Meditation is a tough thing to practice. Our brains are constantly packed with thoughts that keep running all day long. So, to all of the sudden ask yourself to turn your mind off and not think of anything for ten or even five minutes is, to most of us, ridiculously unrealistic.
Nevertheless, I think we can all agree that clearing our minds every now and then is becoming more and more important. That’s why it is vital to find ways that make it easy for you to get into a meditative state. For some, Yoga does the trick. Others find that running helps them clear their mind. For us, it is the sand mandala art meditation practice.
Sand Mandala Art meditation is relatively new in North America. But it has been around for a long long time. In short, this is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition involving the creation and destruction of symmetrical patterns made from colored sand. That, however, is a definition that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. The sand Mandala stands for so much more than that. It is a vehicle to generate compassion, which stems from the realization of the connectedness between your personal circle, your social circle and ultimately the universe. This tool also nurtures and develops mindfulness; and it also highlights the impermanence of reality. The word “Mandala” is a Sanskrit term that is translated to mean “world in harmony”. Tradition dictates that after completing the beautiful design, the sands must be swept up and discarded. This represents the impermanence of all that exists. It teaches us that life is beautiful, colorful, and fleeting. Therefore, we should make the most out of it.
The video below shows the process of completing a sand mandala design. The whole thing took one person about a week to complete, with just an hour to ninety minutes of work every day. The incredible thing was that this period of time would usually fly by, given that it was so easy for the person using it to get into a meditative flow.
Benefits of the Mandala
As you go through your own practice, you will notice surprising changes to how you perceive things and how you view the world. These benefits vary from person to person, but can be grouped into four broad branches: Focus, Connectedness, Patience, and Mindfulness.
Completing a Mandala is not easy. It requires your full attention. But as you see the sand fill the grooves of the board, 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.
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.
Let us know in a comment below what is your favorite form of meditation. We’d love to hear from you!