Mandalas: Therapies and Diagnosis
Diagnosis with mandalas is a very popular subject, perhaps because we are virtually in love with the concept of diagnosis. The idea of knowing more than others, and in a way that others cannot understand, can be inspiring. Even though the examples that are impressive in their own particular ways, there are far simpler and more reliable methods of diagnosis than mandalas, However, where emotions are concerned, there is no better method of therapy.
Traditional medicine shows quite clearly that we are more fascinated with diagnosis than with therapy. It possesses an impressive array of diagnostic methods, but often, its therapeutic treatments seem to be stuck in the dark ages and are of a deplorable standard. Neurological patients find themselves being checked thoroughly for weeks, using the most advanced diagnostic methods, but when it comes to therapy, the question often is simply steroids or no steroids? Many other areas of medicine also suffer from an over-emphasis on the diagnostic side.
Fortunately, it is the other way around with mandalas. They have great therapeutic value, even though we do not always know exactly why. Also, their use in therapy could not be simpler. Mandalas can be used by anyone, and they quickly turn patients into therapists. No qualification is necessary to become a mandala therapist.
This may be somewhat disappointing for many people since we usually tend to favor complicated subjects that require long years of training. It is their user-friendliness that makes mandalas so fascinating. In fact, if we take a closer look, we find that the best help is usually the most simple. Edward Bach, who developed his fascinating system of flower remedies from a variety of weeds and plants untiringly, emphasized the simplicity of his therapy.
Even if you look at a mandala, you have already become your own therapist, and you should always try self-therapy before seeking a professional therapist. If you encourage others to color mandalas, you will pass on a wonderful method of therapy, but you should not exaggerate your own status as a therapist.
Coloring mandalas are often the best way to deal with emotional problems. With this in mind, it would be ideal if there were more mandala therapy and less traditional therapy. What speaks in favor of mandalas is the response they evoke in the people who use them.
There are hardly any doctors who prescribe mandalas, and this is mainly because doctors do not take them seriously. Maybe they fear that their patients will not take them seriously if doctors recommended coloring mandalas twice a day.
Thankfully, things are starting to change; occasionally, we now find doctors who recommend coloring mandalas. Sadly as with many new spiritual ideas and philosophies which touch on medicine, doctors are often the last to follow a trend, and only after the trend has already been embraced by society.
If we consider that this kind of self-therapy comes virtually without any negative side effects, then there is really no other therapy to rival it. The only negative side effects that I have encountered were connected to the paperback edition of Mandalas of the world. In this edition, the mandalas are quite small. A person of an energetic, uninhibited nature can easily be exasperated by the constraints of such small designs. At the same time, too large mandalas can likewise cause anxiety. It seems that there are certain sizes for Mandalas which optimize their healing powers.
Table of Contents
MANDALAS AND MEDITATION
Meditation is a practice for calming the mind. Usually, our minds are so dominated by what is going on around us or by our own mental chatter that we have little opportunity to experience the peaceful, tranquil state that is the natural condition of the mind. So habitual does this domination becomes that we take it for granted. If we are asked to stop thinking for a minute, most of us would be unable to do so.
In a very real sense, our minds are not our own. They are so distracted first by one thing, then another and so pulled this way and that sensations, thoughts, memories, and emotions and by the demands of the outer world that we have very little control over them. The result is that we live much of our waking lives in a state of tension; and when the mind becomes tense, so does the body. Mind and body are so closely linked that many of our physical ailments are a consequence, directly or indirectly, of what goes on inside our heads.
Meditation helps the mind to learn to become focused on just one stimulus and to cease to attend to all the distractions competing for our attention. The stimulus may be our breathing, or it may be a mantra (a sacred sound or phrase) or a mandala. If we use our breathing, we simply place our awareness upon the sensation at the base of the nostril as we breathe in and out.
