10 life lessons from mandala painting

Last weekend I stepped out of my comfort zone and into one of the most profound experiences of my life: a 3-day mandala painting course.

It’s hard to put such a deeply healing and transformative experience into words; I’m still basking in the afterglow of it all. It’s not an understatement to say it changed my life. Here’s just some of what I’m very thankful to have learned.

This is Shakti

This is Shakti

1. Everything I need is within. I was the last to pick a canvas. I didn’t rush to get my paints. I was feeling anxious, and had made the conscious decision to be patient and kind with myself. Somehow I knew that whatever was within me would come forth, no matter what external resources I had.

2. I can no longer say ‘I’m not an artist’. This process unlocked the artist in everyone who participated. Many of us were beginners, and each person created their own unique masterpiece. Everyone can do this. We just need the support and tools to draw out our inner creative fire.

3. Mandalas are a portal. We can access deep realms of consciousness when creating or contemplating a mandala. I don’t quite know how it works…but that’s the point. Our logical mind is not in control; we’re perceiving and interpreting from the heart. The process is mystical and ineffable.

4. Art opens people like lotus flowers. It was amazing to watch, and experience in myself, the joy that unfolded over the weekend. I was able to bring forth something that had been waiting for the right moment to express. Everyone was discovering this hidden place within themselves. There was a sense of wonder in the air. New life was being birthed.

5. I created it…but I didn’t. My experience flowed more easily when I let go of thinking of ‘my’ painting, ‘my’ possession – when I dropped the ego. Yes, it emerged from within me…but I like to think of it as a co-creation with a greater essence that is both me and not-me. I couldn’t grip it too tightly.

6. This is life. I felt an overwhelming sense that life could be so much more than mass consciousness programming would have us believe. Being in the zone of creativity and stimulating conversation, free from iPhones and Facebook, was such an immense, life-affirming contrast to the 9-5 matrix I’d become so accustomed to in the past.

7. Mandala painting is therapy. I’m convinced that the act of mixing colours, putting brush to canvas, being in a supportive group, and creating a personal, sacred work of beauty would heal in a weekend what might take years in traditional therapy. The mandala gave me a vision into my own soul.

8. Self-expression is a shared process. Self-expression is not a solitary act. It requires a community to receive it. Creating art with others helped me let go and trust in the group. The group’s presence impacted what I created, whether or not anything was verbally expressed. Communication transpired on an unseen level.

9. Surrender. I became anxious when I thought too far down the line, e.g., the next colour I’d choose and whether it would ‘look good’. There was a fear of screwing things up…anticipating what could go wrong instead of trusting that each layer would be reveal itself in the perfect sequence. I relaxed when I surrendered to what was right in front of me.

10. The Divine Feminine is awakening. She is here. At the beginning of the weekend, we each gave ourselves a name – a symbol for our journey at this point in time. I picked ‘Shakti’. I’d been very much feeling the presence of the Feminine, seeing coral-red colours in my recent meditations. These colours materialized in the mandala without forced effort. Magic!

I am looking forward to painting more…the portal has been opened!

34 thoughts on “10 life lessons from mandala painting

  1. “Mandalas are a portal. …Our logical mind is not in control; we’re perceiving and interpreting from the heart.” It is so true. When starting either doing or coloring them, I just follow my heart. Thank you for such a great post, Aleya! Love & Light, Manuela

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  2. Pingback: a hot shadowy summer | alohaleya

  3. So awesome!! Great post! I need to find one of these workshops near me 🙂 Also, I just followed you on Instagram, can’t wait to see more of your beautiful pics..

