Mandalas and Christian Meditation
My work with the mandalas has come now to my own faith. The question if I could pray using them as a Christian came to my mind and from the beginning, I thought to draw the miracle of Jesus feeding the crowds with fish and bread. The crown of thorns is also a mandala-like object which has a lot of meaning for Christians of all denominations.
When Jesus fed the crowds, as the Bible narrates, He started with a few loaves of bread and a few fishes and multiplicated them for five thousand and four thousand people in two different miracles. In the first event, they only had five loaves of bread and two fishes. In the second case, they had seven loaves of bread and one fish. After the first mentioned miracle, the disciples picked up twelve baskets with leftovers and in the second miracle. Seven baskets were full after the crowd ate in the second miracle.
The crown of thorns is a symbol that reminds the Christian of many things. First, that suffering comes from ignorance, arrogance and from trusting only human powers. Secondly, it reminds us that there is a world that is unseen, there is a reality that is non-apparent and that our senses can deceive us in many instances. As narrated in the Bible, the mockers of Jesus witnessed a power that went beyond themselves when the Earth shook after His death.
Lastly, I chose the Catholic Rosary to the Virgin Mary as a practical mindfulness activity, which encourages the Catholic to keep praying in remembrance of Mary around different narratives of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Most of the prayers in the Rosary come from the bible, but some of them come from the Catholic tradition and have a meaning only for the Catholics.
On the other hand, Babouchkina et al (2015) in the article called Reducing Negative Mood Through Mandala Creation: A Randomized Controlled Trial, notes that psychologists are interested in researching the benefits of art therapy at a clinical level. They carried out an experiment to test if drawing mandalas is beneficial for the reduction of stress and related conditions. The results of their study demonstrated that effectively drawing inside a circle is an active principle in the process of stress reduction. By active principle, they mean that just drawing inside a mandala helps to feel better, grounded and gives a sense of fulfillment.
Combining this property of the circle with prayer is a way to meditate about certain passages of the Bible that nourish the life of the Christian that finds hope in the scriptures and reassurance in a tradition shared by many people in the world across many centuries. This time the mindful exercise is not about concentrating on the colors or patterns, but about meditating on the scriptures using different media.
I draw few mandalas inspired by the passages that I mentioned above, plus one of a Rosary. I wish to inspire you to draw mandalas, thinking about God and His word. It will bring you to a space for disconnecting from the fast pace of the day or from worries and to connect to what is more important for you through art and prayer.
Jesus Feeds the Five and the Four Thousand
"Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people."(Luke 9:16) NLT.
"So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to the disciples, who distributed the food to the crowd. They all ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food"(Matthew 15:35-37) NLT.
"Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty"(John 6:35) NLT.
The Crown of Thorns
"They wove thorn branches into a crown and put it on his head, and they placed a reed stick in his right hand as a scepter. Then they knelt before him in mockery and taunted, "Hail! King of the Jews!" (Matthew 27:29) NLT
"When the centurion and those with him guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God.'"(Matthew 27:54) NLT
The Catholic Rosary
I used to be Catholic and prayed the Holy Rosary often. I did it alone or in groups and I can confirm it can be a mindful practice. First, you need to set time apart, to be dedicated to worship God. Usually, the prayer brings a sense of solemnity and invites you to be humble and bring your mind to the words of the Rosary.
"The Rosary", says the Roman Breviary, "is a certain form of prayer wherein we say [five] decades or tens of Hails Mary with an Our Father between each ten, while at each of these [five] decades we recall successively in pious meditation one of the mysteries of our Redemption."
The circle as active part of therapy to bring change in mood is also present in the Rosary, but this is experienced by the counting of the beads and by completing the cycle of the meditation of five mysteries and reciting the prayers proper of the Rosary.
- Babouchkina, A. Robbins, S.J. (2015). Reducing Negative Mood Through Mandala Creation: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Art Therapy: Journal of The American Art Therapy Association. 32 (1):34-39.
- The Holy Rosary. www.newadvent.org. Accessed on the 29 of June 2017
- Gospels of Matthew John, and Luke. NLT www.biblegateway.com. Accessed on the 29 of June 2017.