Art is healing, and every time I turn to it to ease my feelings of stress and anxiety, I immediately feel better. This is especially the case when a creative project involves nature. When we create in, around, or based on nature, we benefit tremendously. We feel happier, calmer, inspired, and a whole host of other positive emotions.
One way to add soothing nature art into our lives is by creating a nature mandala. These are often used in mindfulness practices as a relaxation tool. Find out what mandalas are and how you can create a mandala in nature and from nature to enjoy as a family activity.
What is a Nature Mandala?
Mandalas are circular designs with concentric shapes that radiate out symmetrically from the center. Originating in India, mandalas mean “sacred circles” in Sanskrit. They have universal spiritual significance and can be found in Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques, and Christian cathedrals around the world.
In ancient Tibet, monks created intricate mandalas with colored sand made of crushed stones to use during their meditation practice. Well-known Swiss psychologist Carl Jung used the mandala for his own personal growth and also had his patients color mandalas a hundred years ago as a tool for relaxation and self-discovery.
Today, nature mandalas are used during nature therapy to help people relax. One therapist I spoke with, Jamie Lynn Langley, uses different types of sand with varying colors and textures to encourage children to create mandalas from sand. She calls these “sandalas.” She has nature mandala and sandala stations set up in her office, and every season she puts out different color sand and nature items. In winter, for example, there is white sand to resemble snow. The children really enjoy these activities. You can try these activities at home, too.
How To Find Or Create a Nature Mandala
We can use mandalas to explore nature in a creative way. If we look closely, we can find patterns in nature similar to mandalas, such as spiderwebs, flower petals, leaves, tree bark, seashells, and of course, snowflakes. Take your kids exploring outdoors and ask them to identify the mandalas in nature. You can challenge them by asking them to draw or paint the naturally occurring mandalas they find.
Another approach is to build mandalas outside from natural items you collect, which becomes like a creative scavenger hunt. This takes a great deal of focus and ingenuity, and your kids will be so proud of the designs they develop. Just be sure to take a picture before you leave so you capture the beauty to enjoy at a later time.
Here are some simple steps to build an outdoor mandala:
- Venture outdoors to a natural area like the woods, beach, or local park. Even your own backyard will work.
- Gather natural items to make your mandala, such as leaves, flower petals, sticks, rocks, grass, pinecones, pine needles, feathers, sand, shells, soil, etc.
- Find an open area to work.
- Identify the center of your mandala and mark it with one of your items.
- Create one layer of the pattern at a time by building a circular layer around your center item and radiating your design from the center point.
- Continue to add on as many layers as you want. Try to alternate colors and textures to make it interesting.
- Enjoy looking at everyone’s mandalas and be sure to capture the moment by snapping a few photos.
Additional Nature Mandala Tips
- Leave No Trace Behind. One concern with nature art activities is when people remove natural items, which can slowly damage the land. Do not pick flowers or leaves; instead, look for items that have already fallen to the ground. If you clear an area with items like rocks, twigs, or pinecones, be sure to replace them before you leave. While it does not seem like picking a few flowers will be an issue, if every visitor does this, there will be a significant impact. Learn more.
- Make it an indoor activity. If you can’t get outside due to weather or another issue, you can still create a nature mandala. You can plan ahead and collect nature items and keep them on hand to make a mandala inside.
- Use pictures as an alternative. What if you don’t have any natural items to use? You can still create a nature mandala using pictures of nature. Cut up some old magazines, print out images from online, use your own nature photographs, or simply draw nature items to place in your nature mandala.
- Try coloring a nature mandala. Finally, you can always draw and color your own nature mandala or use a coloring book. As a therapeutic activity, coloring can help us feel calmer, happier, less anxious, and more focused.