The day finally came. We were about to hold the first ever Sand Mandala Meditation workshop in North America. The chosen city: Montreal, Canada – our home.
The idea behind the workshop was to start educating people about this type of meditative practice. We also wanted to see what were people’s reaction to this type of meditation – after all, sand mandala hasn’t been accessible to regular people…until now!
This is how the workshop unfolded:
We began by providing the participants with a bit of history about sand mandala meditation, how Buddhist Monks practice it, and how it has evolved over time. Then we proceeded to explain some of the practical benefits that one could enjoy through this type of meditation. Namely, we outlined the four benefits that were discussed in our previous post (to check it out, click here). Finally, we handed each one of the participants their very own set to work with for the remaining hour or so. Throughout the process, these were the stages we noticed:
As soon as they got their mandala set, they started asking questions about the “right way to do it”. Questions included things like: How do we hold the Chakpur (the copper funnel used to pour the sand onto the mandala design)? How do you put the sand into the Chakpur? Which parts of the design should be filled-in?
Along with those questions, we noticed signs of skepticism about this type of meditation. They weren’t sure about the effectiveness of the sand mandala practice. But, the kept going.
The first 5 to 10 minutes were filled with comments expressing some frustration. They were comments such as: “This is much harder than I thought”, “Ah! I spilled some sand where I didn’t want it!”, “mine is not coming along perfectly”. They then started to look at what each other was doing in order to compare their progress. This, we thought, is normal behavior when first encountering any meditative practice. We didn’t expect things to be different for the sand mandala. After all, it is quite a new practice in this part of the world.
3. Quieting the mind
After 20 minutes, the room was filled with silence. Everybody was just working. The questioning, the frustration, the distractions – all disappeared. Every face was concentrated on the task at hand; and at that point, we could tell that no one was thinking about anything – they each had reached a complete meditative state.
4. Surprise and absolute relaxation
Now it was time to call it a day. An hour and forty minutes had gone by – yet, all of the participants thought that a lot less time had passed by. We were met with exclamations like “an hour and forty minutes? I thought it had only been an hour at most!” Their mind had been transported to another present – one where time ceases to exist. This was really rewarding for us to see, along with the relaxed expressions on their faces.
Now that we had reached the end of the workshop, just like in the ceremonies practiced by Buddhist Monks, it was time to dispose of what we had just made. Each participant found this hard – and it was to expect. We explained that this part of the process develops the person’s ability to let go of material things – a skill that is highly valuable to your well being. After disposing of the sand, however, there was a general feeling of happiness – like when one feels a load off of our shoulders.
6. Result and mindfulness
We wanted to hear their interpretation of the experience – so we asked them. The consensus was that they felt relaxed, that they forgot about the time, and that they felt happy about having gone through the process – even getting rid of the sand at the end.
We also asked what was going through their minds as they were doing it. Without fail, they all said: “nothing”. We were filled with satisfaction when we heard that. At that point we knew that they had achieved a state of mindfulness in an effortless and fun way. That’s when we knew the real potential of sand mandala meditation.
If you have any experience, or are interested in workshops of Mandala or Mandala sets (click here to buy your own mandala set and start practicing sand mandala meditation), please do not hesitate to communicate with us. You can reach us through our “Contact Us” page or through our Facebook page. We are looking forward to hear from you, your experience and opinions.