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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

Mandala: Circles of Wholeness

Apr 30, 2014 04:59AM

Mandala is a Sanskrit word that means “container of essence” or “sacred circle”. These circular symbolic images are found in the sacred art of many cultures. Visualizing, creating and/or meditating on a mandala can be a spiritual practice expressing one’s own divine creative essence, through symbolic and sacred art.

Mandalas have been used since ancient times to deepen and enhance meditation, awaken, heal, reveal, inspire and teach, in the Hindu, Vedic, Chinese, Native American, Islamic, African and Judeo Christian traditions. They are often imprinted on circular healing talismans worn by the sick.

Tibetan Mandalas are some of the better known forms of mandala art. Tibetan Buddhist monks spend years learning to create symbols of cosmic forces and relationships in intricate traditional designs. They are created from fine, colored sand with the intention of bringing balance and order to individuals, communities and the world at large.

In traditional healing ceremonies of the Navajo of North America, the patient is placed in the center of a mandala depicting healing spirits created with desert sand, flower petals and pollen.

Psychologist Carl Jung painted mandalas he saw in dreams, having witnessed the devastating effects of war in Europe. However, it was only after several months and many mandalas later that he observed psychological transformation within himself and recognized the significance of mandala creation. He discovered that mandalas held a key to unleashing healing within those who create or meditate on them and used mandalas to observe and analyze the inner world and progress of his psychotherapeutic patients.       

The late Judith Cornell, Ph.D, an American artist, yogini and scholar, developed a modern expression of ancient sacred healing art. She described the mandala as “a concrete symbol of its creator’s absorption into a sacred center.” Cornell’s approach to mandala healing came from her yogic experiences of the healing power within herself, through creating mandalas as her own response to cancer. While Jung discovered the key to a door, he did unlock it and fully open to the healing power of mandala art. Cornell, on the other hand, flung the door wide open, enabling those who walk through it to participate in a deep self-healing experience. Her simple, multi-faceted, transpersonal, vibrational healing process often reveals profound truths about oneself that often lead to mental, emotional, spiritual and even physical healing.

Cornell’s process is a heart-centered, deeply spiritual practice that is a modern expression of the ancient Eastern spiritual practices. She presents the mandala as sacred art that mirrors “the vibrational light of consciousness” and sees it as “the creative amalgam between science and spirituality” that includes both physics and metaphysics, helping us to “understand our own divine artistry in the unfolding patterns of light, sound and consciousness. To her, the creation of a mandala is about “self-realization and ultimate healing.

Cornell’s mandala process uses white and colored pencils on black paper. The black paper represents the “womb of the universe or the dark un-manifested parts of our soul’s consciousness.” The white pencil represents the pure light of the soul and colored pencils represent the rainbow spectrum contained in white light—the colors that represent the energy centers of the body.

Each mandala is focused on an intention: expressing the light within, wholeness, heart opening, forgiveness, gratitude, letting go and healing for others. Group mandalas include living/nature mandalas and sand mandalas. Each mandala is a different experience, Participants report experiencing lightness of being, feelings of beauty, peace, expansiveness and childlike joy. 

Suchinta Abhayaratna, Th.D. is a transpersonal and transformational psychologist, holistic self-care coach and workshop facilitator living and working in the Washington metropolitan area.

To learn more about local mandala workshops, both live, online and three-day retreats, email [email protected], or visit


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