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    • Ah, thank you! I followed you back! I’ve taken a blog/social media break as this has been one crazy summer, but I’m looking forward to sharing more. The mandala painting teacher is Paul Heussenstamm and he offers many workshops around the world, mostly in California. I’m going to do it again (and again) for sure! 🙂

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  4. Aloha Aleya,
    I came by to visit; though I am constantly in motion, I still eagerly await your next post 🙂
    The colors of your mandala painting are ones that resonate very much with my colors – as i experience them. I seem to be really bringing in/craving the turquoise part of the cranberry-turquoise continuum lately. I love how the mandala you created here is balanced by luminous golds and pinks.
    Namaste to you my sweet sister,
    Ka

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    • Ka, so wonderful to hear from you and thank you for your visit and kind words! Lately I’ve been feeling it’s time to resume the blogging, so your message is confirmation! ❤ Glad that life has you in constant motion, and I look forward to connecting with you in this WP world again very soon. Much love, Aleya

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  5. Isn’t The Lotus simply awesome? No wonder you appreciated my last post. =)

    On an egoistical side of me… I’m envious lol! But thank you so much for sharing! You are indeed a gift as much as you are gifted. xo

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    • Yes, I love the lotus too. Maybe you should come to Van next time the mandala workshop comes around! 😉 I’ve been watching lots of Youtubes etc but I’m in the process of moving so haven’t done much since. So looking forward to being in a new space conducive to more creativity and meditation! ❤

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  6. Oh Aleya, this is simply stunning! I love how you say “I created it…but I didn’t”. It’s exactly how I feel about my music. It sounds like you are going through a really exciting time. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.x

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  7. Hey Aleya,

    A wonderful reply, thank you, bursting with new life and sparkling energy, and of course, awash with those ‘stirring’ thoughts as well. It sounds as though you have embraced transition and change and have committed to riding the dragon to the very end 🙂 Good speed ahead! That you are moving physically into a new ‘home’, a personal space that speaks to the very heart of you, becomes a definitive statement foregrounding your on-going intentions and supporting your purposeful progress. It is a decision that sounds wholly exciting and appears to be rewarding you already as you establish deeper connections, find clarity in your thoughts, and chase those little bubbles of pleasure with a broad smile as they rise within you and pop. Fantastic stuff! I sincerely hope your new home becomes a haven of peace and happiness for you and fulfils all of your expectations, including of course, perpetuating your artistic practice and being rewarded for your efforts. Good luck in all ways Aleya!

    I am so pleased you enjoyed the poem, Kipling has always been a favourite of mine ever since I was a young boy, and yet I’ve never considered the poem from your perspective before, but find myself in agreement with you in every way. Heaven is right now here on Earth, so why do we wait until death and the after-life to set aside differences and exist in unity? It is a far reaching question to ask, and one that would undoubtedly bring forth a diversity of opinion and belief…all of which become redundant in the higher realms when/where truth reveals itself. One wonders if the act of death becomes us? Perhaps it does for some. Kipling’s sentiment I read as both opinion and reaction to social norms: his address is entirely expansive, and yet his cultural outlook was seen to be fashioned within the traditional culture of his time. He speaks of an individual relationship with the Creator, of individual souls as stars, and suggests subtly at the possibilities of reincarnation. Yet these ideas were not common knowledge or proffered by the mainstream institutions of his day, and one wonders where such depth of insight came from to enable him to pen such beautiful words with such conviction and eclectic vision. I am always drawn to the last four lines of this poem and find the sense of freedom within them wholly inspiring. I hope you consider them in this way as well 🙂

    Have a wonderful afternoon. Happy painting 🙂

    Namaste

    DN – 27/05/2015

    P.S: ‘…a visceral sense of connection with others’…what a beautiful phrase that is 🙂

