Pass the Mandala
Recently, I completed a semester of art therapy internship at a mental health hospital in Florida. During this internship I lead and co-lead many diverse art therapy groups all over the hospital, from civil, to geriatrics, to forensics it seemed like I had seen it all. One of my most memorable groups was a mindfulness-based art therapy group I co-lead with my supervisor, Sheila Lorenzo. Throughout most of the semester I had two group members in the mindfulness group, they could easily be described as personifying the definition of opposites. I struggled with group dynamics, feedback and with group topics that were relevant for both members. Since the group was mindfulness, I relied on the art materials and process to guide the therapeutic process. The group members worked independently throughout the entire semester on their own altered books; covering themes such as identity, problem solving, relaxation techniques and coping skills.
Approaching the end of the semester and the time when I would have to terminate with the group, a problem presented itself: The mindfulness group and alerted book project would still continue after I left, in addition we also had two new members my last days of the internship. I had to come up with a way to wrap up my time with the two group members I had gotten to know throughout the semester, while including the two new group members. An art intervention, Pass the Mandala, inspired by Sheila’s previous torn paper group mandala became the solution to the presented problem. After much deliberation the original directive was tailored to fit the current needs: a group activity that validated the long standing members, that welcomed the new members, and that served as a transitional piece for my departure.
For the art therapy intervention Pass the Mandala, I requested that all group members bring in one of their pieces of art that had been made on paper, with the guidelines that the art must be “something that you would not mind changing”. An accommodation for the new group members was that they were allowed to choose an artwork from the recycled art pile in the group room. Finally, on the day of the activity, the group members were suspicious of what I had in store for them. One of the group members in particular appeared anxious over what his art would be used for. For this culminating project Sheila and I took part and brought in a piece of our own artwork that we wouldn’t mind altering for the project.
At the start of the group each person spent up to 5minutes showing and speaking about the art they had brought in for the group project. Below I have provided the materials and procedures for this art directive.
· Recycled piece of art done on paper
· Glue and water slurry
· Mixed Media Paper 5x5 inches
· Circular Plastic lids (for stencil)
· Permanent markers
· Foam brush/glue brush
· Trays (1 for each group member)
· Small containers for glue and water slurry
· Scissors (only at the very end to cut small pieces of paper to fill in the tiny spaces in the mandala)
1. Trace plastic lid with permanent maker onto the center of the 5x5 inch mixed media paper until the circle is a broad black outline.
2. Have each group member take a minute to observe their selected work in silence then proceed to tear up their own artwork into approximately 1 inch pieces and place them on their respective trays. Each person/artwork should have their own.
3. To begin each person works from the perimeter of the circle-inwards by selecting 1 piece from their own tray of torn art and affixing it using the glue/water slurry to an area that is within the circle but that touches the perimeter of said circle.
4. Guidelines for the remainder of the directive:
a. Choose one piece of torn paper from the tray and glue it down touching a part of the outline of the circle and touching at least one other piece of paper that is already glued down, continue until the outline of the circle is finished.
b. NO overlapping of pieces.
c. Can only alter the piece of paper they choose by tearing it again until it fits, cannot use scissors until the very end of the project to fill in tiny spaces in the mandala.
5. Once everyone has glued down their piece, pass the tray of artwork to the right. We signaled being “ready” non-verbally by having participants place their glue brush down. Once everyone signaled being ready, I would voice: “pass”. This once again signaled passing of the trays to the next person on the right.
6. Continue this process until each group member has filled up their mandala.
7. At the end processing the activity can include a discussion on both the final art product and process.
During the art directive, the group members were reminded to respect each person’s artwork fragments as well as the new image being composed. While some of the torn pieces fit with ease into a place in the mandala, other pieces took considerably more time and effort. The pieces that did not fit were either altered by further tearing or by cutting with scissors. This art directive required each participant to create a composition of a mandala that incorporated pieces of their own art and other group member’s artwork (as well as co-leaders art). Group participation consisted of each participant bringing something with them and leaving something behind. In processing, participants gave voice to their initial resistance to tearing up their artwork, to sharing their artwork with other people and how people in our lives can affect us whether we have known them for a long or very short amount of time.