with Mandalas

Meditating with Mandalas

My brain’s been busy these days. Whose isn’t? I gotta wash the car, figure out dinner, buy a birthday present, take those books to the library, update my photo albums, call my mom, and finish that episode of Walking Dead before social media spoils everything. Oh, and I’ve been meaning to relax and try some meditation, like my co-worker who meditates for an hour a day suggests.

So, I tug on two pairs of wooly socks, pull down my knit cap, and slide into my snow pants. Time to find some center and I’ll be a little more proactive than a wintery walk or sitting cross-legged with my eyes shut (which does wonders for the soul, but I need to steer the brain from the business of living). I will create a mandala!

“Now, what is a mandala?” Don’t feel silly asking, I had to Google the term myself. At it’s most basic, a mandala is simply a geometric pattern. At it’s most complex, it’s a spiritual and ritual symbol representing the universe. Mandalas are used to aid meditation, represent Buddhist teachings, and according to Carl Jung, “rebalance the psyche.” A rebalanced psyche sounds good to me!

I walk through a light, white veil of falling snowflakes along the creek at The Crossroads at Big Creek nature preserve in Sturgeon Bay, rushing wider and deeper than usual from recent snowmelt. I follow deer tracks. Pick up a few bent and broken cattails. Once I reach a clearing overlooking the channel of Sturgeon Bay I drop to my knees and begin.

The trick, so I’ve been told, is working from the inside out. I lay out the cattails, adding sticks, pine tree branches, and the swirly tops of a dried up grass I’ve never noticed before. Even in winter, the variety of colors, shapes, and textures is pretty awesome. (I can’t imagine the brilliance a spring or summer mandala could display!)

I feel a bit like a child, finding my supplies, putting them in place, finding more, unintentionally zenning out. Once the first mandala is completed, I lay in the snow and take a few deep breathes before deciding to follow the trails deeper in the preserve to make another.

This time I drop to my knees just a few feet from the water under the canopy of tall trees, their bare branches clicking in the breeze. I remove my gloves and feel the powdery chill of the snow as I lay the soft leaves of white cedar trees, followed by their hard rosebud-like cones. I even dip my fingertips in the icy water for a few small rocks and fan out dead leaves. Then I sit, noticing the cold on my cheeks, the cloudy puff of my breath, and, I daresay, the balance of my psyche. I’m feeling good, feeling relaxed, feeling centered, and quite pleased with my mandalas. I’m no Buddhist monk, but I think I get it, at least a little bit.

I wander home and with some renewed energy, tackle a few items on my to-do list and then consider the other Door County parks and preserves I could visit to create more mandalas.