Monday, June 20, 2011

Mandala Monday - Word Mandalas

A word-mandala brings together two techniques that C. G. Jung used to study the unconscious mind: word association and mandala drawings. Jung conceptualizes mandalas “patterns of order which, like a psychological ’view finder’ … superimposed on the psychic chaos so that each content falls into place and the weltering confusion is held together by the protective circle.”  The “sacred circle” of the mandala helps the artist bring order and find patterns in the chaotic flow of the unconscious mind.
An archetypal illustration from Jung's Red Book.

Mandalas are traditionally geometric drawings, but they can also be created with words.

In Memories, Dreams, and Reflections Jung notes that during word-association sessions patients often drew blanks at certain words. The patient might instantly respond “Frisbee” to “dog,” while “cat” receives a long silence. Jung links these silences to Frued’s concept of repression, but they have positive implications too. Certain words serve as keystones for larger ideas. So if you begin with Word A, the words will connect to Word A for a while, but when another keystone word appears, the words begin to connect with it instead. If you hunt through a page of word-associations, you’ll probably pick out the ‘big ideas’, the keystones that mark the flow of thoughts. Jung called them Complexes. So while the stream of words might appear chaotic, they map out patterns similar to the circles, squares, and crosses of hand-drawn mandalas. What the mandala maps thoughts kinesthetically, word associations map linguistically.

Or you can play with both sides of the brain and create a word-mandala that combines word association and mandala drawing.
  • Begin with either the word-association or the mandala. But first take a moment to meditate on your central thought. I chose Shakti, the Hindu goddess who awakens love and creativity.
  • After you've sketched the outline of your mandala drawing, begin a page of word association beginning with your central thought. Write slowly and mindfully. Let your mind wander freely from one word to the next. 
  • Next, study your word-association page and begin picking out the keystone ideas. Study your drawn-mandala to get a rough idea of how many words you need and how they’ll interconnect in the drawing.
My word-association began as: 
Shakti: Namaste ~ Pray ~ Play ~ Dance ~ Flow ~ Grow ~ Seeds ~ Beads ~ Tangled twine ~ Divine ~ Stars ~ Galaxy ~ Mind ~ Vibrant  ~ Rainbow ~ Crescent ~ Crescendo ~ Sound ~ Profound ~ Inspiration ~ Liberation ~ Revolution ~ Rise like lions ~ Slumber ~ Surrender ~ Submerge ~ Purified ~ Sanctuary ~ January ~ Stillness ~ Center ~ Spiral ~ Dancing ~ Flame ~ Never break the chain ~ Entwine ~ Sublime ~ Mystery ~ History ~ Storyteller ~ Grandmother ~ Spider web ~ Thread ~ Blood ~ Journey ~ Descent ~ Transcend ~ Living Light ~ Illuminate ~Poetry ~ Word Hoard ~ Dragon ~ Ancient ~ Prophecy ~ Raven ~ Trickster ~ Coyote ~ Horizon ~ Shadow ~ Glimmer ~ Glitter ~ Joy ~ Whirling ~ Rumi ~ Library ~ Treasure ~ 
And became:
Shakti:  Grow ~ Vibrant ~ Inspiration ~ Liberation ~ Sanctuary ~ Stillness ~ Center ~ Sublime ~ Transcend ~ Storyteller ~ Journey ~ 
  • Finally, begin placing keystone words inside the mandala outline. Add colors, symbols, patterns, and other decorations. I chose to add some lines of poetry, because I realized my association of lions with rebellion originated from a Percy Bysshe Shelley's "The Mask of Anarchy"
Word-mandalas are amazing tools, because they challenge the creator to link the intuitive lines and shapes of a drawing with the linguistic shapes of words. Word-mandalas are thus an example of what the Kesh in Ursual K. LeGuin's Always Coming Home call hand-mind: a task whose mindful motions makes space for mental exploration.

1 comment:

  1. Would love to know if you have ever created a macrame mandala?