away from the pending deliverables and the million things you have to do – mindfulness meditation allows you to enjoy the moment and relax. Giving yourself that time to breathe and really pay attention to the now can help you slow down your heart rate and considerably improve your overall mood.
- Mindfulness Meditation can help you focus for longer
It takes focus to practice mindfulness meditation. It all begins when you start paying attention to your breath. Breathing is something we all take for granted, so we don’t normally stop to think about it. But this simple tactic helps you concentrate on something over time. It takes effort – just like going to the gym, you are now exercising the “focus muscle”, which will be of tremendous help in your personal life. The people that we have had in our SMArt Meditation workshops have reported longer practice sessions as a result of their improved focus. This has actually helped them at work, school, and even in everyday-type conversations.
- Mindfulness Meditation can help you become more patient
Mindfulness meditation is a practice that makes you more aware – not just of how you might feel, but also how others feel. By being in the moment, you will be able to detect your emotions as they change – giving you time to adjust to the situation before you lose your cool. This ability to give yourself time has incredible effects on your patience because you learn to realize that the thing you are rushing for, more often than not, can wait a few extra seconds. And because everything is connected, this ability to be more patient has an enormous positive effect on your stress levels – the first benefit we listed.
What are some of the most popular meditation practices?
There are many different meditation practices – but you will notice a common thread among all of them. Here’s a brief overview of some of the most popular – let’s see if you can catch that common thread.
- Spiritual Meditation
- Movement Meditation
- Mantra Meditation
- Focused Meditation
- Transcendental Meditation
- Mindfulness Meditation
- SMArt Meditation
You can find this type of meditation in major religions – from Hinduism to Christianity. Essentially, spiritual meditation makes use of prayer as a way to connect with your God or Universe. Generally, the repetitive nature of the prayers allow you to tune out thoughts – allowing you to be in the moment. For more about spiritual mediation head over to Well Being Alignment.
This is an active form of meditation – where movement guides you and is what you concentrate on. Yoga is one of the most popular forms of movement meditation. In Yoga, by paying attention to your stance, technique, and posture, you are able to keep your mind focused on the task at hand. Yoga, however is not the only form of movement meditation. There’s also hiking, walking, and even running – all carry with them meditative qualities that clear your thoughts. For a more detailed look at Movement Meditation, check-out DoYouYoga.com.
This type of meditation uses repetitive sounds, words, or sentences to clear the mind. If you associate the sound “Om” with meditation, then you’re thinking of mantra meditation. Repetitive sounds create comfort and tend to pace your breathing. This creates calm and produces a sense of relaxation that stems from the fact that your mind was given a rest (it doesn’t take much effort for our minds to repeat sounds). For a step-by-step guide to mantra mediation, check out this wikiHow post.
For this type of meditation, you would try to focus all your attention on any one of your senses. For example, with the use of mala beads, you can concentrate on your sense of touch as you count the beads. There are gongs that help you concentrate on your hearing. There are even people that concentrate their stare on candle flame for this type of meditation. For a more complete look into Focused Mediation, check out this step-by-step guide by VeryWell.com.
This form of meditation, commonly abbreviated “TM”, uses silent mantra to settle the mind into a estate of calm. It is recommended that TM be done twice a day for 15 to 20 minutes per session. There have been numerous studies done on the effects of Transcendental Meditation – for more information head over to TM Canada.
Mindfulness Meditation focuses on your thoughts. In practice, you are supposed to recognize these thoughts and let them pass you by. You can draw help from the other meditation methods described above. You can focus on your breathing, for example, to help you release thoughts that might be taking your attention away from the “now”. This practice demands concentration and awareness. If you want to read more about mindfulness meditation, mindful.org is a very complete source where you can get started.
Sand Mandala Art Mediation (SMArt Meditation) combines a lot of the elements described above in order to achieve high levels of focus and relaxation in a short period of time with minimum effort. It draws on all of your senses. Your eyes are captivated by the colorful sand and its movement, your hearing is concentrated on the sound of the Chakpur (the copper cone used to pour the sand into the mandala design), your touch is fixated on the vibrations of the Chakpur, and your thoughts disappear as you see the mandala come to life. This type of meditation is perfect for people who find it hard to just sit down and concentrate. The next section explains this meditation practice in more detail.
What is Sand Mandala Art Meditation (SMArt Meditation)?
Did you ever watch the Netflix original series “House of Cards”? More precisely, did you watch the 7th episode of the third season of the Netflix original series “House of Cards”? If you did, you will recognize the following clip (if you didn’t, you should still watch the clip):
Those are Tibetan Monks creating (and then proceeding to destroy) a beautiful sand mandala. It is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition that takes time and effort; and as part of the tradition, the monks have to (after spending weeks on it) sweep it away!
This beautiful and emotional process had to be experienced! After several sessions trying to complete the sand mandala it was easy to see how powerful the process was as a method of meditation. So, after years of development and instruction, Sand Mandala Art Meditation was born.
Sand Mandala Art Meditation (SMArt Meditation) is a meditation practice that involves the tools that Tibetan Monks use to create sand mandalas. All that is needed is: coloured sand, a Chakpur (which is a copper or brass cone used to pour the sand onto the design), a rod (to rub the top of the Chakpur in order to facilitate and control the flow of sand out of the cone), and a mandala design. The use of these tools in this meditation process has allowed individuals, who had otherwise found it hard to concentrate practicing other meditation techniques, to achieve high levels of concentration and mindfulness very quickly. The next section explains how it all works.
