I am exploring the meaning behind coloring books for adults. Most of these books contain mandalas. The aim of this article is to explore the concept of mindfulness through a mandala. I will do this, using the characteristics of two sacred rituals, in which the expression of the circular movements and the circle itself are relevant. The first mandala is inspired by the traditional native pole flying dance from Mexico and the second by the Kumari dance from Nepal. 

Awareness of the present moment, circumstances, feelings and surroundings is the key to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness is also a movement in psychology that recommends training the body and the mind to be conscious. Living in the past or the future, creates depression, anxiety, anger and we become absent from our present life and its creative potential. There are many informal ways to practice mindfulness, but the aim is the same, to become a co-creator of our reality. We are co-creators with God (if you are a believer), with nature and our environment and other people. We must be present and take our decisions, in other words, we should participate in shaping the world and ourselves in the world. 

Melli O'Brien writes in her blog that  "any routine activity can be made into a mindfulness practice when you bring your full attention to it." I drew two mandalas using the rituals, that I will briefly describe, as inspiration.

Before Starting...

Choose the Color Scheme

The first step before creating a mandala is to choose the colors you want to use. Mindfulness is about awareness, so taking this type of decisions will add to the exercise. Think about your present mood, emotions, needs and aims. What would you like to manifest? Whether it is joy, tranquillity, fun, amazement, harmony or creativity, colors will help you to express it. I recommend the use of a wheel of color to guide you in choosing the colors. 

The theory of color says that there are complementary and supplementary colors. The complementary colors show high contrast and express movement, fast pace, action, fun, and happiness. On the other hand, the supplementary colors change gradually and express serenity, peace, slow pace, stillness and the like. You can identify the complementary colors in the color wheel by selecting opposites and supplementary by selecting adjacent tones. For example, red and green or orange and blue are complementary while lime green and green are adjacent.

The red, yellow and orange tones are warm and the blue, green and purple tones are cool. In theory, the warm colors are exciting while the cool ones are calming. They are also used to create a sense of depth because the stronger colors give an impression of nearness and the pale colors of distance. 

The meaning of color is also important. The land is full of greens, browns, and grays or the waters and sky are blue, green and violet. The spring is full of different tones and shades reminding us of the flowers, butterflies, and birds of the season, but autumn is associated with yellow, red, orange and brown. They can also express our emotions, for example, red can express anger, rage, violence or yellow can denote joy, radiance, and clarity. Different cultures also have different associations for colors, for instance, black is a symbol for mourning in Greece and a symbol of power and will in China.

The 12-Hue Color Wheel (Farbkreis-Itten)

Credit: Wikipedia

The primary colors are yellow, red and blue. The combination of red and yellow gives orange, the combination of red and blue gives purple and the combination of blue and green gives green. Orange, purple and green are secondary colors. The tertiary colors are created by changing the proportions of the primary colors to create different tones of the secondary scheme.

The Paper and Color Medium are Also Important

The media you choose to create the mandala have also an impact on the creation process. The kind of paper and the painting technique will help you to express better. The ideal size for me is A3, where I can draw a circle of diameter 28 cm, but there is not a rule, so you need to decide how big the mandala will be and for how long you want to work on it.  There is also a range of paper options. I like to work on white wet strength paper 120 GSM when I use crayons, color pencils, highlighters, or felt pens. I prefer 200 GSM if I use acrylics,  pastels or watercolor.  However, the media is your decision as there are not rules set in stone. Also remember that although we are consciously deciding on colors, paper, and color medium, it does not mean that we can not experiment. With time, as you design and paint mandalas you will find the best way to express through them. Today, technology also offers the opportunity of designing our own mandalas using computers and drawing software.

Let's Start Explaining The Dances

Traditional Native Mexican Pole Flying

I will now describe the two dances that I used as inspiration to draw my mandalas. An article in Wikipedia describes this ritual. It says that in the pre-Hispanic times, the natives of central Mexico cut the tallest tree in their region to build a pole. Five men climbed it and four of them started flying around it hanging from ropes, while the fifth remained at the top playing the flute. The reason behind this dance was to pledge for rain to the gods during a severe drought. The flyers represented the bird gods of earth, air, fire, and earth. The four birdmen spin in the four directions representing the re-creation of the world and the regeneration of life. Today, the ritual is still played in a modern form, where five men climb a 30 m pole, and four descend spinning around the pole hanging from a rope tied to the top and to their waists. 

