Babipur Mandala: Art and Mindfulness
What is Mandala?
In it’s simplest form, Mandala means ‘circular’ or ‘discoid’ object. However, it has much deeper meaning and purpose in certain cultures such as Hinduism and Buddhism. For some it can be a physical representation of the universe or world around them; in others, it connects them to mindful practices such as medication. In some cultures, the process of Mandala is extremely precise and is merged with rituals including chanting.
In modern culture, Mandala has become a term to describe a diagram or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos, like a tiny self-contained universe. The pattern is often balanced and symmetrical, with a central point. The act of creating a Mandala helps to focus the attention and can therefore be used as a spiritual guidance tool or as an aid to meditation.
Mandala represents a wholeness, a harmony and recognises the infinite nature of the universe.
What is Mindfulness?
Life can often be fast-paced and hectic, and we can be so consumed by our past and future that we forget to focus on, and truly enjoy, the present moment. Mindfulness is a very simple form of meditation that allows our thought processes to be in the moment. Over time, mindfulness can support long term changes to mood and increase wellbeing and levels of happiness. It is not a religious art form, it is essentially positive brain training and requires no equipment. It is very simple, and can be practised everywhere and anywhere. It is becoming increasingly popular in work environments and healthcare settings.
Mindfulness is an observant process that creates a sense of freedom from your thoughts, and allows you to be compassionate with yourself.
The Mindful Mandala
In recent years, colouring Mandalas have become increasingly popular, with visual structures and geometric shapes. Because mandala requires a level of calm attention and focus, it is the perfect accompaniment to mindfulness, and can aid creativity, self awareness, and, ultimately, relieve stress.
Mandala is not restricted to colouring. Any object can be used to create a shape that has meaning to you as an individual. You can use anything you like to create one, including pieces of nature that are freely available, but also resources like Grapat Mandala small parts, which are both tactile and beautiful.
Whatever Mandala you are creating, it is important to remember it is about the process rather than the outcome. Don’t worry if the end product isn’t perfectly symmetrical nor worthy of the Tate Gallery! You can spend as little or as much time on it as needed, making it a great activity for anyone.
It may be challenging for your child to learn to sit still and reflect, meditate or be mindful, so here are some thoughts about how to help your child be more connected through the art of Mandala.
In young people, it is often difficult to express what they are thinking and feeling. The colours, shapes, and objects can act as a tool to support them to articulate their thoughts and emotions. There should be little structure or instruction to the activity, just simply allow them to be creative and express themselves, even if it appears ‘messy’.
It isn’t just young children who may not be able to freely express themselves. Teenagers often struggle to voice their thoughts and emotions and can find Mandala equally therapeutic.
Avoid using praise in response to your children’s art, such as ‘beautiful’ or ‘good’, as this can reinforce the desire to always seek praise for their work, therefore looking for positive reinforcement. If children expect to find praise in what they do, they will feel they need to meet expectation and become afraid to fail. Instead, consider using observational comments such as ‘I see that you…” or “this looks very creative, tell me about…”. This type of approach can encourage children to expand their creativity and be thoughtful about the process, without expectation or judgement.
Mandala can be great therapy for both adults and children. Begin by helping your child understand what Mandala is. For example, if it is a circle, help them to identify circles around them. For example, the body is a Mandala and the belly button is its centre.
When working in partnership with Mandala it is good to aim for a ‘no talking’ rule where possible. This allows freedom to create, without expectation. When words creep in, so can arguments. It is a really positive way to encourage turn-taking and teamwork, and to be free from instruction and judgment.
This is a lovely activity to spend thoughtful time with your children. It is a really great way to wind down when life is feeling a bit chaotic. Working together you can create something that evolves organically and is free from structure. It is a true form of open-ended play. When creating together, the end result will feel very positive and, as Grapat say, “together everything is better”.
As an adult working in partnership with your little ones, try to use the non-dominant hand as a way to be more thoughtful about the process.
Mandala can support creative and mathematical thinking. When studying the Mandala it may have a very geometrical design where shapes and structure can be explored. They are often symmetrical and you can find within them colours and patterns whilst discussing what meaning or expression they have. Mandala is a natural and organic problem-solving activity. Looking mindfully and intently on how to place each piece, in order to make the desired pattern, encourages focus and attentive thought processes.
Open Ended Play
Here at Babipur we are great advocates of open-ended play and a great deal of our products facilitate this. If you are not familiar with open-ended play, it describes play that has no pre-conceived limitations and no fixed answer. It allows children (and adults) to follow their imagination and move in the direction their creativity takes them. Most importantly, there is no ‘right or wrong’, so it is very much in keeping with the creativity of Mandala. Open-ended resources have limitless possibilities, and when a child is not hindered by a rigid format they can create almost anything. You will find lots of resources at Babipur for open-ended play, notably from Grimm’s and Grapat, who have strong foundations in unstructured play.
We believe that Mandala is a great way of encouraging creative, open-ended play, and a way of connecting with each other and also the world around us. We would love to see your Mandala creations so please feel free to share them with us either on Instagram using the #babipurmandala or on our Facebook page Babipur Hangout.