“The mandala is an archetypal image whose occurrence is attested throughout the ages. It signifies the wholeness of the Self.” —Carl G. Jung, Memories, Dreams and Reflections
Have you ever gazed into a mandala? For many people, simply looking at the circular symphony of shapes and patterns evokes a feeling of calm and contentment. In many spiritual traditions, the mandala is considered a symbol for wholeness and connection and is used as a focal point for meditation, introspection, and healing.
The mystical pattern of a mandala manifests in abundance in nature: in a flower, a snowflake, a spider web. Some believe the mandala is imprinted into the deepest part of the human psyche, as it makes a common appearance in people’s dreams and in the visions of those with schizophrenia.
The famous psychiatrist Carl G. Jung would ask his patients to draw mandalas as a form of therapy. Jung believed that this practice would allow his patients to symbolically work their way through the outer chaos of their lives and get in touch with their center. Jung noticed that his patients became more focused and relaxed after drawing mandalas.
David J. Bookbinder is a present-day psychotherapist and a flower mandala artist. After a near-death experience over two decades ago, he was drawn to the healing power of mandalas, and soon found himself taking photographs of flowers.
“My motivation in creating these images was to heal. I began this project shortly after I bought my first digital camera and found myself shooting patterns of color and light, rather than the people and buildings I had shot in my black-and-white days,” says Bookbinder.
The fact that both he and Jung pursued the same interests is not lost on him. “In a small way, as both mandala artist and psychotherapist, I carry on Jung's tradition,” says Bookbinder.
Peter Barreda is another mandala artist who prefers creating black and white images. He began drawing mandalas as a young child. “The center was always the starting point,” he recalls of his early days, “and symmetry always the guide.”
“I would draw tiny details around and around the center, outward and up and beyond. The creation of a mandala felt inherently good, like an urge satisfied, a compulsion appeased. Of course I did not know them as mandalas then, only as scribbles that I couldn't help making.”
Barreda believes that, when a person is drawing a mandala, his or her impression of the outside world shows up in the structure of the mandala, while the inner workings of the psyche are revealed in the content.
“It is like drawing a picture of the inside of your mind without knowing what it looks like,” says Barreda.
Barreda’s advice to budding mandala artists is that “rules are not that important.” He believes that as we begin to draw, all the little bits and pieces that make up our chaotic minds emerge. By arranging these bits into a structured mandala, we can bring order to our thoughts and peace into our hearts.
Find a quiet place to draw, he advises, so that your subconscious mind can work without distractions from the outside world. Begin with a center point and simply work your way outward.
“The truth of the mandala comes from a place deep within us, a repository of subconscious memories and unacknowledged wisdom,” he says. “It is a sacred space in that it represents both our desire for outer wholeness and our longing for inner peace.”