If we use the mantra, we repeat it over and over to ourselves. And if we choose a mandala we place our glaze softly and attentively upon the image. In each case whenever our thoughts stray, we bring them gently but firmly back to the point of focus. We do not force ourselves to stop thinking. Thoughts will inevitably arise, particularly when we are beginning to learn meditation or when we have a busy or fretful day, but when they do so we simply refrain from attending them. They are there, but we take no particular notice of them and do not allow them to control our minds. Because vision has always been an important part of human experience, the mandala has proved over centuries to be a particularly helpful point of focus in meditation.
Whatever form it takes; it can often hold our attention more effectively than non-visual. A mandala also has the added advantage that, provided it is a true mandala. Its symbolic content will take us, without our having to make any special effort, into that inner world that lies at the heart of meditation.
Meditation is a path of self-discovery. We may think we that we know ourselves, but in fact we live mostly in our conscious minds, and remain unaware of our unconscious and of the subtle spiritual dimension of our own being by helping to still and train of thoughts that dominate the conscious mind, meditation opens us to the deeper mysteries of our inner selves.
The results of such a boost in mental power can be seen on an everyday level. By increasing our ability to concentrate, meditation can aid memory and ability to concentrate; meditation can aid memory and make us more alert to the world around us it also has potential physical benefits: it helps to relax the body and combat the effects of stress.
There is evidence that for some people meditation helps lower blood pressure, assist with pain management, and promote restful, restorative sleep. It may help to lift the spirits, and by relaxing the mind and body may even improve our physical appearance.
When you begin meditation with mandalas, even if you have practiced meditation before, it is best to start with the accessible design such as ones provided. The traditional, elaborate Mandalas used in much of Tibetan Buddhism can and should be used only under detailed instructions from a Lama who has himself been initiated into the spiritual practices that they represent.
Use of these mandalas by the uninitiated is unlikely to do much good. The meditator can all too easily become distracted by the strength of the images and the vibrancy of the colors, and by the multitude of questions that they are likely to arouse in his or her mind. Like the secret code, to which meditator does not have a key, the mandala will refuse to reveal its secrets. Instead, it is better, to begin with, something simple, commencing if you wish with geometrical shapes.
Geometrical shapes have an archetypal force in that they are part of our inherited psyche the patterns of the natural world within our minds. The mystery schools of ancient Greece, particularly that use of Pythagoras, made a special study of geometry for this reason, and many of the sacred sites of the ancient world, such as the pyramids of Egypt and South America, and the stone circles of western Europe, including Stonehenge, were constructed to conform to what is now known as “sacred geometry” , which reproduced through man-made objects the patterns upon which this world, the heavens and the cosmos itself were thought to have been constructed.
If you start with a mandala based on a geometrical shape you will find that early in your meditation a number of its symbolic meanings will arise unbidden in your mind. Without forcing it, simply allow this to happen. Note these meanings, without judgment, as they arise. Note how they seem to emerge of themselves from some deep level of your unconscious. But do not be tempted to linger over any one of them or to try to commit them to memory. You can ponder their significance after the meditation is over.
MANDALA MEDITATION STEP BY STEP
Meditation is at one the same time disarmingly yet challengingly difficult. Simple because the basic principles are readily learned, but difficult because the mind stubbornly refuses to keep to them. The secret is patience and practice. Meditation is not learned in a few days. But if you remain patient with yourself and practice regularly, progress will come.
1. Find a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed. Sit cross-legged on a firm cushion that raises your bottom a little way above the floor or sits in an upright chair with your feet flat on the floor- whichever you find most comfortable.
2. Place the mandala you have chosen at eye level about an arm’s length, or slightly more, in front of you. Start with a basic pattern such as a Celtic cross. If using a different mandala that it is the same size as this page straightens your back laced together and palms uppermost.
3. Now rest your gaze on the mandala but relax your eye muscles. If your eyes go into soft focus so that you can see two images of the mandala instead of one, no matter. This is better than straining your eyes. Blink only often as necessary. On the image. Do not be distracted by thoughts that arise. If your attention wanders, bring it back each time to the mandala. Try not to think about the mandala. Simply look at it, steadily and evenly.
