CONNECT WITH THE BEAUTY OF NATURE
People have been taking items from nature and arranging them in sacred beauty for time immemorial.
Churches and temples are often adorned with floral arrangements, we use flowers to celebrate births, weddings and even deaths. A deeper way of working with this capacity to draw from nature as a muse is in the creation of mandalas, a circular design organically created as a mindfulness practice and formed of natural items. What at first might seem like a childlike and perhaps mundane activity can quickly take on a deep reverence and profound creative expression.
My teacher Maya Tiwari of the Wise Earth
School of Ayurveda taught me this practice as a mindfulness meditation. The process is very simple - we collect some items from the natural environment; leaves, flowers or shells for example. You can also do this practice as a gratitude mediation for the abundance of good food available to you by using legumes and grains to make your mandala. In this case once you have finished, place the grains and seeds on the earth outside so the birds may eat them.
MANDALAS AS A MOVING MEDITATION
Many forms of meditation require the body to be still, which is challenging for many of us. The mandala meditation involves using your hands to create the mandala and is an interactive experience of fragrance, touch and if you chant a mantra or sing a song as you go, sound. In this way it becomes a moving meditation. Creating a nature mandala is the perfect offering of your creative spirit; if you do not consider yourself musical or a writer or painter this may be a wonderful expressive outlet.
MANDALAS FOR CONNECTION
You can work on your own at home or collaborate with friends. I often include mandala creation within yoga workshops and events that I lead. There is something so powerful about coming together as a group and organically creating these beautiful offerings which create no carbon footprint and require nothing more than reverence for the natural world around us. It’s such a beautiful rite of passage for the beginning or end of workshop, and can also be used for special occasions within family life such as at a baby shower or children’s birthday. Kids love working on nature mandalas.
Below are some ideas for how you might create your own nature mandalas, keep in mind that this is a flexible and organic practice, I invite you to find your own way with it.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN NATURE MANDALA
As you do the practice chant a mantra or song in order to bring together group consciousness or your individual focus. There is great healing and power in sound vibration.
In order to get out of your ‘thinking’ head and into your ‘feeling’ heart use your body, specifically ‘anjali’ - your hands - to physically construct a beautiful sacred offering.
Mandalas always look different according to the region, the participants and the focus of intention. This in itself is a beautiful reflection of the natural artistry involved.
You may feel you are not creative or good at making beautiful offerings – but everyone, even children, can do this.
This practice gives form to bhakti or devotion; it is a practice of devotion in action.
The mandala is always circular and has no beginning, no end and no hierarchy. The circle represents all participants working together in a feminine model outside of the patriarchal model of ‘teacher and taught’.
Try to engage all of your senses in the process of creating a nature mandala especially sight, smell, touch, sound. You may also represent the qualities of the elements of fire, earth, water, air and space in your mandala.
After completion the mandala is returned to the sacred earth, from where it came. Seeds and grains fed the birds. The mandala is never permanent and serves as a beautiful reminder that in nature, as in life, all things come and go.
ITEMS IN THE MANDALA:
If you have a colourful cloth or piece of fabric you can place this on the floor when working indoors to contain the elements of the mandala. Using a piece of fabric from your family ancestry (like a table cloth or colourful scarf) will help you to keep a connection to your ancestry as you work which adds another layer of resonance to the mandala creation. Working on the floor facilitates connection to the earth and a sense of being humble. Of course you can also create a mandala at the beach or in a forest.
Seeds and grains represent the abundant plant-based food source from the Earth.
Flowers represent beauty and sweet fragrance (engaging all the senses).
Crystals and sacred objects represent our ability to amplify and channel energy. Symbols of particular qualities (such as the goddess or elemental forms) can also be used.
Other items from nature (discarded feathers, tree bark etc.) represent respect and reverence for the animal kingdom and plant beings. Never use animal products which have not been found in nature or sourced without harm.
Shells represent the element of water and the power and majesty of the ocean.
You will find that whatever intention you bring to this practice is amplified through the physical ritual. The more you start creating these beautiful offerings the more you will be able to let go and manifest your dreams and goals through the powerful process of engaging physically in your intentions.