Life is a full circle, widening until it joins the circle motions of the infinite. Anaïs Nin
Finally, after months of preparation and practice, I delivered my first (practice) Chakradance class on Saturday. The lead-up was predictably nerve-wracking – between preparation for the class itself and filming it for assessment.
I had started out with 10 dancers coming, but by that morning, in the midst of a flu-ridden Melbourne winter, I wasn’t even sure I would make my quota of three dancers. I was concerned about the technology, as I had to film the class – under stringent conditions – for my teacher to assess.
Entering an old and familiar state of panic, my overriding thought was “I can’t do this.” What started as a plaintive cry ended up sounding like a high pitched siren going off in my head.
I tried all my usual calming tricks and tools: meditation, essential oils, running, energy work. They all helped temporarily but then I found myself back in the morass of anxiety.
My reiki meditation class, the week before, were given the mantra ‘I can and I am’ for the solar plexus chakra. So I repeated these affirmations and they helped. After all, it was true, despite all my fear I WAS doing it. It was happening. And I was BEING amongst all the doing, and the happening…
When success comes into our lives it often highlights our negative thinking, as we stress about everything but fail to see beauty in how effortlessly it is unfolding. And as success creates its own challenges, it is easy to fall into the trap of constantly worrying about the ‘next thing.’
I had to remind myself that everything was actually alright. When I had decided to do the Chakradance course – with no money to pay for it – the money had come through crowd funding, quite effortlessly. My friend had offered a space to hold the class, despite my fears that no one would turn up, I had the required numbers.
Technology is always an unknown, in my day job I run events regularly and no matter how many times you check and recheck, there is always the possibility of something going wrong.
And that’s life, full of unforeseen variables.
Despite this sensible rationale, the stress continued to accumulate in my neck and shoulders, so I went to see my kinesiologist/chiropractor. He treated me, and listened to my body, and we talked through my fears.
What was coming up for me was a number of old emotional patterns, both my own and ancestral, which were blocking me from expressing myself. The torque between these emotional blocks and my attempts to encourage self-expression through Chakradance had manifested as anxiety and bodily tension.
It was an inner war between the old and the new, the inner and the outer.
There was an old feeling in me of being ‘set up’ for a massive fall. Even of divine trickery, that somehow the the universe was conspiring to make me feel like all my dreams were coming true, luring me into a false sense of security, just to snatch success out from under me at the crucial moment. The moment most likely to cause total humiliation and annihilation of self.
I’m wondering where I learned this rather pessimistic perception of the gods as vengeful, petulant, and conniving? Probably from the Greek tragedies.
You know how the story goes, the hero or heroine, mighty and strong, is brought down by their own pride in their capabilities. The gods could not allow such hubris. I was raised on that stuff, pride always comes before a fall, tall poppies get their pretty flowered heads lopped off…
Old ideas that are embedded deep in my psyche.
My earliest experience of going out into the world, as an independent young woman at 18, brimming with lofty ideals and dreams, ends with me falling down the metaphorical rabbit hole. It took me a long time and a lot of work to climb back out of that hole. Part of my psyche is dedicatedly risk-averse, based solely on the memory of that hole.
And yet, Hugh says to me, that was then, this is now. I can trust myself now. I can express myself now.
He insisted that this was a healing experience for me, to face this fear and break this ancestral cycle of repression.
Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty. Albert Einstein
Chakradance encourages me to bring in my unique brand of light, and facilitate others’ journey of self-discovery. As such it is the perfect expression of my gentle power – holding, radiating, not forcing. Holding the integrity of the sacred space to allow others to experience the light that comes from within, to illuminate the self.
Being a chakradance facilitator is primarily about creating and holding the sacred space, the sacred circle. For the dancers to feel safe enough to close their eyes and let go into their inner dance, the facilitator must bring a sense of calm and safety.
There must also be the sense that the circle somehow transcends everyday reality, that in this space, access to the spirit, the divine, the collective unconscious, to the deepest and highest parts of self, is sought.
Humans have traditionally used the circle as a space for sacred ritual – the circle being an ancient symbol, an archetypal container for inviting in the divine.
Stone circle sites such as Stonehenge have been found the world over. There is the infinitely circular nature of Celtic knot-work, and Mandala circles in the Buddhist and Hindu traditions. Native American culture creates medicine wheels, and the Bora rings feature in Australian indigenous practice.