To begin with, practice for five minutes each day. If before five minutes are up you begin to feel disturbed in any way by the visual of the experience draw the meditation to a close. Remain always within the time limit in which you feel comfortable. As you become used to this form of meditation, you can extend this time limit, until ultimately you may be sitting for a full 20 to 30 minute at each session. But never rush things or to push yourself too hard.
Consider, too, the movement of your eyes. Whenever we look at an image, we tend to scan to scan it continually from one point of focus to another. If the image is an enigmatic one, we scan it even more, restlessly seeking information to explain it to yourself doing this when you being to meditate with mandalas, and how difficult it is to keep your eyes still. However, this is not the way to meditate.
Take in the whole of the image initially, but having done so allow your eyes to come to rest on one point. Usually, this is the point just above the center, but there is no fixed rule about this. Do not strain your eyes. Allow them to slip into soft focus if you wish. Blink when you have to, but not more often than necessary. Notice how your eyes, as intent upon movement as your body, try to pull away from this point of focus in order to resume scanning. Gently resist this attempt.
WHY A COLORING BOOK FOR ADULTS?
Sometimes even quite aggressively—coloring, after all, is for children. Generally speaking, coloring mandalas can be recommended for all ages. Since they encompass life in its entirety, they accompany all the stages of life. It is certainly no coincidence that coloring books are given to children to practice understanding and following established structures.
Coloring mandalas predetermined framework is a useful exercise to practice adapting to a framework that is already in existence and which cannot fundamentally change. When we color mandalas, we are doing just this. We can, and should, give it our own “inimitable” or “individual” touch. If a thousand people were to color the same mandala, no two would be the same, despite the fact that all the mandalas have the same structure.
Therefore, every time a children color in a book; they enliven it with their own special color and also learn to follow certain rules. Many of the mandala books today play down this aspect and emphasize boundless freedom instead. The, of course, keeps with our time, but not with life and consequently, not with mandalas. That aside, most children—big or small —-enjoy coloring mandalas; otherwise, there would not be such a demand for mandala books.
It is much more beneficial for most of us to color a mandala than to create one from scratch. The fact that creating one seems more enjoyable only indicates that there is a much greater inclination in our society towards the sun principle, which deals with creativity, than towards Saturn principle, which deals with following rules.
Since each principle is irreplaceable, however, we struggle much more with Saturn-related problems, which we generally prefer to ignore. When we look over my two decades of medical and psychotherapeutic practice, we can relate many stores that deal with not observing (cosmic) laws- Saturn—but we have encountered far fewer problems that have their roots in unexpressed creativity. Quite a few people suffer from a combination of both problems, and people adhere too strictly to the laws of the world while ignoring the cosmic laws, making them unable to find the way back to their own lives due to a lack of initiative and creativity.
Therefore, it does make sense to practice creativity by painting or drawing freely and by gaining experience in overcoming barriers erected by society. It seems to me that it is much more important that we relearn to subordinate ourselves to the cosmic principles that rule our life’s, whether we want them to or not. Coloring mandalas enable us to do this, which is why I think they are so incredibly successful.
When we talk about cosmic laws I am not just referring to the greater contexts, such as the laws of polarity or resonance, but also to ideas like a proper diet and activity. As humans, we were born omnivores with strong vegetarian tendencies. So we should not be surprised when we age, we develop conditions such as arteriosclerosis, rheumatism, etc., due to an exaggerated daily intake of protein.
We are not abiding by the laws and have to pay for it. The fact that majority of people ignores these laws does not change their validity. The realization and acceptance of these basic principles in the most effective step towards getting one’s life in order, as I have witnessed for many years in my seminars.
Western society, which is pretty much in love with the idea of being able to decide and to control everything all the time and disregards all laws and boundaries, has ignored mandalas for a long time. This is probably due to the fact that mandalas make us realize that there are limitations in life, which mean that our lives are predestined.
