(Above, a word cloud I created for our course)
Words, Mandala and Reflection
by Christina Radatz-Sachs, M.S., CHES
In the last few years, we've seen a near "explosion" of adult coloring books and supplies, including extensive collections of every possible pen coloring set imaginable; I suppose that was partly why I broached the topic of mandala creating and coloring earlier in the semester.
In preparing my discussion post, I sought out the use of mandalas in psychology/psychotherapy, and was surprised to actually find a few specific studies in the literature review process.
Carl Jung was the ﬁrst to utilize mandala making personally and professionally for the purpose of psychotherapy (Schrade, C., Tronsky, L., & Kaiser, D. H., 2011). Dr. Jung apparently used mandala making as a way of producing “a calming or centering effect on its creator” (Jung, as cited in DeLue, 1999, p. 47). When speaking about the experiences of his patients, Jung highlighted their emphasis on the positive or “soothing effects” (Jung, 1936–1955/1969, p. 361) they experienced when creating a mandala.
A study done on adults coloring in mandalas (not creating one, as Jung's patients had) demonstrated a significant reduction in anxiety (Curry, N. A., & Kasser, T., 2005).
As the semester progressed, I felt like this particular art practice kept coming to mind. I believe this was partly due to the number of benefits I perceived with mandala creation and/or coloring:
(1) Hundreds (if not more) black and white mandala templates varying in complexity can be found on the Internet and printed for free;
(2) The activity is appropriate for virtually every age group (though less than two years old may not work so well!);
(3) The idea is simple in concept, making it easy to demonstrate and understand;
(4) It is very "portable," and can be done in multiple environments via different seating arrangements -- e.g., no table required, works sitting in a chair or hospital bed, wheelchair, etc.
A myriad of recurring themes in our course this semester seemed to further validate mandala creation and coloring as a particularly strong tool in an artist in residence's toolkit. After choosing to find a mandala that "spoke" to me to color for our final creative practice, I personally experienced concepts like meaning-making, induction of the relaxation response, self-expression, and flow state.
Although I was relatively familiar with these prior to the course in more of a general context, the readings and discussions brought such concepts much more vividly into focus for me during the process of creative engagement with our last couple of assignments. I personally believe that learning to identify and "unpack" the specifics deepens my understanding; this clearly adds value in building my skill set as an educator and artist towards the use of creative activities (or my word for it, "creactivities") to help improve the health of others.
Below is the mandala that "chose me." ;-). In it, the cross shapes represented my spirituality, the sun represented new beginnings -- and I saw the inner circle of small squares as a personalizing, customizable opportunity. I choose the first initials of loved ones who have either died, or especially entrenched in my heart recently.
The original black and white template
The first version below, in colored pencil and crayon . . . It was "okay" -- but but by the end, I felt it was very much lacking vibrancy and regretted my medium choice. I decided I wanted more robust colors.
Below: A point when I realized I was "pinned down" by en masse of coloring utensils and need to invest in a pen case! All of what you see here is placed on top of a pillow, on my lap, while reclining on a sofa – Attempting to get up was an ordeal!
Voila, version two -- I'm not sure if I feel that it's finished or not 😕 I was really torn as to whether to leave the larger circle of white squares alone, or add color. Also, I wasn't exactly satisfied with the background rays behind the sun. But I finally decided it was time to let go. 😜 At least the colors are brighter!
Another angle . . .
I struggled trying to capture that most of the work was done with metallic and glitter gel pens – so here is a mega close up -- I suppose it might look like white spots, but you'll have to take my word for it, it's glitter ink!
Much more sparkly in person, honest -- and mistakes aren't so easy to see in person either!
Thanks for viewing my page! 😃
Curry, N. A., & Kasser, T. (2005). Can coloring mandalas reduce anxiety?. Art Therapy, 22(2), 81-85.
Jung, C. G. (1969). The archetypes and the collective unconscious (2nd ed., Vol. 9, part 1) (G. Adler & R. F. C. Hull, Trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press (Original work published 1936–1955).
Schrade, C., Tronsky, L., & Kaiser, D. H. (2011). Physiological effects of mandala making in adults with intellectual disability. The Arts in Psychotherapy, 38(2), 109-113.