Circles are a sacred symbol found in all cultures. Which by Jung’s definition makes them part of the collective unconsciousness – the collective wisdom we all tap into subconsciously and bring into our conscious lives.
All these sacred circles, despite variations in their techniques, have in common that they exist at a conceptual as well as physical level, they can be used as a sacred space, an aid to meditation, an altar, a centering device for one’s consciousness, a protector, and a framework in which to honour the forces of nature and the levels of being.
The circle is infinite, without beginning or end, in perfect symmetry, completely contained. The ritual circle allows for a group of people to stand facing one another, and the centre. The circle symbolically can represent the earth, the sun, the moon, and the womb. All that is, all that will be.
The eye is the first circle; the horizon which it forms is the second; and throughout nature this primary picture is repeated without end. It is the highest emblem in the cipher of the world. St. Augustine described the nature of God as a circle whose centre was everywhere and its circumference nowhere. We are all our lifetime reading the copious sense of this first of forms. Ralph Waldo Emerson
Chakradance draws on the wisdom of Jungian Psychology, recognising the power of creating a container or space to hold the experience of the dance. Chakradance is a dance for healing and self-discovery. By going within and dancing through each of our chakra centres, and staying present in what we find or experience, each dance gives rise to different insights and feelings.
After the dance, the creation of personal mandala art is a way of anchoring our experiences back into our conscious world.
We create a mandala art so that we can reflect on, and express, our experiences of the dance. The circle both contains our experience and holds a healing power. The images we draw can be literal or symbolic. In the dance, it is possible to see actual images in your mind’s eye, or the mandala may represent a feeling or an insight you had in colours, shapes, or images. Creating a mandala is an intuitive and spontaneous process. It is important to just let it unfold, without judgement or criticism.
After the practice dance on Saturday, the participants had a discussion about their mandala art and what the images meant. They asked me what a mandala was, what was it for?
I realised I had very little knowledge beyond my personal experience in Chakradance, and I was extremely grateful that my friend Margi was on hand. Margi has been creating mandalas for 20 years and the majority of the mandala images in this blog post are her beautiful work.
Mandala art has been used throughout the world for self-expression, spiritual transformation, and personal growth. Mandala is the ancient Sanskrit word for circle and is seen by Tibetans as a diagram of the cosmos. It is used by Native Americans in healing rituals and in Christian cathedrals. The labyrinth is a mandalic pattern used as a tool for meditation. An archetypal symbol of wholeness, the mandala was used as a therapeutic art tool by psychologist Carl Jung, who believed creating mandalas helped patients to make the unconscious conscious. Bailey Cunningham
The mandala, at its very simplest, is a circle with a centre, a form that is ancient, and is found everywhere in nature. Just think of a flower with its petals circumnavigating the centre.
Mandala is Sanskrit for ‘whole world’ or ‘healing circle’ writes Clare Goodwin, and describes it as a representation of the universe and everything in it. Khyil-khor is the Tibetan word for mandala and means “centre of the Universe in which a fully awakened being abides.”
Mandala artist and writer, Margi Gibb says, a mandala is a sacred space revealing inner truth about the self. In Sanskrit mandala also means both ‘circle’ and ‘centre’, implying that it represents both the visible world outside of us and the invisible one deep within us.
From Native American and Tibetan sand-paintings to Gothic rose windows and Hindu yantras, mandalas are used as symbols for meditation, protection and healing. Clare Goodwin
Carl Jung saw mandalas as basic patterns for the Self, that explored the ideals of formation, transformation, and re-creation. The centre of the circle is the point towards which everything is directed. He discovered that while our consciousness lives in the outer circle, the centre of the mandala is what captures our attention as we seek oneness with the Self, with the universe.
The centre of a mandala is where the divine resides, and where we turn inwards and towards, as we seek this individuation of self. The unity of the unconscious and conscious selves. Our inner and outer worlds.
When I began drawing the mandalas, I saw that everything, all the paths I had been following, all the steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point – namely to the mid-point. Carl Jung
Jung used mandalas as a psychological tool for himself and his patients. The mandala captures inner images, creating a visual reflection of a state of self as it exists in a particular point in time. Jung found the creation of mandalas assisted us see the true state of our inner being.
