Mandalas: Art as a Therapy

By Ola El Soueni


Coloring Mandalas has taken the world by storm and has become so popular that almost all bookshops in Egypt offer them. It has proved to be a way to release stress and help people unwind from their daily lives and get in touch with their inner self. People get to play around with colors and experiment with a super fun activity that connects us to our inner child. Menna El-Bakary, an expressive artist, learned how the magical effects of art therapy could help us relax.

What is mandala art?
Mandala art originated in India as a spiritual practice of Buddhism and Hinduism and represents drawings of shapes and symbols that are sketched within a circular design to symbolize the eternity of life. The center is your inner soul, and the outward circle is the universe, where each circle in between is a layer of emotions and thoughts. It is used for meditation and as a transformative healing tool.

Throughout the process, people express themselves artistically to resolve issues through their communication with their piece of art. In addition to that, art therapy helps people who are unable to express themselves using words to communicate silently with their drawings. Once a person becomes aware of his feelings in the process of silencing the mind, the body and mind start to harmonize together. For someone with depression, it can be a way of breaking through some of the barriers that may be blocking psychotherapy.

Why are they such a recommended form of therapy?
The process allows you to silence your mind and use your imagination, which in itself is healing because it allows other things to be felt, experienced and discovered. You unfold a new language by pulling your unconscious, the center of your mandala, to the surface of awareness, the outer layer of the mandala.

While creating your own mandala, you go through a creative flow that you experience with the meditative effect that puts you in a state of continuous engagement and attachment to it. The mandala will distract you for at least a couple of hours, clarifying your mind in order to accept more challenges and better solutions for the daily problems we face.

Other than relieving stress, what else does coloring Mandalas heal?

Clarifying the mind will lead to better sleep, therefore, it can be used to help those who suffer from insomnia. With less suppressed emotions and thoughts, we become less anxious, making it a tool for fighting anxiety.

There are also other benefits, which lie behind meanings that we learn and understand from a mandala. We learn that we are not weak, we are strong. The way the mandala reflects this is because we stand in the center and the outer circle is the outside world. Any center is a point of strength and force. It is a reflection of who we are and what we offer.

Another benefit is learning how to let go and move on, understood during the process of drawing the mandala. Sometimes, one would pause and notice that some shapes are not accurate or they don’t look nice, however, just let go of what you drew and move on. By the time the outer circle is reached and the mandala has been completed, everything goes in harmony. The shapes that you have paused at and thought of as ugly, blended into a beautiful piece of art, which reflects how we should look at life; as beautiful as it has been created.

Is there a certain technique with which Mandalas are drawn?

Find a comfortable place to sit, enjoy a few deep breaths, play your favorite music and diffuse an essential oil or candle. Consciously relax your body as you breathe in and out before you begin. As you draw and color, imagine your breaths filling your heart with gratitude and love, and breathe out the negativity that may be residing within.

Why do you think they are becoming a booming trend?

We all need some time to disconnect in order to carry on with our lives. We need more calmness, love and peace. The world revolves around us; it’s a reflection of what we give.

What do you think would be the difference between coloring an already drawn mandala and actually creating one from scratch?

When creating a mandala from scratch, you pass through two meditative flows: one when sketching it, and another while coloring it. Creating it allows you to set an intention, pour your emotions and thoughts and release your energy into it. It then carries meanings only you will feel and understand. You can think of the mandala as being energetically alive, a means of creating a pathway to a desired state of being. When you contemplate the mandala you are drawing, you will feel the intention you have set at the very beginning while noticing that the shapes you drew have created other shapes that you did not even see coming.

Can you tell the readers about your own experience with Mandalas?

I love reading and I always had that tendency to explore things to a deeper level. I always found the topic of energy and connection an extremely interesting one. On the other hand, I am a person who finds it difficult to speak out. At a time when I was weak and stressed, suppressing too many words was destroying my last bit of energy. I was either sleeping a lot and still feeling fatigued or I had insomnia, and so, I indulged into this art form, and I fell in love with my first mandala.

I discovered art in a different more healing way. They connected me with my inner soul and strengthened my self-awareness. The more I had hidden words, the more mandalas I drew.

How important is it to incorporate a relaxation technique in our daily hectic lives?

Of course it is essential and should be an important part of our lives. Young or old, male or female, we all need to use different relaxation techniques, not necessarily mandala art. Each has a plate that should be filled with various hobbies to help in detaching from the daily errands that cloud our minds and soul.

Menna El-Bakary offers Mandala Art Therapy sessions at NeuroMed in Maadi.