The last two decades have brought to our attention that our society of “doers” has limits. We have reached these limits and have realized that our society has become dangerous to us and to our planet. This realization enabled mandalas to find their way back into our consciousness. People in industrialized nations are beginning to see that they do not have the means, let alone the power, to live their lives against the laws of creation.
In fact, we do not even have control over the most significant stages of our lives or the passage from one to the next. Death is a good example. We make every effort to keep it at bay, but we have to realize that death is infinitely more powerful. Even though we are able to remove organs in order to save the life of another person, these are only half-measures compared to the superior power and quiet dignity of death, which will always have the last word. Just as with death, we really have no power to control change in our lives, but we will try just about anything so we can at least pretend we have some control.
Puberty is a good example. After all, it is not pleasant when all of a sudden childhood games are not fun anymore and the wonderful years of childhood just seem to disappear. The young person does not feel at home anywhere, least of all in his or her own body. It would be a medical possibility to give girls, for example, anti-estrogens that are used in breast cancer treatment as a way to prevent puberty and control this stage of life. Thankfully, we have not taken things quite this far, but there are other stages of life where we have.
To sum everything up, we have to realize that our whole lives are a combination of filling in color and drawing freehand. Coloring books allow us to practice following set patterns. The coloring is more fundamental and occurs much earlier in life than drawing. The fact that so many adults resent it is due to the attitudes of our modern society and the consequent negation of reality. Although coloring is for children adults enjoy it and many more can benefit from it.
Many times, things that are important for development are those that do not come easily. Therefore, it is good to learn first to accept what cannot be changed, before starting to shape that which corresponds to our decisions and our creative abilities. This realization is quite wonderfully expressed in the following prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Only when we have mastered the art of following set patterns and accepted that “they will be done,” can we fulfill our creative potentials. Working with coloring books is equally important for children and for adults. When small and big children practice adhering to pre-determined structures, they symbolically learn to show humility towards creation, which will later enable them to express their creativity more freely and committedly.
We can easily see that those people who show humility towards creation and who accept the greater framework of their lives are also the ones who enjoy great creative achievements.
HOW TO MEDITATE
With the hectic pace and demands of modern life, many people feel stressed and over-worked. It often feels like there is just not enough time in the day to get everything done. Our stress and tiredness make us unhappy, impatient and frustrated.
It can even affect our health. We are often so busy we feel there is no time to stop and meditate! But meditation actually gives you more time by making your mind calmer and more focused. A simple ten or fifteen-minute breathing meditation as explained below can help you to overcome your stress and find some inner peace and balance.
Meditation can also help us to understand our own mind. We can learn how to transform our mind from negative to positive, from disturbed to peaceful, from unhappy to happy. Overcoming negative minds and cultivating constructive thoughts is the purpose of the transforming meditations found in the Buddhist tradition. This is a profound spiritual practice you can enjoy throughout the day, not just while seated in meditation.
A Simple Breathing Meditation
The first stage of meditation is to stop distractions and make our mind clearer and more lucid. This can be accomplished by practicing a simple breathing meditation. We choose a quiet place to meditate and sit in a comfortable position. We can sit in the traditional cross-legged posture or in any other position that is comfortable.
If we wish, we can sit in a chair. The most important thing is to keep our back straight to prevent our mind from becoming sluggish or sleepy. The first stage of meditation is to stop distractions and make our mind clearer and more lucid. We sit with our eyes partially closed and turn our attention to our breathing. We breathe naturally, preferably through the nostrils, without attempting to control our breath, and we try to become aware of the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils.
This sensation is our object of meditation. We should try to concentrate on it to the exclusion of everything else. At first, our mind will be very busy, and we might even feel that the meditation is making our mind busier; but in reality, we are just becoming more aware of how busy our mind actually is. There will be a great temptation to follow the different thoughts as they arise, but we should resist this and remain focused.