an expression of the heart
A Mandala is a physical representation of your connection with the life-force that is the universe in motion. It takes it shape from the feelings you have for yourself and the life around you. It is an endless space, a cosmic identity which radiates energy, focuses intelligence, creates and absorbs, nurturing life and giving birth to pathways of discovery. Ideally, a Mandala embodies the concepts of growth, change, divine flow, beauty, unity and eternity. I could just as easily have called the Mandala a Labyrinth. The two terms are easily interchangeable. A true Labyrinth is a pathway to awareness, which is what we are trying to achieve when we lay out a Mandala.
The Celts embraced an enlightened philosophy of the interconnectedness of life. They designed their artwork to represent the inextricable bonds of interdependence of living things each upon the others. Flowers, birds, animals and humans are entwined in these drawings, held together by woven cords, such that, if one connection is changed, then all the others must change in order for the piece to balance. Each cord takes it turn, over, then under its fellows with no cord, figure or form taking more than one turn at a time. Thus, when completed, the drawing represents interconnectedness. When we look around us, we see the evidence of this philosophy in life. No living thing exists all on its own without help from someone else. Flowers don’t reproduce themselves without the help of birds and insects. Without this help, next spring, there would be no fields of flowers at all and fruit trees would produce nothing but leaves. Life does not exist in a vacuum either physically of emotionally. The warmth you feel in your heart when you see someone you care for is the body’s way of acknowledging the connection of the pathway between you and that person.
These two concepts, the Mandala or Labyrinth as a representation of Cosmos and the Celtic Philosophy of life intertwined, blend naturally into one another. The earth is a living Mandala. Every life form that lives on it, or in it or above it is part of the Labyrinth that forms it and each one is uniquely important to the balance of the earth’s creative consciousness. Your thoughts, your dreams, the people you know, the animals, birds and plants that live near you are all part of your path, connected to the paths of everyone else alive, all forming a complex and beautiful Mandala that is life on earth.
Before you pick up a pencil to begin drawing, gather your thoughts. The subject you choose should be one that lightens your heart. If the project feels like overwhelming work, then perhaps you’ve burdened your goal with hidden motives. Listen to yourself when you talk and try working with your true feelings and not what you think is expected of you.
Ask yourself a few key questions: Am I engaged in artistic pursuits because it gives me joy or am I dragging around a hidden agenda. Am I trying to fool myself. Am I afraid that I am not impressive to others. What do I want to accomplish. Do I want to impress my friends, or do I want to connect with them by showing them how I feel about the life around me? What is it that I want from my life? These are big questions. Take your time before you set your feet on the path. Spend some time thinking about your true feelings and explore the pathways. It’s alright not to be in a hurry. Remember that time is endless and you have all of it you need. Time is inexhaustible. It only feels limited when you begin to fill it in with things like lunch and bedtime. You can think about the art that’s inside you while you eat lunch and while you sleep as well. That way, your art strings out into a line, growing longer and longer with each day. It dances back on itself, crossing old pathways and branching out, just like a Labyrinth. That Labyrinth is you. Look at it carefully and enjoy its beauty. Take your time and notice the details that make you who you are.
If your first project, your second, or even your third doesn’t end up looking like you expected it to, not to worry. Unless you’ve spent time drawing and painting, then you will have to be patient while your hand learns to commit to paper what your heart can see. It takes time to train your muscles to hold a pencil or a brush and to move the instrument accurately across the paper. While your mind is racing, your hand is trying to keep up. Let it learn at a comfortable pace and don’t be too hard on yourself. Passing harsh judgments will only set you back and that’s not what you set out to do.
Remember – All human beings are artists. Art is what makes us who we are. We humans invented language so we could discuss aesthetics. If you want to talk about food, fighting or sex, then you can say everything you want by pointing, growling, spitting and slapping. Words are completely unnecessary. On the other hand, if you want to tell your friend about the beautiful clouds you just saw and you don’t have a string of words at your command, when you start waving your arms looking for expression, he’ll just think there’s something wrong with you and start searching your hair for parasites. If you want to say, “Oh, my friend, I just saw a cloud, all in red and purple and gold and it looked just like a buffalo. Let’s you and me go down in the cave and paint it so everyone else can know how beautiful it was.”, then, you have to have words to get your point across. The day we invented language, we stood up and embraced the concept of art. Whether we paint, or dance, or play the guitar, write a book, hold an engaging conversation or just tell someone we love them, we are tapping into our artistic heritage. It’s there. Tap it.
In order to design a Celtic Mandala, all you have to do is allow yourself to see the world you live in and appreciate it. After that big step, it gets easier.