Mandala Mindfulness


Lockdown has driven everyone to technology. I should be in my element. In a 'past life' I was a tech whizz. I dabbled in coding and used cutting edge interactive video and sound software, as well as sensors and microcontrollers during my masters degree and doctoral research. I even designed an interactive multimedia tool called the Body Response System and used it to make collaborative improvised artworks. (See chapter 10 of this book for info.) Life now is more family, rural and yoga-orientated, which isn't a bad thing. Broadband is patchy, and computers that were extensions of my limbs in those heady days of tech wizardry have long since died. I was caught on the hop equipment-wise when the world ground to a halt.

My old iPhone 5 is barley coping as the narrow channel through which I (and often my children) conduct relationships with extended family, and like everyone else, attempt to find ways to socialise virtually. I tried to use it to record yoga videos and in so doing, keep contact with clients and put my business on life support. Alas, I was asking too much. I posted a few make-shift attempts online but wasn't happy with the quality.

I then invested in the bare bones of a technology upgrade to try to muster some semblance of the video production standards that were easy to achieve in my 'past life'. I got excited at the prospect of dusting off tech skills, and posted a poll online to see what class theme my clients would prefer once I got up and running. I planned, practiced and recorded the class. I did takes between home-schooling, writing, sound-healing study and housework. Still without editing ability, the video needed to be shot in one go. This meant lots of attempts. Finally, I had the file I needed. I also had made some music recordings I wanted to share. Alas, alas, the files wouldn't upload from the new device. I tried and tried and tried again, changing my approach to find solutions. The issue remains unresolved. I fear more investment is required to dig me out of this particular rabbit hole. Ah! Technology - you forsake me!

Enter Mandalas!
Somewhere along the route I recently started pottering with these simple circle based drawings. I think it was sparked by helping my daughter with her maths and rediscovering the old fun I used to have with pencil and compass. I eventually gave up the tech wars and succumbed to the peace. The last two weeks or so have seen me spend many happy hours colouring and plotting construction lines. The kids have both joined in. I've found myself finishing a mandala and realising that I've simultaneously worked out a problem or idea that had me previously caught in a loop. Of course, I'd only grazed the top of what mandalas have to offer. There is a very ancient tradition involved.

The word mandala is Sanskrit for 'circle' and in Hindu and Buddhist spiritual traditions (for example) they have been used to map the universe and deities, and as instruments of spiritual guidance.  In modern times, colouring or drawing  them has been used to manage stress, focus attention and scaffold meditation and mindfulness processes.

With their aid, I stopped fighting a loosing battle with the ill wind of technology and began dreaming nicer dreams. I imagined stepping back into my old multimedia artist shoes, where interactive sensors could drive video footage of mandalas to morph from one circular 'universe' to another. I dreamed up an art project. I started looking at how celtic strapwork could be incorporated. What fun! And all I needed was to step away from the computer and doodle! Happy days! Technology and I will live to fight another day. (I can't wait...)

Anyone who came to the last offering of Donegal Yoga Retreats, or been in a youth setting with me will know that I like to incorporate playful creative practices into my wellbeing offering. Body percussion, singing, or drawing are used to coax us more deeply into our bodies, into the moment and towards harnessing the life-affirming power of creativity. (Spoiler Alert! I think its safe to say that Mandalas will be part of some future offerings of this kind.)

Einstein said "Creativity is a form of play.. It builds new worlds and constructs new realities. Creativity is our superpower." So, let that Superpower shine! Let Your Inner Artist out to Play! Have a go yourself.

In a future post, once I've more deeply absorbed the sound healing skills I am currently learning, I will revisit the history and creative benefits of mandalas and also investigate the intriguing correlations between Cymatics and Yantras that are currently causing thought explosions in my brain. For now, I've kept it simple. I offer you a humble Mandala instruction manual. Click the link below to download the FREE pdf.

(Tech-friends, this one is Old School! It's made in Powerpoint on Windows 7, with that battered old iPhone 5. Some paper and pencils were also involved ; )