The Mandala Exchange is an interactive blogspot where mandala projects, resources, ideas, and knowledge can be shared. The Exchange was formed to be able to continue the mandala work presented at the 2011 AATA conference, "Communicating Through Mandalas: Exploring Traditional and Online Media with Fellow Therapists". The presenters and moderators of this site, wanted the cycle of the mandala to continue and expand through a virtual community of practitioners, artists and explorers.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Captured in time...

...and by photo.  Or maybe I'm referring more to "on-the GO mandalas"? or photo mandalas. A quick Google search also produces "earth mandalas", and so on.

With spring bursting out of every pot, plot and crevice a new world is awakening. The smallest of changes are breath taking (and I don't mean the pollen). Tho often so small and inconsequential that we miss them all the same. 

Think about it, what passes you by each and every day? How does it change? Who notices? Yet, there's so much to see we are certain to run out of time. Taking the last mandala exchange post “Sometimes Self Care doesn’t require words...just Art” to heart, I’ve been taking more photos of those small things that I wonder about. Things I find while I am out and about. Brief moments in time. The ones that don’t make good stories because there is no plot, no climax, or would even be considered Art.

Remember, it is the little things that our world is comprised of and once again when the wheels are spinning I find there is no time left for the messy kind of art. The stuff that I truly like, the one that involves being uncomfortable and being wrong and sitting with it... till it feels right.  

Instead, I’m capturing moments and seeing what else there is to be found. 

You may be amazed or simply humbly surprised, at what you’ve been walking-on-by.

And in the breaths we are granted there's no reason why not to play... so I used a plugin I found for Photoshop Elements a while back called Kaleidoscope 2.1 to manipulate the image. 

...from the leaves of the lettuce to the figure bellow..

..from the leaves of a wild berry within the shell of a coconut (hint-hint look at the first picture above).. 

Happy Exploring...

P.S. - Thanks 14Secrets for keeping the magic alive and kicking.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sometimes Self Care doesn't require words....just Art

"February 14th" (hickory nut) -Amy B.

"The river is everywhere" ~taken from Siddhartha
-Amy B.
"Feeling Blue" -Sheila L.
(mindful doodle) -Sheila L.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Art for the sake of understanding and processing change.

Interns 2010
Art for the sake of understanding and processing change, this time of the year it is almost expected to be introspective and to hear about others reflections.  In making art there seem to be many more cycles of reflection. I have mentioned before (and if I haven't then I’m telling you now) that art seems to have its own gravitational pull. It ‘draws’ me in at times of great distress.  So as not to make it all about anger and sadness I also turn towards visual expression at times of change and when there's times of uncertainty.  One such instance has become quite predictable, the changing of the inters.

ReNewal 2011
Each semester (except for the summer months) I have been graced with anywhere from 1 to 3 interns. I didn't realize it had been happening for a while now except that my filing cabinet is getting full (guess I need a spring cleaning). So all that to say that having healthy boundaries and all, I still get attached! I guess it is in my nature, it is in the ‘therapy’ part of what I do. Fear-not I found a solution to process through these seemingly ritualized if not downright timed losses. I make a reflective art piece.

Yeah, who would have thought an art therapist making art to check-in with herself at the beginning of the semester and then again at the end. The practice has worked so far and may date back to 2010 with one titled Interns (very clever name- wonder what it was about).

Over the years there have been many images and with a brief look I often depict myself as part of the dynamic when they begin (the first image is usually done right after their interviews). While for the pieces completed towards the end of their internship (usually completed on their last week or right after they leave) there is no “I” in the image, just them.  I take-on more of an ethereal quality in that I am present but there is no concrete representation of myself. But that's just a brief observation. I may pull them out and study them further in the future once I have more (because I expect to).

In processing this expected change in office dynamics in expectation of the students of Spring 2014 I made: Unit Stresses. Titled so because I made it within an altered book I am keeping as a journal and aptly enough the pages used began a new chapter [For other recent mandalas within the altered book visit the sister page Symbolic Projections].

