Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Everyday Opinions: What is a Mandala? Dr C Jung's mandalas and integration

In my last post I mentioned that mandalas are said to help one become more integrated. If you are interested in what mandalas mean from a psychological point of view you would have to look at Jung (1875 - 1961) who was a psychiatrist.

I am not a specialist in Jungian psychology but I will tell you what I understand. He is considered to be one of the fathers of psychology and contributed many concepts to the western philosophy of psychology. Some of the well-known ones which many of us refer to, without consciously knowing that they are attributed to him, are ‘introvert vs. extrovert’, ‘collective consciousness’ and ‘archetypes’. (You can look at the list of glossaries below for an explanation.) The ones that relate to this topic are: persona, self-realization, individuation, and mandala.  It is largely accepted that we, in the West, are familiar with mandalas because of Jung. What we understand of mandalas and psychology can be attributed to his work. He travelled quite extensively after World War I to places such as Africa, Asia, South America and Mexico trying to understand other cultures and the connection between psychology and spirituality.

Jung spent a year, when he was not well, drawing every day. He drew mandalas. After that he used mandalas with his patients.  Jung concluded that drawing mandalas was helpful and felt that it was a way of expressing the self as he saw the circle representing one’s outer life and the mid-point being ones inner-self.

I want to explain it simply: ‘Persona’ is a term coined by Jung. It is the part we choose to show the world while hiding what we feel ‘is not good enough’ or what we are struggling with such as: desires (perceived as ‘good and bad’); fears of abandonment, rejection and annihilation; and hurts that arouse expressed or unexpressed angers. Sometimes we can’t or don’t want to admit these to ourselves or the ‘world’. They become hidden by the persona which we ‘wear’ like a mask.

Drawing, much like dreaming, helps us become aware of what is hidden or trapped in our unconscious by making the unconscious conscious through expressing it on paper. It can aid our dialoguing with ourselves. Our imagination is the tool for visualizing ourselves. This helps us express the unconscious or hidden parts of ourselves through visual images; much like a photograph shows us what we look like it is like making a portrait of our inner self.   

When drawing the mandala which is both circle and it’s center, we can focus inward on one thing (like the centre of the mandala) while all outer demands fall away (the outer circle of the mandala). This is almost like taking a moment in time and making an image of it, thereby making it ‘real’ for others and oneself to see. In this way we become aware of who we are; can reflect on it and make personal changes; order things in our lives and become more integrated. Therefore, as one draws the mandala, one is integrating the outer and inner ‘selves.’

 It can be seen as a metaphor for our lives; just as the mandala is organized, integrated and whole so it reflects our process. Just like we look at ourselves in a mirror everyday it is said that if we draw mandalas do this regularly we can become aware of and observe the trends we go through in our lives. This process of being aware and observing all our different parts of ourselves; and expressing, accepting and integrating the hidden or masked parts is what Jung called individuation.   

These are theories which can’t be proven but there is no harm in trying it out and seeing what happens. Through the results you will know whether or not it is beneficial to you. I believe it is up to the image maker to decide for themselves what the image means to them, whether it is round, rectangular or square.  When you join my workshops I encourage you to bring your understanding and all of you (hidden and seen) is welcome.

I mentioned that Jung was influenced by the east and in my next post I will tell you about the origins, the background of eastern religion and other cultures which most probably contributed to influencing and inspiring the psychological use of mandalas.

Links to Jungian glossaries:

What I have written is my impressions and understanding from all the information I have read.
References here at:
 Carl Jung links, mandala quotes and Jungian notes:
The Healing Properties of Luminous Mandalas
Wikipedia’s Carl Gustov Jung.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Artist's Way Workshops

An explanation of what the artist’s way workshops are all about…

You have the ability to be creative.
We all have the ability to be creative. Think about all the things we as people do: art, writing, poetry, drama, music, designing and making objects; they are all included in the spectrum of creativity. As children we are naturally creative. When we enter our adult years we use this creative ability within our working experience, in our homes and gardens, and the way we dress etc., as we make creative choices. By the time we are adults we have often lost the ‘child’s’ spontaneity and enjoyment of creating; or lost the conviction that we are creative. We experience criticisms of our creative endeavours and might feel discouraged by others or ourselves. Creativity, once being a joy and a celebration of life now lies quietly dormant.

The Book
The Artist’s Way is a book written by Julia Cameron for everyone wanting to re-discover their creativity. There are twelve chapters which look at twelve topics, helping you recover your creative inner person from the effects of either: neglect, discouragement, being buried or destruction through the years. Even past attitudes and events can stifle and destroy the belief in one’s own creativity. I believe the book can also be helpful for those who have suffered burnout or creative blocks.

Julia Cameron offers this recovery through exercises which she has used over the many years with her students. These exercises take the form of writing morning pages, reading the chapter before answering thought provoking questions, and taking yourself on one artist’s date per week. It is entirely up to you how much you want to do or give your time to do it; you are free to do as much or as little as you feel possible but the more you put into it the more you get out.

Workshop groups
It can be difficult to embark on working through the book on your own and even more difficult to finish it. This is why I offer the opportunity to explore this book within a group providing time for you to share your experiences and find support to continue working through it to the end. It is a joy to share these new experiences with others who are on the same journey, knowing that they understand and relate to you. 

We will look at the twelve topics over twelve weeks (a chapter a week).  At home, each week, you read the chapter and try out the exercises and then there will be time for each person to talk about the book and your thoughts. You are welcome to come share what you have experienced and noticed while reading and doing the exercises. It is your choice how much you share or what you share.  

We benefit by listening to other people's experiences and by offering others around us our support. It is a worthwhile experience sharing this journey in this way.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Everyday Opinions: What is a Mandala? My personal take......

You might be wondering, ‘What is a mandala?’ or you might already have your own views. For those who are not sure what it is or what I might be referring to I would like to briefly explain. I plan to post three short essays on mandalas. The first will be ‘my personal take on mandalas’, the second  ‘Dr C. Jung’s mandalas’ and lastly ‘background to mandalas.’

My personal take on mandalas
For me, a mandala is a picture expressed in a form of a circle or circle in a square. I express them either as in abstract, free flowing forms or geometrically balanced images or using more realistic images. I find nature an inspiration, such as flowers, ferns, cross-sections of shells and vegetables, sun, moon and stars, etc. And I also draw on a personally acquired inspirations of the happenings of my life, some emotional, some spiritual and some conceptual. My mandala images are neither necessarily expressing a religious or psychological concept, theme or ideas but are authentic expressions of the awareness of my inner and outer worlds.
My mandalas are made up of a variety of materials and I enjoy adding my poems or words to mixed media images.  I find art and creating mandalas relaxing and enjoy the challenge of planning the symmetry; often using compass and protractor. Other times I break the rules to use free flowing forms. Working slowly with the plan can be ‘meditative’ giving me time to think about concepts and at the same time getting insights. (This can be said about any form of art process.) There is orderliness in creating the mandala which is appealing to me. I sometimes use the mandala image to consolidate all of my ideas into one image when I have been absorbed in a process of visual journaling. You can see an example of this here at

It is said that mandalas help one become more integrated but I will tell you about that in the next post about Dr Jung's mandalas.