We want to improve. Ultimately, that’s the goal. We want to be fitter, smarter, more attractive, more financially independent; we want to be better – better lovers, better friends, better parents, and the list goes on. In short, we are “here” but we want to be “there”. The question then becomes: how do we get from “here” to “there”? Without a doubt, there’s a lot of work involved in the process. However, something that’s also crucial for the success of your efforts is “mindfulness”. Mindfulness, in a nutshell, is being aware of what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. This type of awareness puts you on a fast track to achieving your goals – and people are catching on. There are numerous books describing the effects of mindfulness on both, children and adults. Furthermore, if we take a look at the popularity of the search term on Google Trends, we can clearly see a sharp increase in the past few years.
This trend, plus the increasing availability of numerous scientific studies that analyse and prove the impact of mindful meditation on our brain activity, convinced us to give it a try.
In our quest for mindfulness, we have interviewed and consulted a master in Transcendental Meditation, we have practiced Yoga, body scan, breathing meditation, and mantras meditation in a fairly regular basis. Needless to say – we haven’t mastered any of these types of meditation yet. However, through this practice, we have “found” more time in our lives. This is time that is then devoted to things that make us happy: sports, socializing, and even writing this blog, among many other things. And this happened in the midst of a very busy year – planning a wedding, finishing an MBA degree, dealing with sciatica problems, working on one of the most important projects I’ve had as a professional, and of course, trying to build a community based on mindfulness.
There were times in which we felt overwhelmed by the amount of effort we had to put into meditation. If you have tried it, you know that it is hard to sit, close your eyes, and actively think about clearing all of your thoughts. Sometimes we were too tired or too hyper. So, we looked for ways to introduce a reminder in our lives that would trigger in us the desire to meditate through an effortless activity that would still carry the impact and benefits of the other types of meditation we were practicing. We wanted something that was simple, appealing, and that would still create for us a state of mindfulness. We found the answer in the sand Mandala.
A sand Mandala is an ancient art form of Tibetan Buddhism in the form of sand painting. The word “mandala” is Sanskrit meaning “world in harmony.” Mandalas are drawings in three-dimensional forms of sand.
The sand mandala is carefully constructed from dyed sand particles to represent the particular esoteric, textual traditions of Buddhism. It is a transient art form, thought to have originated in India and been transferred in the middle ages to Tibet. It is constructed as vehicle to generate compassion, create awareness in the present, realize the impermanence of reality, and, on a spiritual level for the Buddhists, a tool for the social/cosmic healing of the environment.
So, we built a Mandala set and started doing it. Surprisingly, it was like playing, but it still created a mental state of awareness and mindfulness. I completed my first mandala with my 7 years old son and the result was extraordinary. The observed benefits of doing the mandala over and over again can be summarized in the following sections. These are concrete benefits that even those who don’t believe in spirituality can benefit from.
Completing a Mandala is not easy. It requires your full attention. But as you see the sand fill the spaces between the lines, your mind starts letting go of worries and to-do lists. The noise of daily life suddenly starts to quiet down – allowing you to achieve a level of focus that is hard to come by. The more times you go through the process, the easier it gets to translate this focus to other areas of your life – allowing you, for example, to: become more productive, easily establish priorities, and immerse yourself in the task at hand.
Patterns in the Mandala are generally concentric. The internal designs remind us of our inner personal circles, the middle ones symbolize our relationship with our community, and the external ones symbolize our connectedness with the world. By attaining a balance between these three circles, we are able to experience a ‘world in harmony’. The colors you use might be chosen to express a particular feeling. With every time you complete the Mandala, you will notice the evolution of that relationship – and how your mood changes accordingly.
The first few times you try to complete your Mandala, you will feel an urge to finish it the same day. This often happens due to our impatience. We want to see the finished product and we want to see it now. With time, and through practice, you will feel more at ease with stepping away from the Mandala for the moment – coming back to it reinvigorated at a later time. This is extremely useful in our daily lives. There are so many instances where we can avoid getting angry or frustrated if we simply knew how to walk away temporarily and come back to the situation at a later time. This tool allows you to hone that skill.
4) Mindfulness and Detachment
It is hard to look at something you just made; something beautiful; something that took effort to complete; and consciously get rid of it. Instead, we tend to cling to material things. The Mandala teaches you that everything in life is temporary – your house, your job, your car, your relationships, even life itself. This realization makes you mindful of everything around you. Mindfulness allows you to appreciate the things you spend time on and the people that surround you.
At this point, however, we didn’t know if other people would react the same way or feel the same effects. So, we contacted a meditation center here in Montreal and asked if we could give a Sand Mandala Meditation Workshop. They agreed.
Now, the moment of truth has come. We will find out if this, in fact, is a type of meditation that people can use to complement their search for mindfulness. We will see the effect of sand mandala meditation on other people – and we couldn’t be happier to be sharing this gift. We will let you know exactly how it went, in detail, next week. Stay tuned by subscribing to this blog or following us on Facebook. Don’t miss out!