The Kumari Dance

Asian ritual dances are full of color, expression, and movement. As described by the Himalayan International Cultural Associationthe Kumari dance is based on an ancient drama where the goddess Kali defeats a demon who wants to catch a beautiful girl who dared to challenge him. In Hinduism, the male god was inactive and unconcerned with the human activity, while the goddess manifested his divine power to humankind.  In other words, “the goddess personifies and wields the magical and spiritual energy” (Smart,1998). Khali is a terrifying goddess in the Hindu Pantheon.  

The Mandalas

Traditional Native Mexican Pole Flying

I created this mandala inspired by the Mexican ritual. I wanted to express movement, cyclicity, and courage, so I chose orange, red, blue and green to represent the four birdmen. These colors also recreate the four seasons, as this dance was also related to solar celebrations. I relate blue to winter, green to spring, red to summer, and orange to autumn. I used yellow for the fifth man, as a representation of the sun. These colors are vivid and complementary, creating a sense of energy and constant movement and spinning. 

I draw the mandala on an A3 white wet strength paper 120 GSM, using a 2HB pencil, a compass, five color crayons and a ruler. The steps to draw the mandala are as follow:

  • Draw a circle of a diameter of 28 cm.
  • Draw two perpendicular lines of 4 cm at the center of the circle
  • Draw 8 or 9 circles between the outer circle and the square formed by the cross in the center. You can leave 1 cm of space among the first 4 or 5 circles, then increase the distance to 1.5 cm, 2 cm, and 3 cm. 
  • Draw two lines, extending the cross in the middle to the border of the circle.
  • Draw another four lines between the existing lines, but stop in the second to last circle.
  • Draw further four lines between the existing lines, but stop in the third to last circle.
Credit: Maria Dorland @ 2017

The Sketch.

The next step is coloring the square in the middle with the colors representing the flyers. In my case, orange, red, blue and green. This step is important because the order of the sequence is relevant to the exercise of mindfulness, in other words, they will be your guide.

Credit: Maria Dorland @ 2017

The color guide

The rest of the mandala is fun. I decided to color the segments in a clockwise direction, following always the sequence inside the square. I started with orange, followed with green, then blue and last red. I concentrated on one color at a time, and deciding on the next color only after looking back to the square and the color guide. It sounds easy, but do not be surprised if you lose concentration.

Credit: Maria Dorland @ 2017

I decided to add an extra circle

Credit: Maria Dorland @ 2017

The Mandala completed.

The Kumari Dance

I designed the Kumari dance mandala using Microsoft Paint software. I wanted to express the charm of the children dancing. Their coördination is amazing, their movements inspire order and peace but at the same time, the coppery colours are energizing. 

  1. Open Ms Paint
  2. Go to View tab
  3. Thick on ruler, gridlines, and status bar.
  4. Go to the home tab. 
  5. Choose the type of pencil, colour, style, etc.
  6. Draw concentric circles of 1,4,8,16,26 and 28 cm diameters.
  7. Draw lines as shown in the picture below. 
  8. Draw in a corner a small circle of 4 cm diameter with a 1 cm circle inside and curvilinear lines between them. 
  9. Select (Transparent selection) the circle in the upper corner.
  10. paste the small circles as shown in the picture below.
  11. Delete the small circle placed in the upper corner.
  12. Save as a 256 colour bitmap (*.bmp)
  13. Colour the mandala! You can print it and colour it or just use Ms Paint tools to do so. Remember to follow a sequence and try to focus only on the color you are working on. Stop, think, choose the next color and repeat.
Blank Design
Credit: Maria Dorland @ 2017

Technology allow us to work mandalas in a faster way. 

Painted Mandala
Credit: Maria Dorland @ 2017

Mandalas are fun!