“Where do you get all of your ideas?”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard this question. I’ve been known to say, “Inspiration is everywhere.”
I think I’ll add to that statement, “Inspiration is everywhere. Look around you.” Thinking more about this, it’s more than looking around you. It’s about getting curious. It’s one thing to see something, it’s another to ask, “Why?” or “What if?”
I have a long list of topics that I’m currently exploring. I can never study just one thing. My mind loves devouring several topics at once and making connections between them.
One of my long time interests has been in exploring the meaning of our mandalas. The colors, shapes, symbols, and how they are arranged can tell us a lot about where we are in the moment. There are long standing traditions where mandalas are created with specific symbols and colors. One such tradition that I’ve been curious to learn more about is the Hindu yantras.
The earliest yantras date back 1,000 BCE in northern India. Throughout the ages, sacred teachings have been shared through mantras (sound vibrations) and yantras (visual representations).
The basic shape of a yantra is a circle with a ring of lotus petals. At the center, is a geometric pattern often with one or more triangles around a central dot. The entire shape is contained within a square with four “gates” in each of the cardinal directions. Color plays an important role in yantras as they bring energy, meaning, and intention to the design.
Yantras may be a part of a mandala where the yantra design is at the center and additional shapes, patterns, and colors are added as an expression of the artist’s exploration of the yantra’s energy and meaning.
To begin this new exploration, I thought it fitting to start with the Ganesh Yantra.
Lord Ganesha is commonly associated with the beginner of both inner and outer journeys and the remover of obstacles. It is also a good yantra as this is a foundational year for my career. There is a lot of uncertainty and my intention for creating this yantra is to bring clarity, confidence, guidance, and good fortune to my endeavors.
As I considered the shapes and colors for this yantra, I drew upon what I’ve learned from studying and teaching the Great Round and my knowledge of the chakras.
I thought of the root chakra and chose red for the square and “gates” for three reasons:
- The root chakra is about safety, security and having a solid foundation.
- Elephants are associated with the root chakra and Ganesh bears the head of an elephant.
- The sturdy square with the four gates is reflective of Stage 7 in the Great Round where we “stand four square in who we are.” Red is among the colors typically used in this stage.
Triangles indicate a direction and here the upward pointing triangle conveys moving forward. We see upward facing triangles in Stage Four of the Great Round when we are about to start something new, a burst of creativity, or it can refer to our aspirations. It is the symbol for the element fire and is associated with masculine “doing” energy.
Within the triangle is the six-pointed star formed by two triangles, one pointing upward and the second one pointing downward. This perfectly balanced symbol brings together and harmonizes both the masculine and feminine qualities.
Blue is associated with emotions and I chose to color the inner symbols in blue to soothe and balance my mind and emotions, with what I’m thinking and feeling.
Green was chosen as it’s the color of the heart chakra. What better container for the mind and emotions than a circle of love?
Orange and red petals capture my creative spirit and passion which I know will help me and my projects to blossom.
Lastly, I added a gold dot in the center, referred to by Hindus as the bindu. The bindu provides a focal point for centering one’s attention during meditation.
After I decided on my color palette for this yantra, I allowed my mind to float as different thoughts about my hopes, aspirations, and dreams emerged while coloring in the shapes. At times my thoughts veered down memory lane and different work scenarios. As each color was applied, I felt my energy and excitement rise.
Meditating with this Yantra
I finished this yantra late in the evening. When done, I sat with it looking at all of the colors and memorizing each of the lines, shapes, and symbols. It wasn’t until the next morning during the liminal space between sleeping and waking that I intuited the meaning that this yantra had for me.
In my mind’s eye, I pictured the shapes and colors. I tuned in and felt my uncertainty and doubt around two recent projects. In both cases, I was doubting myself which is not a common feeling for me. Usually I’m decisive and when I take action, I accept that what is done is done. This time was different, perhaps because I’ve been feeling attached to the outcome.
Later in the morning, I spent time writing in my journal with periodic glances at the yantra. In a flash, I realized how much energy I was wasting by second guessing myself and listening to the opinions of others. When we put other peoples ideas, fears, and opinions before ours, we give our power away. Ah-ha! Now I see what is blocking me.
In my heart, I truly believe that the outcomes will be for the highest good for all. There is no need to worry. This is a time to relax in the uncertainty. As I easily and effortlessly released the worries, feelings of excitement filled my body, mind, and spirit. I can’t wait to see where my curiosity and creativity will take me next.
Traditional Colors for Ganesh Yantra
The next day I returned to the Ganesh Yantra and this time used the traditional colors. I added flowing lines within the green areas, my own artistic invention, to represent the flow inward that happens when obstacles are removed.
Version 3: Going with the Flow
Looking at my first two Ganesha Yantras, I decided to create a third one that is a fusion of some traditional colors with some colors and elements of my own choosing. I believe intention is the very most important ingredient in making powerful art. Before sitting down, I knew the palette and design for this yantra so I was able to fully let go into the process of creating it. Some of the lines are not precisely drawn, and I love it just as it is for it’s a reflection of my own perfectly imperfect container (aka body).
Thoughts drifted to the idea of flow, which coincidentally is my word-for-the-year. I thought about the importance of recognizing and releasing limiting beliefs and which ones that are blocking me. After I finished creating this yantra, I was moved to take an action step on an opportunity that I’m pursuing. I was impressed how the words for my letter flowed from my mind onto the computer screen.
This is the power of creating mandala art. We can relax and tap into our inner wise self, our inner Ganesha. The process of creating and coloring can be an opportunity for brainstorming, discerning, reflecting, and planning. It’s certainly so much more than making a pretty picture.
Are you curious to learn more about the meaning of your mandalas?
For the first time in three years, I’m offering my Great Round course in the fall. It starts on August 26, 2018. It’s a fascinating series that will give you insights about yourself and your life experiences. You’ll find the exploration both insightful and empowering.
Early Bird special, enroll before June 27th at get $20 off.