Need a way to ease your anxiety? Try drawing a mandala.
By The Weekly | December 9, 2016
If you enjoyed colouring in as a child you may be wholeheartedly embracing the sudden rise in popularity of colouring-in books for grown-ups. They’re taking our bookshelves and promise a more balanced sense of self and relief from stress and anxiety.
However, using colouring and drawing as a meditation technique isn’t a new concept. A specific type of drawing called a mandala has traditionally been used by Tibetan Buddhist monks and Native American Indians as a tool for meditation and healing. These days we think of a mandala as a pattern created within a circle, with a spiritual or metaphysical representation. The word mandala comes from the classical Indian language of Sanskrit and means a ‘circle’. Symbolically, circles represent eternity, unity, harmony and completeness. Flowers, the sun and moon are all examples of circles in nature.
Here’s how creating patterns within a circle can help improve your emotional wellbeing and bring your life to balance.
FINDING EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION
Mandalas represent and symbolize feelings that are relevant to you at the time and perhaps difficult to put into words, says Carol Omer, life coach and author of Big Girls Little Coloring Book: Healing Mandalas for Relaxation and Stress Belief. “Drawing your own mandala or just colouring in a pre-existing template allows for that expression to take shape,” she explains. “Through this free-flowing creative process, you reconnect with your hands which are an extension of your heart, your core emotional centre.” This, Omer says, allows the hands to take over creative expression from the mind, freeing emotional energy through the rhythmic movement, which colouring offers.
Mandalas are an effective form of meditation and help focus the mind. As you sit down to create a mandala, the minds begin to slow down and when you add deep breathing your whole internal system begins to relax, which is of great benefit during times of crisis and uncertainty, says Omer.
“By adding an intention to the process, the mind finds focuses on that theme and provides you with the space to observe your thoughts, as you become aware of the habitual thinking patterns that are running your life,” she says. You can create living mandalas. Drawing on nature for inspirations, Omer suggests walking a labyrinth or collecting objects from the natural environment such as feathers, shells, beads or seeds. This takes the form of an active meditation and is another way of concreting the mind.
REDUCING STRESS AND ANXIETY
For people in an anxious state, research has shown that the act of colouring a mandala as well as focusing on the design can be useful in releasing anxiety.
“Colouring for mental health benefits us by allowing us to use both hemispheres of the brain,” says Lacy Mucklow, art therapist and author of Color Me Stress-Free. “It engages the analytical half by the management of colouring in the line drawings, and the creative half by making decisions about the colours and effects we want to use.” This has an overall relaxing effect, she explains, especially in the amygdala, the emotional centre of the brain that is responsible for emotion – particularly emotions related to stress and the fight or flight response. “By engaging with the colouring process the mind is able to take a break, which helps us feel calmer.”
BRINGING WHOLENESS TO OUR LIVES
Mandalas help us to become aware of our character traits and so understand ourselves better. “The patterns of the mandala allow us to become aware of the patterns of our minds and how these shape our thoughts and feelings, which can be the cause of suffering,” explains Sydney-based psychotherapist Dr David Russell.
“Through the symbolic nature of the mandala, we can open up to experience these mental and emotional states in a way where the rational mind transcends their literal meaning and how they impact our behaviour. This way, mandalas act as a guide towards deeper self-understanding and provide us with an opportunity for self-transformation and a broader experience and a broader experience of we are,” he says.
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