Jung discovered mandalas when he began drawing his innermost feelings in a journal each day and noticed that many of his drawings featured circles. Understanding Indian cultural traditions as he did, he recognised the symbolism of the circle in his drawing and called them mandalas. He saw these drawings as a snapshot of his innermost self at a particular point in time.
I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,…which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time….Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:…the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious. Carl Jung
As Jung discovered, the regular drawing of mandalas chronicles our inner journey. In Chakradance I have been creating mandalas for over a year now. And during the facilitator course I created 9 mandalas in 7 weeks. In the last week of the integration Chakradance I sat with my mandalas around me in a circle. The power was palpable.
Jung was right, these images had captured moments in my psyche. I could see where I had been journeying in my base chakra, how there was fear surrounding the darkness of going within, then a beautiful communion with the earth. I saw the dances of the sacral and solar plexus chakras and how they led me to release some old patterns and pain from my childhood. And so on.
It was a remarkable reflection of a journey within. And that’s just skimming the surface of the revelations they have brought me. I realised creating the mandala is one aspect, and meditating on them is another aspect of this profound practice.
I saw that . . .one could not go beyond the center. The center is the goal, and everything is directed toward that center. Through this dream I understood that the self is the . . . archetype of orientation and meaning. Therein lies its healing function. Carl Jung
How to Meditate on a Mandala (from Anne Lupton’s website Meaning of Mandalas)
To prepare yourself for your time of meditation, clear away a quiet place where you can sit with your mandala at eye level opposite yourself. Be as comfortable as you can be in the seating position you choose. If you like, you can even create an altar on which to place your mandala. This altar may or may not include objects reflecting spirituality, purity, peace and grace to complement the meaning behind the mandala you choose.
Tibetan tradition shows us the outer rings of the mandala represent fire that will purify an individual as they ready the journey of entering into the mandala itself. This is the point of entry for your meditation. The path will lead you inward to the center. Concentrate and focus on the shapes and colors and let the design and beauty sink into your being. Follow each circle inward and if you run into a dead end, just remember that not only do you want to reach the centre but the meditation is also about the travel to enlightenment.
As you travel, become one with the universe and its wisdom. Breathe slowly in through the nose and exhale lightly through the nose. Concentrate on the rhythm of your body as it matches the rhythm in the circle with eyes open or closed. You also have an option to play soothing music as you meditate. Become aware of where you have been, where you are now and where you are going. You can partake of this practice for 15-30 minutes.
You may find yourself inhibited or energized by the energy of the mandala. This sacred object you will find is not an ending but a beginning as you experience the life within yourself and the sacred. Become one through the quiet, still, and calm as you let the stress of the outside world wither away into nothing. Tranquil enlightenment can be yours.
I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate. Carl Jung
So when we create a mandala art after dancing through the chakras, we capture our inner sacred space in the circle on the page. The physical circle – within which we dance – contains our circle of inner selves, which we then capture in our mandalas. Circles within circles.
Affirmations on circle of life: (adapted from the Circle of Life Affirmation Meditation)
I am important and of intrinsic and infinite value.
I am someone who is in charge of my own life, my thoughts and choices… All are mine.
I am exactly as I am meant to be, and I am perfectly on the journey I set out for.
I matter, I make a difference, and I do make things better, for everyone who loves me.
Every act of my kindness ripples throughout the universe.
Every generosity changes the world.
I recognise my contributions, the gifts I share of myself, and their resonance.
I see my connection in the circle of life that is the universe, the circle of life that is me.
I affirm my place,my belonging and my eternal energy…
Title: Goddess Mandala by Nahimaart
Practise – Mandalas from the Journey Series by Margi Gibb
Margi Gibb has been practicing as a Mandala artist for over 20 years. She holds a Masters Degree in Education; Experiential Learning and Development and published her thesis on`The Mandala and its Application in the 21st Century` She has studied and trained with America’s foremost Mandala artists, authors and educators; Judith Cornell Ph D and Bailey Cunningham, Executive Director of the Mandala project. She facilitates workshops for many diverse communities and is currently published in, “Mandala Journey to the Center.”
Margi is currently finalising her Doctoral thesis on the role of creativity in the process of individuation, entitled ‘The Call to Individuation: Spirituality and Creative Practice.’
See more of her work on her website:
Jung, C. G., Memories, dreams, reflections. Knopf, 1989.
Dahlke, R., Mandalas of the world: a meditating and painting guide. Sterling Pub. Co., 1992.