If you follow my Facebook page, you may have noticed that recently, I have developed something of an obsession with mandalas. So, I thought it was time to explore this in a bit more detail with a (long overdue!) blog post.
First of all, here are the basics. The mandala is a spiritual symbol, mostly associated with Buddhism, which is said to represent a microcosm of the universe. The basic form is the circle – representing unity, eternity, with no beginning or end. The word mandala itself is derived from the root manda, which means essence, to which the suffix la, meaning container, has been added. So, it could be said to contain the essence, or capture the essence, of the universe.
Although the mandala is always circular, it also often includes squares, diamonds and various other geometric patterns within the circle. A quick image search will show you lots of examples of mandalas.
I started trying to capture this in crochet form because, well, that’s what I do! I was helped on my quest when I discovered a technique called overlay crochet which allows me to use different colours to create intricate geometrical patterns – ideal for creating a mandala!
Here are three of the designs I have come up with so far …. I hope to come up with many more as I explore different patterns and colours – the possibilities are limitless!
So I was pondering this morning – why the love for mandalas? Sure, part of it is obvious on the surface level: I love geometric patterns, symmetry and bright vibrant colours, and this enables me to combine them beautifully! But digging deeper, I think there is more to it. I am currently reading “Women Who Run With The Wolves” (which, by the way, is awesome and if you haven’t read it, you totally should). This morning I was reading it with my coffee, and it was all about life and death and cycles. I realised that our Western culture is so far removed from nature these days, in so many ways, and one of them is that we are brought up to think in a very linear way. Let me try to explain that better. Our culture seems to think of everything as if it were a train journey in a straight line: you set off, you travel, you arrive at your destination. You start a career, you work your way up the ladder, you reach the top. You meet someone, you fall in love, you get married and live happily ever after. Beginning, middle, end. And once you reach your destination, your end, the pinnacle of your career, your happy marriage, then you want to stay there. So you resist change. Once you’ve reached your destination, why would you continue to travel? “Much of our overcivilised culture has a difficult time tolerating the tranformative”, * as Clarissa Pinkola Estés puts it, much better than me.
But nature, and indeed life, is not like that. It’s not linear. It doesn’t reach a destination and then stay still. Everything works in cycles, in circles, not in straight lines. The seasons turn. The moon waxes and wanes. The oceans ebb and flow. We wake, sleep, and wake again. Even the most fundamental thing we do, breathing, is a constant cycle!
And I’m starting to realise that I’m much happier when I live my life this way, in tune with nature and its cycles. I used to fear change – due to the whole “happy ending” concept, I thought that when I was happy, that was my “end”, I had reached my destination – and so I tried to cling onto that state so hard, being terrified that something would change and I’d no longer be happy! I hated the thought that life might change and move me out of this comfort zone I was settled in. This mindset has lead over the years to me being a constant worrier, overly self-critical and insecure, and often stressing myself out over things which never happened.
But now, I’m changing my outlook. I’m learning to accept change and cycle as the normal, natural way of things. Ups and downs, ebbs and flows, waking and sleeping, life and death, letting go of the old and welcoming the new – these things are natural, and to be expected in every aspect of life, including relationships. “Love in its fullest form is a series of deaths and rebirths. We let go of one phase, one aspect of love, and enter another. Passion dies and is brought back. Pain is chased away and surfaces another time. To love means to embrace and at the same time to withstand many endings, and many many beginnings – all in the same relationship”. *
I’m learning that my “happy ending” is not static and unchanging. It is, in fact, not an ending at all. I’m slowly starting to embrace change and not be scared of it.
So, this, I think, is why I am so in love with the mandala symbol. To me, it represents this cyclical nature of life and the universe. Sure, there are straight lines and logical, geometric patterns, but they’re enclosed lovingly within the circle. The circle is always there, even when things appear to be linear. It has no beginning or end. This is my sacred truth and this is why I love this symbol.
* Both quotes taken from “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés.