Circle images have been a constant throughout all cultures in human history. It is a basic symbol in our consciousness and in nature. The peace sign, yin yang symbol, the spiral, the wheel, and the Native American quartered circle are all examples.
Circular images have been called mandalas in the art and art therapy world, from the Sanskrit word that means “sacred circle.” Borrowed from Eastern traditions, Carl G. Jung first brought the concept of the mandala to the field of Western psychology. Though in Eastern traditions the mandala is related to spirituality and mindfulness, Jung believed it symbolized the internal self.
Mandalas have become a standard concept in the art therapy profession. Art therapist Joan Kellogg worked out a system of understanding circle drawings as representing our physical, emotional, and spiritual selves. This is based on the forms, colors, and patterns represented inside the circle. Mandalas are a useful tool for self-discovery and personal insight, as well as emotional expression.
Here are some ways you can use this concept for your own self-discovery:
Experiment making different circle drawings with different materials (try different colored paper, pencils, pastels, paint, tissue paper collage, etc.)
Try a Mandala-A-Day Project! See how your daily mandala can change depending on your day’s events or emotions.
Use drawing mindfully and meditatively inside a circle. This can be a self-soothing technique, especially if you are doing repeated shapes and patterns.
Work intuitively with your mandala. Choose materials and colors that feel right at that moment. When you are finished, spend a moment to reflect on it. What it is saying to you? How does this relate to your self? More questions can include:
- Where is the energy flow moving in the circle? (outward, inward, etc)
- Where is the focus of the image?
- What colors did I use and why?