It's Time 2012
Their Contributions 2013
Unit Stresses 2014 - Detail
While simple in comparison to some of my other pieces where I work one layer after the next and there's always some form of pen-work involved, this piece was complex in other ways. With a Bougainvillea “flower” (these petals aren't the flower which is smaller, these are the bracts encasing the flower)  in the center around which i arranged blue pieces of paper--- one at a time. Overall this piece reminded me of those homework assignments in drawing class where you were measured by the hours it took to complete (nonsense), so lets just say this took a while despite its ‘simplicity’. The blue pieces are small enough to fit on top of a #2 pencil eraser (each piece not all of them). Each of the blue pieces came from a sheet where i painted with blues and reds, one afternoon where I was teaching a mindfulness using paint - so each piece has color variations and is akin to small marble squares. Using tweezers I applied each one and loved every minute of it. From the cutting of the pieces to the last coat of glue, the careful - moderate your breath or it will all be blown away feeling - is soothing.

More and more I notice I do these small rituals of cutting and putting away things, organizing and sorting. Not that I do more of them, but that I notice myself doing them and realize the act is ‘for me’ not because another person needs something at this level of organization. Not because I want to collect, but because the acts of doing so is a replacement for not being able to make art at that moment. I squirrel-away small stashes of carefully cut content for art pieces that never manifest in large part because the setting-up and coordinating quiets the mind when there's no time for art.  

Unit Stresses 2014
I’m sure I’m not the only one out there who sees their time sifting through their hands. Guess I need to learn to make a fist and make it last... until I get to the drawing board, then maybe slap-it-down with some glue and see what it ends-up looking like. 

To see these and other mandalas through the years take a look at my Mandala Gallery on DeviantArt..


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Peering to the Other Side of the Mandala 2 of 2

Peering to the Other Side of the Mandala: Translucency of the Round

For those who have seen my work, it is usually nothing if it isn’t layered. As I have seen it happen time and again for my clients, I too become lost in the process of visual play. After having experimented with making paper from recycled fibers and organic inclusions we had a plethora of items left that any creative soul just wouldn't allow to go to waste. Items included flattened vines (weeds from my yard), pressed flowers, crumbled petals, tea bags, natural fibers, yarn, tissue papers, etc.

So it began.

I wanted to provide my clients with a boundary within which to work so I cut & laid out rectangular pieces of plastic shopping bags (these can be substituted with cut-up garage bags). The bags themselves did not provide containment so we traced round plates with thick sharpies right onto the bags then set to work layering any of the plethora of objects described above in addition to pre-cut text from magazines. Tho mayhem seemed to ensue, I did walk away having learned a few things...

1. Some planning at the onset goes a long way. Especially when it comes to which layer to set first and which last (ie. think of an image sandwich that needs supporting walls to stay together).

2. Incorporating breathing into the discussion will also help slow the process so that care is taken in placement & layering (very helpful when items are fragile).

3.  This process/directive can work with themes of duality and multi-dimensionality (ie. of a person) since items may be visible from both sides and some may (as part of the process) become obscured. [self-expression & problem solving go without saying]    

4. Frustration tolerance will be tested. The process necessitates multiple steps such as managing watered down Elmer's glue with a brush and effectively saturating various surfaces all while considering item placement and fragility (as glue is added the items’ properties may change ie. from rigid to limp -- and thus the fragility of items will need to be contended with by each participant at some point).

5. Choose items for inclusion carefully. This is yet another of those directives where testing things out first would in order to explore some of the possibilities can be key to heading-off certain failures.
  • Tea bags: work great to add rigidity to final product. they also add brown stains making product look aged. Green tea bags will have lighter results than black tea or rooibos (but then you will need to sort the bags). 
  • Tissue paper: bleeds! which is awesome if you want color without busting out the paint. It also shreds and tears easy (good thing of you want it but not so good if someone is OCD about having their paper be perfectly smooth, as it will tear with too much brushing). 
  • String/yarn/long fibers: these will need to be “strapped” down between layers of paper. 
  • Magazine Images: I love the way these look but remember that most magazines are glossy and not readily accepting of water so the glue/water mix will bead-up and some images will curl...again needing to be layered with tissue or tea bags in order to be ‘held-down’ until the glue dries. 
  • Sharpie: This is one of my favorite discoveries! The sharpie ink readily lifted off the grocery bag with my collage in the areas that the paper pieces overlapped the ink. (in subsequent projects I’ve overlapped on purpose for awesome results). Meaning that it doesn't have to be a circle-outline, it can be a doodle, a tracing of an image (that you lay underneath, etc).

