In recent weeks, many people have had more time on their hands. We’ve slowed down, taken a step back and we’ve reconnected with nature. We’re all birdwatching out of the kitchen windows, jogging (strolling) through the parks near our homes, or, for those of us lucky enough to live in the countryside, taking long walks through the fields and woodlands. Woods are the perfect place to make a nature mandala, but if you can’t easily get to a woodland just now, there are some wonderful alternatives.
What is a nature mandala?
If you’re not familiar with mandalas, they are symmetrical, circular, geometric patterns, first created by Buddhist monks in the Himalayas some 2,000 years ago. These days, they are recognised worldwide for their therapeutic qualities – making a mandala is incredibly relaxing. Most commonly, people draw or paint them but you can make them out of a great many things. One of the most popular places to make a nature mandala is in the woods out of fallen leaves, feathers, little stones, twigs and pine cones and the like – just be sure not to disturb any living thing or pick anything that is still growing.
If you can’t get to the woods, your local park, beach or even your own garden, are all great places to make a nature mandala.
Why make a nature mandala?
When you make a mandala, much like when your draw or colour one, it’s a wonderful time to slow down and relax. During the process of making it you are concentrating on your design, and switching off from the usual things that race through your mind.
- Making a mandala is incredibly relaxing
- It’s a wonderful way to connect and learn about nature
- Look out for the circular and symmetrical patterns found in nature
- And use it as a way to give thanks to the earth and all living things
How to make a beach mandala
At the beach, you can make a mandala out of shells, seaweed and pebbles and anything else organic you might find. However, do be careful not to disturb any animals or still growing plants.
Making a beach mandala with children is a wonderful way to learn about respecting nature, the plants and animals found there, and the tides. Do make sure that you select a safe place to make your mandala, somewhere where you can’t be cut off by the incoming tide.
I had great fun making the mandala below with my sister, while socially distancing.
A little after low tide, we found a clear patch of sand. We then collected what we needed to make our seaside mandala.
Starting in the centre, we drew out a spiral with the tiniest stones on the beach. Alternatively, a nice shell, distinctive pebble or anything else you might find would make a great central point. It helps though if it is round. From there work outwards, keeping the pattern symmetrical and as round as you can.
Once finished, I photographed it and then we waited as the tide came in to see it being washed away.
Creating a nature mandala in your garden
If you are making your nature mandala in your own garden, then picking leaves and even flowers is an option. I don’t have a garden as such, but I have transformed my driveway into a little patio with plant pots and trellises, a bench and a table. If a so-called weed looks pretty, I’ve left them to grow too.
Some leaves and flowers wilt more quickly than others so before you begin you may find it useful to pick a few and see how they last.
Usually, making a mandala is a chance to slow down, however, I had to work quickly as I knew the feathery leaves from this cranesbill, Geranium robertianum, known as death come quickly, wilt before you know it.
But why is such a pretty flower called, death come quckly? When outdoors, or so it was once said, the plant would bring you good luck, but if you took it indoors, death was sure to follow. Once used as a remedy for nosebleeds and toothache, this pretty pink flower is also known as herb-Robert, red robin, storksbill, fox geranium, stinking Bob, crow’s foot, or if you live in Shropshire, squinter-pip, or in North America Roberts geranium.
The leaves of Kenilworth ivy, Cymbalaria muralis (also known as ivy-leaved toadflax, pennywort, wandering sailor, coliseum ivy, mother of thousands or Oxford ivy) last much longer after picking.
I also used the pointed leaves of Erigeron karvinskianus, Australian daisy or Mexican fleabane, which also lasted a reasonable time before wilting.
Step by step creating a leaf mandala
I started at the centre of the flower using the small pointed leaves of the Australian daisy to make a flower-like design. As I’m using such small leaves I used a small dab of glue for each leaf on a thick watercolour paper to hold them still.
I then made a circle around this with more of the same leaf type.
I followed this with two circles of the slightly bigger, Kenilworth ivy leaves.
And finished with a circle of the largest leaves of wild geranium. I knew they would wilt quickly which was another good reason to add them last. There was just time to take a few photographs before the leaves started to curl up.
While some nature mandalas can last a while, depending on what you use, most only exist fleetingly, much like the original sand mandalas made by Tibetan monks. Once these intricate and time-consuming mandalas and the accompanying ceremonies are finished, the sand is collected and thrown into a river. This dismantling of Buddhist sand mandalas is said to reflect the transitory nature of life.
Nature’s very own mandalas
Next time you go for a walk or sit in your garden, look out for the symmetrical patterns in nature. You won’t have to look far, from a spider’s web to the petals of the wildflowers that grow through the cracks in the pavement. Such patterns have been inspiring art for centuries. What patterns in nature can you see? Do they inspire you?