Focal Point

Sometimes we need something to bring our life into focus. When we’re feeling adrift, it’s crucial to getting back on track that we connect with something that engages our minds while our emotions find balance. As when practicing yoga balance positions, it’s good to have a single point of focus to bring our minds and bodies into harmony. With their symmetry and symbolism, mandalas are often a good start to finding our footing.

The origins and meanings of the mandala are complex and far-reaching, and I couldn’t begin to touch on them in this blog. Although mandalas are mostly thought of in conjunction with religious traditions of the far and near East, they’re also found in Mezoamerican civilizations, some Christian settings, such as cathedral rose windows and other sacred images, and Judaism, including the secretive mysticism of the Merkabah. These images are sometimes seen as the depiction of an ideal spiritual world, often replete with deities and symbolic colors and shapes, as well as the balance of all things on the physical and spiritual planes. They can be woven into cloth (and used as quilt patterns), and drawn or painted on paper, canvas, wood or other semi-permanent material. Others are more permanently and solidly displayed on walls, in glass windows and even in the structure of architecture. And there are also the opposite – those meticulously created from colored sand or in water courses, and then ritually wiped away at the end of the meditation or prayer, reminding of of our essence of physical impermanence. They serve not only as a point of focus for meditation and prayer, but also as visual representations of sacred stories and texts, for use by those faithful who may not have learned to read, as well as a ritualized form of spiritual expression.

Hand in hand with the use of mandalas is the concept of sacred geometry. This is the idea that certain shapes and numbers are evidence of a creator – that the forms of so many things in the natural world (and, through emulation, the created world) are too profound not to be sacred. The principles of sacred geometry have been used by many cultures throughout history when building hallowed spaces such as churches, mosques and temples, gardens, mazes, artistic representations and other structures, to bring focus to the divine inherent in the world around us. Spirals, nautili, the sequences of Fibonacci, platonic geometric figures and so many more are said to be visual representations of spiritual concepts. Even human beings may be seen in these ways as mathematically perfect – witness Leonardo DaVinci’s representation of the Vitruvian Man (below). We fit in harmony with our surroundings as a puzzle piece, completing the whole.

Image Credit: Verbera on

As part of my training as a certified Therapeutic Art Life Coach, I learned the usefulness of the mandala in helping to heal the emotional mind through the meditative process. The emergence of adult coloring books and a new-age emphasis on mediation and self-care have brought the mandala mainstream. There’s something very soothing about choosing favorite colors and mindfully (or even mindlessly – letting yourself play without engaging in decision-making or concentration) filling in the spaces on the page. And don’t worry about coloring outside the lines! You may even begin to doodle and see what images appear. You may be surprised at what your subconscious has to tell you.

Here are some (just a few of so many) geometric shape and color symbolism ideas (these are not universally agreed-upon, and it’s okay if your interpretation varies):

Circle – completion, all-encompassing, worlds, universe

Square – stability, solidity, safety, security

Triangle – protection, family, connection with the divine

Polygon – outside the box thinking, artistic ventures, wildness/chaos

Heart – love, relationship, caring (including self-care)

Straight line/arrow – male energies, yang, virility, action, movement, strength

Lozenge/Diamond – female energies, yin, fertility, peace, emotion, restfulness

And possible color interpretations (many of these are associated with the chakras):

Reds – strength, anger, action, passion, safety

Oranges – sexual energy, vitality, creativity, joy

Yellows – power, self-confidence, teamwork, collaboration

Greens – love, peace, compassion, sharing

Blues – communication, expression, truth

Violets – higher functions, connection with Spirit, intuition, oneness

White – purity, clarity, openness

Black – darkness, silence, deep emotions (sometimes perceived as negative), emptiness

As you develop your own personal mandala, or make an existing one your own by altering the colors and shapes so that it speaks to you and reflects your personality and purpose, give yourself the freedom to play and channel your inner world. Find the connection to what’s around you and meditate on your universe and your place in it. Feel the sense of inner peace that comes with the knowledge that you are an invaluable part of this world, and that your place in it is essential, and can’t be replaced. Live into your sense of purpose and belonging.

One of my daughters used to see auras – “colors” around people. The first thing she would say when she met someone new was “You’re green,” or “You’re purple.” Her gift at the time was the ability to bring someone a different perception of themself as more than one- or two- or even three-dimensional. We are beings that experience the worlds – physical and spiritual – on many levels at the same time. Tools such as the mandala help us to focus and balance our perceptions so that we might learn more about ourselves and our place in the worlds. Our challenge in this world of so much over-stimulation is to stop, look, listen… and focus inward. Namasté.

Sunburst Fused Glass Mandala – Tracy Arietti 2023

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