How does Sand Mandala Art Meditation work?
Let’s walk you through the entire process – starting with the tools:
The Chakpur is by far the most important tool in this process. The Chakpur is to those practicing SMArt Meditation what a paint brush is to a painter. Simply put, the Chakpur is a very pointy cone made out of copper or brass (normally). It is used to control, with precision, where the sand goes in the mandala design. Here’s a picture:
You would hold the Chakpur with one hand – with the wide end closest to you. Coloured sand is then poured into the wide end of the Chakpur (the sand can also be scooped straight out of the container holding the sand) while you place your index finger on the pointy end – so as to prevent the sand from pouring out. Once the sand is inside the Chakpur, you would guide the pointy end to the part of the mandala design you want to fill (carefully so as to not spill any sand). Once you’ve got the Chakpur to where you want to start pouring the sand, tilt it slowly so that sand can start flowing out. To help with the flow of sand, the Chakpur has a ridge on the top. This ridge can be rubbed with a rod to create vibrations that will ease the flow of sand – giving you greater control.
The Rod, as mentioned in the previous section, is used to rub the rigged part of the Chakpur in order to create vibrations that will ease the flow of sand – giving you greater control over how quickly and how precisely the sand fills the mandala design. Here’s a picture:
Notice that there is a flat end to the rod. This flat end is used to clean the edges of the design. Since we’re dealing with sand, it is very likely that some grains will bounce outside the desired area. This flat end is used to push those grains back to where you want them – giving you a clean edge to your design.
The coloured sand is to the SMArt Meditation practitioner what the paint would be to a painter. Not only is it the stuff you use to fill the mandala design – it is a form of self expression. You will notice that your mood will be reflected in the colours you use.
The Mandala Design
The Mandala follows a geometrical design that is packed with meaning. Usually, this design represents palaces where deities reside – with the main deity housed in the middle of the design. Furthermore, mandala designs also make use of concentric circles, which signify one’s relation with the immediate world around us and how that relation expands as we move out of our comfort zone – to realize that we’re all interconnected.
Now that you are familiar with the tools, let’s look into why Sand Mandala Art Meditation can get you to achieve higher levels of concentration and mindfulness in such a short period of time:
Has anyone ever told you to just sit and not think about anything?
That is sooooo hard to do! It’s a huge barrier to achieving mindfulness. Sure, mindfulness meditation is not supposed to be easy – but there are faster ways to get you there. Sand Mandala Art Meditation (SMArt Meditation) represents one of those ways.
As soon as you start SMArt Meditation, your senses are engaged. You are concentrating on controlling the sand, you feel the vibrations of the Chakpur when you rub it with the rod, you hear those vibrations, and you watch the sand flow and fill the surface you’re working on with fantastic colour. IT’S AN INCREDIBLE EXPERIENCE!
And before you know it………an hour has passed by.
In that hour, you were transported to another place. You just stopped thinking and were able to get to a level of mindfulness and focus that you didn’t think was possible in such a short timeframe. Coming out of the experience you feel relaxed and your stress levels are way down.
And there’s still one important lesson that the other meditation methods don’t emphasize…
That lesson is: LETTING GO.
After spending so much time on completing your mandala, it is time to sweep it away. This is so very important to the whole process. That’s one of the main differentiators between completing a sand mandala and just picking up one of those mandala coloring books. You get to keep the colored pages. You get to keep the book. And in doing so, you would be missing one of the most essential and beautiful lessons of this practice: NOTHING IS PERMANENT.
The first time you sweep the sand away from the mandala you’ve just taken weeks to complete, you will feel awful. After all, you’ve built an attachment to it – a sort of bond. But, as soon as you’ve swept it all away and see the clean surface once again, you will feel liberated. This part of the SMArt Meditation process is meant to sever our attachment to the physical world – freeing us from the feeling that we must OWN things. This is a feeling of freedom that is rarely felt through other meditation practices.
This lesson is what sets Sand Mandala Art Meditation apart.
How can I start practicing Sand Mandala Art (SMArt) Meditation?
The biggest barrier to getting started in Sand Mandala Art (SMArt) Meditation is access to the tools needed. Not everyone has a Chakpur you can borrow or buy. It’s not like you can walk into the newest trendy yoga shop and get the latest model of the Chakpur.
The benefits people experience after going through sessions of SMArt Meditation makes trying to find these tools well worth it.
So, here’s the good news –
Sand Mandala Art (SMArt) Meditation is becoming more and more accessible. The tools needed can be found commercially. Our group, here at Kaizen Tree, sells the entire SMArt set to get people going with their SMArt Meditation practice. It includes the Chakpur (hand made out of copper), the rod, the coloured sand, and an engraved mandala design (the benefit of having it engraved in wood is that you can start your SMArt Meditation on one end of your house and move it, if needed, to another part of the house – without losing your work). To read more about our SMArt set, click here.
And finally –
There are also SMArt Meditation workshops available! If you are still not sure about the benefits of this practice, you can come to one of our workshops in which we will walk you through the entire process. You get to experience, first hand, the feel of the tools and the benefits of this type of meditation in a setting that allows you to share your experience with others. We have seen friendships form and almost everyone that comes in wants to take with them a Sand Mandala Art (SMArt) set home to enhance their mindfulness meditation. To read more about our meditation workshops, click here.
Hope the information we have provided has allowed you to see the benefits of mindfulness meditation, and inspired you to try different ways to practice it. The benefits are worth it!!