Tell us about your mandala practice.
Circles show up for me in a lot of different ways. I am a practitioner of The Circle Way (gathering people in circle for deeper conversations), I walk labyrinths, and I make mandalas. All of these are part of my journey to a place of deeper connection to myself, to others, to Spirit, and to the earth.
When I make mandalas, I am connecting to a deeper source of wisdom within myself. It is an intuitive process that invites me beyond the limitations of left brain thinking (that often shows up with traditional journaling) to a place where the left and right brains can co-exist and co-create.
Much of my mandala-making includes words as well as colour, images, and shapes. That kind of mandala-making started for me twenty five years ago when I was studying creative writing and realized that there was some poetry that worked better for me in a spiral than in straight lines on a page. I’ve turned that into a mandala journal process that I now teach in Mandala Discovery, where participants receive mandala prompts for 30 days that invite them to work through things like grief, growth, fear, etc. It’s a powerful process and many people who participate continue to use the prompts in their daily practice long after the course is complete for working through whatever is coming up for them at the time.
I find mandalas to be meaningful no matter what I’m going through. I’ve used them for processing the grief of my mom’s death, I’ve used them to help me make major decisions, I use them for taking notes at workshops and lectures, and I even use them for my yearly planning process and have created a mandala planner.
We are working through “The Mandala Workbook” by Susanne Fincher and we are on Stage 3, “Turning Toward the Journey.” This stage is about listening to our intuition. It is a time when we are about to begin something new although we may not know what that is or how it will take shape. In the book it is recommended that we find a special project to focus our attention on for the rest of our work through the Great Round. How can someone use mandalas to help them discern their path when they are seeking a direction and don’t know what they are looking for? How can they tap into their intuition?
When I am working with people who are in transition, I often bring in a process called Theory U, in which we are invited to see the transition as a U shape. As we are moving down the left side of the U, we are “letting go” of what was – old paradigms, old ways of being in relationship, old rules, etc. At the bottom of the U, we sit in “presence” where we are now like empty vessels, open to what wants to be born in us. This is a time of great stillness and deep listening. When we are ready, we are invited up the right side of the U, which is about “letting come,” when we serve as the container for the new thing that wants to be born.
This is similar to a labyrinth walk that has three stages – release (walking inward), receive (sitting at centre), and return (walking outward). We go to a place of stillness and listening in order to hear the wisdom we can’t hear when we’re surrounded by noise.
The mandala is a powerful tool for every stage of this process. When we are letting go, it helps us to release our expectations and our efforts to control the outcome. We sit down with the circle and our creative tools, not expecting it to turn out a certain way and simply accepting what unfolds in front of us.
When we are at the centre (or the bottom of the U), we use the mandala as a listening tool. It helps us to pay attention, to hear what’s under the silence, and to open ourselves to the new story that wants to emerge.
When we are coming out the other side of the U, the labyrinth becomes a prototyping tool, helping us play with new ideas, discover new solutions for old problems, and tell a new story of how we want to be in the world.
This stage is also known as the labyrinth. You have an interesting project on creating a labyrinth that one can use, especially if they don’t have one in their area or the weather isn’t good for walking a labyrinth. Tell us about your project.
As I mentioned above, the labyrinth is an important part of my personal practice. It helps me especially when I am in transition and wrestling with something I need to release in order to make space for something new.
It’s a little challenging to walk my favourite outdoor labyrinth in the middle of winter when the paths are obliterated with snow. This winter I did two things to help make up for that gap.
First of all, I made a simple (and inexpensive) portable labyrinth using painter’s drop cloths. It’s 20’ x 20’ and it works great when I host workshops and retreats and have the space for it. I shared the process on my blog.
Secondly, I made finger labyrinths using art canvases, heavy string, glue, torn paper, and paint. This turned out to be a great practice for me – the act of making the labyrinth was similar to the act of walking one. When I was done, I felt like I had released, received, and was ready to return. I have the instructions on my website and I also have a few for sale in my Etsy shop.
Heather Plett is a teacher, coach, writer, and facilitator who helps people make deeper connections with themselves, each other, Spirit, and earth. Learn more about Heather on her website www.heatherplett.com.