My Term Student Mandala

I went through a Term Student program at my Sangha this past Fall. This is, simply, a period of time when you focus a bit more intensely on your practice.

I learned so much about myself during this time. I will blog more about it – if I can find the words to say about it. Much of what I learned is still percolating inside of me.

On the last retreat our teacher had us draw a mandala that represented what we learned during this time. The photo above is what I drew. Honestly, it is kind of hard to express in words what it all means. I did have explain my mandala as part of the retreat , but I had a hard time finding the words for it. Drawing it came from a different part of myself, the part of myself that doesn’t use language to communicate.

As I drew this particular mandala I felt a familiarity.

Every day for the past few months I have been doing a drawing everyday in my bullet journal. The drawing is something that symbolizes the day for me. Sometimes it is something literal, like a camera that I used that day. Sometimes it is something that I did that day. Sometimes it is a drawing of a quote that I read, or song lyrics that I heard.Somehow doing this silly drawing has  helped me to not take myself so seriously.  I have looked at these drawings as a kind of graphic novel or comic of my life. It has been a way for me to step outside of myself and look things from a different perspective. The fact that I can’t draw to save my life helps with the comic effect of it. I can’t take myself seriously at all. And that is fine. I like it that way!

So as I was drawing my mandala it felt similar to when I do my daily drawing in my journal. I thought that was interesting and I shared that insight with the group later. One of my friends suggested that maybe the daily drawing that I do is also a mandala. I find this idea fascinating and I think I might have to agree with her.

My understanding of a mandala is that it is a representation of a moment. The classic example of a mandala are the Tibetan Buddhist sand mandalas, where at the end they are brushed away. An excellent visual of the idea of impermanence. If you search Google for “mandala’ you will find these classic intricate geometric shapes. But it is less about the shape and the intricacy  and more about what it represents. Thus, my cartoon-y drawing above.


I wrote the above post yesterday and now I am waking up to learn about the news in Paris. I am disheartened and angry.

Terrorists were so bothered by what cartoonists had to say that they felt that they needed to die. It is an attack on freedom of speech but it also speaks volumes about the power of art. My friend has the words: “Art is a weapon” tattooed on his arm. Yes. yes, it is.

I am not sure where I am going with this or what it has to do with my silly drawings that I do everyday. But I just felt like I needed to get that out.



3 thoughts on “Mandala

  1. After I had read your post about your mandala, I came across a quote that addresses, in a way, your difficulty in describing in words what you were able to express in a drawing: “to know how to say what others only know how to think is what makes men poets…” By Elizabeth Charles, a British author. The quote in turn reminds me of the line from the movie Contact, “they should have sent a poet.” That’s my thought whenever someone asks me how something was and all I can say is wonderful or great! Your drawing wasn’t meant to be explained in words. You can write a poem for the word version.


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