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  8. Hey Aleya,

    With broad brush strokes, abstract forms, and structured simplicity, you delineate a sacred experience of the human imagination as it extends into the realms of divine creative processes, and it makes for a wonderful read. There is a numinous presence in the magic of your words, and a profound sense of openness and honesty at the realisation of your ability to manifest artistic ideas and give form to the dimensionless of thought. Your carefully crafted mandala is a wonderful vision to behold, a realisation of hidden potentials, and testament to your concentrated effort, skill, self focus, self-discipline and ability to distil abundant thought to a fundamental and indivisible level….the weight of every mark carries the song of your melody. I enjoy the colours of Shakti that you employ, and find a deep understanding in why She came to you…the inception of the creative act is primarily the explosive release and dynamic fusion of primordial cosmic energy, and the finished piece of work, the matured growth of this single act. To be an artist (a broad term for all highly creative endeavours) is to descend into a darkened realm armed only with Faith and Hope, and there to touch the void repeatedly over and over and over again with the sole intention of returning to the light with one golden seed stolen from the mines of Pluto, and in the light to make it blossom. The finished article could never adequately describe the full spectrum of the experience, but invested within the work will be your understanding and relationship to Love, your accumulated knowledge and wisdom, your every desire, every thought and emotion, your every hesitancy, deviation, fears and triumphs, and interestingly, every moment of doubt and uncertainty that has crossed your mind or left an impress within you. These are the pitfalls and rewards to be found personally for dedication and sustained effort of focusing the will. Many may question this perspective on the psychological dynamics of creating art, and in truth it is a little grandiose, and yet when faced with a blank canvas, one sits alone in personal contemplation of an undifferentiated, homogenised landscape of infinite possibility, and there is nowhere to hide, and no-one to turn to except inwardly unto ourselves. And it is there within the darkness of our inner world where we find the light of our own truth and the path towards self-determination.

    Thank you so very much for sharing your artistic experience so thoughtfully and so carefully. I very much hope you will persist with your creative endeavours and develop your natural ability still further. For an imaginative soul in close proximity to the mysterious, flowing, female element of water, I’ve no doubt you will be readily able to draw inspiration, strength and sustenance from the liquid depths of the ocean around your home and unleash more waves of potential flowing within you…

    ~ When Earth’s Last Picture Is Painted ~ by ~ Rudyard Kipling

    When Earth’s last picture is painted
    And the tubes are twisted and dried
    When the oldest colors have faded
    And the youngest critic has died
    We shall rest, and faith, we shall need it
    Lie down for an aeon or two
    Till the Master of all good workmen
    Shall put us to work anew
    And those that were good shall be happy
    They’ll sit in a golden chair
    They’ll splash at a ten league canvas
    With brushes of comet’s hair
    They’ll find real saints to draw from
    Magdalene, Peter, and Paul
    They’ll work for an age at a sitting
    And never be tired at all.
    And only the Master shall praise us.
    And only the Master shall blame.
    And no one will work for the money.
    No one will work for the fame.
    But each for the joy of the working,
    And each, in his separate star,
    Will draw the thing as he sees it.
    For the God of things as they are!

    Namaste

    DN – 26/05/2015

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    • Hi Dewin, thanks so much for your very kind and thoughtful comment. It was indeed a life-changing event: the culmination of something(s) that had been stirring for a very long time, and the catalyst for a whole bunch more new things stirring! 🙂 The timing the workshop is very interesting too, as I am also physically moving into a new living space – a place I feel will be much more conductive to meditation, creative exploration, and communion with Shakti…and of course in close proximity to healing waters. In all this time of transition and uncertainty I am noticing all these wonderful sparks of newness, and I am very grateful!

      I really enjoyed the Rudyard Kipling poem too; it reminded me of the sense I had that humanity, for the most part, has currently got it all backwards. 🙂 Painting with a group of “strangers” for three days was very (third) eye- and heart-opening. Our respective differences – and we were a diverse group – seemed to fade to the background as we each engaged in our own creative self-expression, channeling something much larger than the individual ‘I’. It gave me a visceral sense of connection with others, and just knowing that this is possible gives me hope for more of this connection. Thank you again and have a wonderful day! Aleya

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  9. Love how you painted your own doorway into being- number 10 up above was my favorite. I did a yantra workshop awhile back- amazing really. Not familiar with painting mandalas but sounds equally potent.

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    • I’m also fascinated with yantras – a couple of the designs at my workshop were yantras and I’d love to pain those too. Sacred geometry is so amazing. Oh and I love #10 too! ❤ Thank you, Aleya

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