This week I wanted to share with you my Gratitude Mandala. I have decided to share this prompt with you next because, as with the Zentangle I shared with you last time, this prompt is very visual, is relaxing and doesn't require us to practice any particular drawing or artistic skills. This prompt does ask you to think a little more deeply, beyond the simple visual and physical process of drawing, into reflecting on the goodness in your life. This is still a fairly easy thing for us to do as we all have many things to be thankful for and it doesn't require too much soul searching. So it's a fairly un-challenging prompt to complete next, easing you into a creative journey.
I am drawn to gratitude mandalas because I love the idea of combining the meditative patterns and shape of a mandala with the uplifting effect of practicing gratitude. I first became interested in the idea of sacred geometry when I developed an obsession with collecting antique doilies! I expect you're wondering how doilies connect with mandalas, well I loved the patterns created with needles and hooks in doilies, but being completely useless when it comes to these tools of the trade I found that I could actually draw similar designs with pen and ink on paper that were almost as satisfying as the doily itself. From practicing these circular geometric patterns it didn't take me long to learn that they strongly resembled the circular mandala patterns of Hindu and Buddhist religions. After further reading and research I came to understand that patterns like these aren't exclusive to the eastern traditions but appear in virtually all religious traditions around the world. Being a Christian myself I was particularly drawn to the repetitive shapes and patterns that occur in the stained glass windows, knows as Rose Windows, of Gothic churches especially those of the famous churches such as The Notra-Dame in Paris. We also see this circular sacred geometry in the dream catches of the Native Americans, Roman tile patterns and in Islamic art. It seems us humans have been inspired by these forms for thousands of years, maybe this is because they reflect the fascinating geometry we see in the natural world, from the spirals of a snail's shell and the petals of a flower to the leaves of a cabbage.
The idea of combining a mandala shape with gratitude isn't my own, an idea that has been floating around on the internet for many years, and because I thought it was such a great idea, I included a template for one in the "Mama Space Journal". As quick google search with come up with lots of inspiration and ideas for how to design a beautiful and unique mandala.
But why bother altering to something already beautiful and relaxing to create by adding in gratitude? Well, expressing gratitude has shown to be very beneficial to health. When we express gratitude the brain releases serotonin and dopamine which make us feel good and can improve our mood. If we practice gratitude regularly we can strengthen neural pathways, ultimately creating a permanent state of positivity and gratefulness within us. Because of the overwhelming nature of motherhood, it can sometimes feel like we have little to be grateful for, it's hard to feel thankful when our daily activities often revolve around feeding babies, wiping bums, cleaning spills and washing endless piles of laundry, but taking time to find things to be grateful for is part of looking after ourselves, it is a form of self care that can be a tool to improve our mental and emotional health and increase our capacity for joy and peace. With a gratitude mandala we combine the relaxation of drawing in a circular motion with the positive effects of expressing gratitude, it's a win win!
The way to make the most of this exercise is to begin by creating some mental space ready for the task, as always some child free, quiet time is ideal, but any snatched moment will also benefit your mental health and get the creative juices flowing. If you are able to meditate for a few minutes before you begin that will really help you to relax and get the most out of your creative engagement. Here are a few guided meditations you can access for free on Youtube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wnusFbC0E80 for a ten minute meditation,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCorElLKFQE for a five minute meditation,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UhF8vLesRRc for another five minute meditation.
I began my Gratitude Mandala by creating a colourful background to my page with watercolour paint. I actually stuck a piece of cartridge paper onto the page and traced the circle template through because I printed my "Mama Space Journal" on ordinary printer paper which doesn't accept watercolour paint very well. I created a sort of rainbow of colour around the circle with my paints which is something I often do on my pieces as I love colour. You might like to create a background for your mandala, it could be created with watercolour, pencil crayon or collage. When my watercolour background was dry I simply wrote all that I was grateful for around the central circle radiating out from the centre like the rays of the sun. I wrote whatever came to mind and if I was stuck I just looked round the room for ideas. I wasn't worried about making the writing legible because the benefit of the writing was the process not the end product, so try not to worry about your handwriting. You could also write your gratitude going round in a circle or even with wavey or zigzag lines.
Here are a couple of videos of part of the process and a photo of my finished result. I did a little mandala in the centre circle and embelished over the top of the gratitude with colouring pencil and coloured drawing pen.
I hope you enjoy completing your gratitude mandala and you get as much from it as I did. I'd love to see how you get on so do send me some of your pics when you're done if you're happy to share. If you want it get involved head over to my Etsy shop and check out my "Mama Space Journal".