Monday, January 6, 2014

Meditating with Mandalas

Meditation is a practice that comes in many shapes and sizes. Meditation tends to conjure images of someone sitting cross-legged practicing stillness. While it is true that this is the most common type of meditation, there are many other kinds. In fact, meditation can be used while walking, drawing, playing the drums, knitting or doing anything repetitive.

The key is to match breathing to the repetition (Tip: If I am walking more quickly than I would like to breathe, I take a breath every two steps rather than every single one) and allow all other thoughts to be put to the side until another time. A repeated mantra (phrase), prayer, or affirmation is often helpful.

The type of meditation people find most helpful tends to relate to their personality type. Because I am a visual person, I find the using mandalas to be incredible helpful when meditating. A mandala is nothing more than a circular, often repetitive, image. Mandalas are used to represent the universe, cycles of life and seasonal rhythm in traditional Hindu and Buddhist traditions.

I often find that I do not need to apply the mental energy that I would while traditionally meditating. Maybe it is because I am so entertained by the colors, lines and shapes unfolding before my eyes, it becomes very easy to put away my other thoughts and allow the meditation to come automatically. I still try to make the time to practice stillness, because both forms of meditation offer different things that I equally need.

The Specifics

I like to use the same pattern that you would see in the center of a sunflower or pinecone. (The pattern is called a phyllotaxis) It looks complicated, but it is actually very simple to draw.

I use a simple graph to guide the shape.

First, I like to draw three rings.

Second, I divide it like a pie

Third, I put a big X over each "square"
It will start to look like this
Keep going, and it will look like this:

In the middle, I ordinarily would curve the middle lines, but I had to space them out funny because I made this mandala via computer. So, the lines are funny- but you get the idea.

Now, you could just leave it like this and color it

Or, you could erase the graphed lines (the pie shape) and color it like I did this time

Of course, the end result has nothing to do with the actual meditation, and really the outcome is the least consequential aspect to this variety of drawing. The healing is in the process!

Interesting Facts About Meditation

In the popular health psychology bookMind Over Medicine, Lissa Rankin, M.D. explains a few of the benefits of practicing meditation. "Meditation has been shown to decrease stress-related cortisol, reduce respiration and heart rate, reduce the metabolic rate, increase blood flow in the brain, increase activity in the left prefrontal cortex (which is observed in happier people), strengthen the immune system, and lead to a state of relaxation."

(Here is a great article by Lissa Rankin about how and why to utilize meditation)

Pioneer of meditation reserach and acceptance of meditation in the medical field, Herbert Benson, M.D. believes that, "Any condition that's caused or worsened by stress can be alleviated through meditation" (You can read the rest of this article Here.)

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