The Art of Letting Go
The light is returning, and spring is just around the corner. The snow has thawed and buds are blooming through frostbitten soil. It’s time to reconnect with nature, and what better way than by making nature mandalas?
A mandala translates as ‘circle’ from Sanskrit. It’s traditionally used as a symbolic tool for ritualistic practices in Buddhist and Vedic traditions. Nature mandalas are created by sourcing found materials in nature and allowing patterns to develop through the act of making, rather than planning ahead of time. Traditionally, mandalas are destroyed/taken apart after being created, as a reminder of the impermanence of all things.
As a child, I always enjoyed picking up objects in nature, whether it was a mud-streaked snail shell or a fiery autumn leaf. There was something sacred and rare about finding little gems of perfection in nature. I knew that these gifts were rare, and I had to keep them somewhere safe and special.
Years later, I find myself drawn to the same practice of collecting objects in nature. Whenever I feel overwhelmed or daunted by a creative task, I step outside and keep my eyes peeled for a perfectly round pebble or lichen-riddled twig. The key, however, is to pick these objects up, make something from them, and let them go again. I create patterns as a means to make sense of something that hasn’t been making sense for me. If I’ve committed myself without reservation to making a nature mandala, I’m ready to let go by the time it’s complete. You might ask, “Why would you discard something beautiful that you’ve taken time, effort and energy to make?” The purpose of making nature mandalas is offer and surrender your creations back to nature— to acknowledge that you’ve come away with something more than a crumbling acorn or pinecone. You’ve come away with an experience of the intangible.
Making a nature mandala with your family or a handful of friends is a new, non-conventional way of connecting and reflecting together. All you need is a free afternoon, your imagination and an open mind.
Make your own nature mandala:
Go for a nature walk.
Put on your favourite jacket, load up on snacks and pack a cloth bag.
Gather your family or friends (or go it alone!) and head to the local park, forest or trail you’ve been meaning to visit.
Walk with your eyes open. What do you see on the forest floor that catches your eye? Maybe it’s a piece of bark, a handful of coloured leaves or a tiny flower that has fallen from a tree.
Gather, don’t pick, natural objects that have been discarded by nature.
Choose objects that delight your senses, whether it’s a pillowy piece of moss or a golden-tinted acorn.
Once you have filled half or all your cloth bag, find a place to make your nature mandala. Maybe it’s a smooth rock slab or a small clearing in the forest.
Start from the centre.
Decide what shape you’re going to begin your mandala with, whether it’s a triangle, circle or square.
Place a striking object at the centre of the shape, and let the rest of the mandala form organically and intuitively.
Document your creation.
The most challenging part of making nature mandalas is *leaving them* in nature.
That said, make sure you capture your nature mandala, whether by taking a photo of it before you walk away or setting up the time-lapse feature on your phone to document the process.