On Sunday, I took a super-awesome Creativity and Mandala workshop at Zem Yoga Studio in Rome, led by Zuzana Hudackova and David Marchandise. This was a special experience for me because it was the first time I finally took the initiative to learn more about the world of yoga, plus I really had no idea what I had signed up for – I just liked the sound of it! Creativity? Love it! Mandala? Don’t know what it is but sounds cool and magical! Workshop? Yay, learning!
What we did.
The three and a half hours we spent together began with what was, for me, a really powerful meditation to connect with the other ten-ish people in the group. WARNING: “new-agey shit” coming up! We all sat in a circle, expanding our hearts and filling the space with our light. At one moment when my mind wandered, I literally thought, “Dude, this is like drugs but healthy!” I could FEEL the light radiating in the circle, creating these love vibrations. You know the dome of good spells that the Order of the Phoenix casts to protect Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II? That was what it felt like for me, but the magic was coming from our hearts! Wiiiiillldddd.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t sit basking in love light the whole time, so we did some yoga to engage our chakras and create some inner heat and became crazy sweaty. After a quick break, we re-grouped in our circle to feel the vibrations of a Tibetan singing bowl and then create our own vibrations through chanting mantras. This was my first time chanting mantras, and I totally felt it! I was in chorus in high school, and I forgot how good it feels to join voices with other people and create beautiful music! Finally, we got the chance to create our own mandalas with pre-cut circles of countless sizes and colors, spreading out around the studio to use the floor as our canvas. After observing each other’s and discussing our experiences of the activity, we got to learn what I had been wondering all along…
What is a mandala?
First of all, it means “circle” in Sanskrit. Simply put, it represents the blueprint of the universe; it’s the pattern behind all living things. The seed of life is the representation of Creation. Starting in the center, there is the spirit.
The spirit goes in all directions: up, down, North, South, East, and West, creating an octahedron.
It turns on an axis, creating a sphere. When that sphere is finished, the spirit moves to a point on the edge of the completed sphere to begin the process again and so on until it has created seven intersecting circles, which we know as the seed of life.
We can also see them in the forms of snowflakes or crystals (nature is so awesome – aah!). Mandalas are used as a support for meditation (looking at them or creating them), and they represent the universe, creation, and the energy of the gods.
Taking all this technical stuff into consideration but making something I can connect to, I like to think of a mandala as a magical symbol deeply endowed with thousands of years of significance that can simply remind me of staying in touch with my creativity and my connection with the universe. Just like the meditation sphere of light we created in the beginning of the workshop, I can see a mandala as me being a small sphere intersecting with and existing among many other spheres that make up the whole mandala of the universe or life. Phew, that’s pretty heady.
I totally recommend playing with colors and circles to anyone who feels creatively blocked. I approached the activity like a meditation: I didn’t think about it, I just chose the circles based on the colors that “spoke” to me and placed them in patterns that felt harmonious. For me, it was more about the act of doing it than the finished product. It was really groovy (like, literally, I was in a groove!) to not think and just get into a flow, not caring about perfection or meaning, just intuitively placing the circles where it felt good. Another woman perfectly expressed how I felt, saying that when she was creating hers in this meditative state, she felt that she could go on for hours and the mandala could continue to expand forever.
There was another train of thought at the workshop: choosing colors and creating a piece with a specific intention or outcome in mind. Walking around the room to observe the other mandalas, it seemed that about half were created in this manner. They told stories: one was abstractly shaped like a woman, with different colored circles representing what those parts of the body symbolized for her, and the center circle had watercolor marks that looked distinctly like tears.
When we spoke about our experiences of creating the mandalas, it was made clear that neither approach was “correct” or “incorrect,” which has always been what I love about Creativity classes. There is no one way to do things; rather, there are as many ways to do them as there are people in this world. So if you feel moved to try it, do it, without judgement! Light a candle, put on some music that inspires you, and go with the flow! You might come up with something special that tells your story that you want to hang on your wall or you might not – in either case, it’s great to get back in touch with your inner child and just CREATE.
Have you had any awesome creative experiences recently? I’d love to hear about them!