Nature Mandalas: A Daily Practice

This became a daily meditation. Every time I took a walk, went on a hike, or even went out in the backyard, I would wander, gather, clear, create, offer and let go.

Throughout human history, the mandala has represented cosmic unity, enlightenment and the interconnectedness of all things. Mandala means “circle” in Sanskrit, and is an ancient art form that has endured through Buddhist and Hindu religious rituals and traditions.

In contemporary practice, mandalas have been incorporated into mindfulness teachings and therapeutic inquiry, allowing practitioners to reach a higher state of consciousness. Psychoanalyst, Carl Jung, drew connections between universal “archetype” symbolism and mandalas, calling the act of crafting one an expression of the true self.  

A Daily Meditation

I have personally created mandalas as part of a ceremony, in gratitude, or to mark the beginning or the end of something; completing my yoga teacher training, crossing the threshold into motherhood and welcoming a child, and saying goodbye to a place, or as an offering for a friend. 

After my first son was born, I was gifted Morning Altars by Day Schildkret. I read and learned and shared this practice with my students. Then, this past fall, I was out on a hike on the top of a mountain and I saw a mandala that someone had created and offered. It brought me so much joy. Inspired, I began to look around, notice and gather, creating my own offering nearby. 

This became a daily meditation. Every time I took a walk, went on a hike, or even went out in the backyard, I would wander, gather, clear, create, offer and let go. Many times I was with one or both of my children. They were interested and would join me, which was beautiful. Sometimes, my youngest would end up destroying a mandala mid-creation, which was frustrating in the moment, but then it made me smile, because leave it to a toddler to remind you of impermanence.

I would have stayed out there for hours, and that is what I encourage you to do if you have the time. However, if you only can get in a short walk or even a couple of minutes like I did, you can still connect with nature and come back home to yourself through this beautiful practice. This is also a practice you can take anywhere, giving you a reason to interact with different natural environments, while becoming a part of your transformative journey.

The Practice

Wander & Notice: I wander or sit in the woods, on a beach, in my yard, or along a river. I pause and notice. What do I see? What shapes, colors, textures, sizes are here. 

Gather: Bring a basket or something to hold your treasures in. I try to use only fallen leaves and sticks if I can, sort of a personal challenge, but any colors, textures or shapes you want to work with will work! 

Clear: Choose a place and mindfully clear space. Gently brush away fallen leaves leaving a circle of earth as your canvas.  Pay attention to the earth and the elements, is the ground slanted? Will you be disrupting ants as they work? Is it too windy? Is it snowing?

Create: Let it be intuitive to unfold as you go. Allow yourself to arrange and rearrange.  Start in the center and build out from there. Adjust with as much care and symmetry as possible.

Offer: Take time to admire. Perhaps sit in short meditation. Take a photo, or don’t. I love to leave mandalas on the side of a trail and hope that someone will discover it while wandering on the trail later that day or week. 

Let Go: Creating a nature mandala is the ultimate reminder of impermanence. Of all things and of human life. It is one of my favorite daily mindfulness and meditation practices. Enjoy!

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