6. It takes time. It takes time to layer and get into the process and also for the whole thing to dry. It must be fully dried before any attempts are made to peel it off the surface. If something doesn't look right you can always add more even after it dries. 
  • For those clinicians wanting/needing portability I would suggest pre-wrapping Masonite boards and having the tissue papers and other inclusions already in manageable sizes in small cups or envelopes (for groups I sometimes pour the contents of the envelopes into disposable plates so they can be passed around like at a dinner table).

All in all I was rather pleased with these and have since employed the process into other directives quite successfully with small and large groups. Some projects were in stable locations, while others were in spaces necessitating portability. Although my favorite part can easily be watching that silence of ‘creativity’ fall on a group that makes most professional staff feel uneasy...The next best part is peeling the final products and holding them towards a source of light and watching for unexpected results..because we can never account for everything.

Go with the flow.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Peering to the Other Side of the Mandala 1 of 2

Peering to the Other Side of the Mandala: Diamond Cuts

Since working on the Mandala Spheres I seem to be in a drawing rut. It seems that once having ventured so far out of my norm now its hard to fall-back-in-line and do as I used to. Not that I have fallen out of love with mandalas nor that I have lost faith in their containment of my emotive purge. It has just been different. Maybe this is the true reason why it has taken me awhile to return to the Blog.

The When and How I use mandalas has been under major re-structuring. Falling in line with other changes in my life, it was about time for our companionship to evolve.  I will cut to the chase and say that I have not been as avidly engaged in mandalas as I used to be.

No fault of their own. It is an adaptation on my part. Or so I believe. With much less time on my hands for doodling for hours on meticulous visualizations I have turned to shorter entries that are not limited to the round form -- instead I’m journaling alongside doodles, ATCs and a myriad of hodgepodge visualizations. New in some sense, but in many ways reminiscent of my sketchbooks from high school (yep, still have those Ms.A.).  These journal(s) easily lend themselves to be slipped into any of my purses (small clutches are for pens - while real ones cary books!) as they are carried everywhere and they have first-dibs on any of my idle time.  Actually I’m not even sure what passes for idle time these days. Is it the screen dabbing, email checking, app browsing minutes or seconds between utterances in conversations? Well, of course I do this, very few people don’t. But I also choose to sneak an arsenal of media into any purse --- combating the urge to add screen-cheese to my phone --- and pick up a sharpie instead. [To read-up on these musings as they emerge check-out my Symbolic Projections Blog].

Now that you know where I am at, let me tell you what else I have been upto since then. As my personal use of mandalas weaned I found those rounds, surfacing in my work with clients. Almost by accident or sheer genius (sometimes I choose the later) I saved and separated the paper I was shredding for my paper pulp bowls. After shredding paper for days I had begun to view the shreds as beautiful, small gems of color glistening from the bottom of the dark bin.

Coffee Filter Paper Light Catcher
Using coffee filters and a generous amount of elmers glue I led several mindfulness groups into creating tiled compositions. Purposefully leaving slivers of space between the pieces. Later encouraging my clients to place them near windows or lights to brighten their day. This was one of those nuggets we sometimes find in our practice where we are humbled and reminded of the power in the process.

While the instructions were simple and given slowly over the course of the session it was the immediate and trance-like ::::hush::::  that came over the groups. Looking. Selecting. Grouping. Negotiating a pattern. The first time it happened we (the psychologist & I) were aghast and knew not what to do with ourselves. No one needed us.


ATC - 2.5" x 3.5"
Experimenting with the same media but changing them ever slightly led to equally fascinating (if not time consuming) results. Keep in mind most of these were fairly small yet they took a fairly long time to get done.

3" diameter (fruit cup sized)

At the beginning of this post I may have alluded to disclosing a bit in regards to my recent mandala skirmishes and although I mentioned 2 I had a third in mind all along. It however doesn’t seem to want to be squeezed into the same post. After-all, the media is dramatically different even if the results rightfully fit into the title of: Peering to the Other Side of the Mandala. So I will be making a separate post about it.

Stay tuned for

Peering to the Other Side of the Mandala: Translucency of the Round.

Happy shredding!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Returning to the Round

Greetings long-lost friends!
As Sheila apologized for, I must also apologize for my absence to the blog.

I have re-emerged!

My journey has taken me far from mandalas and interestingly into papermaking, independent of Sheila's eloquent posts on her own papermaking experiences. It is so intriguing that Sheila and I have communicated very little over the past many months and our art was walking somewhat parallel. Is that what happens to kindred mandala sisters?!

I circled back to the Round this June when I took the Part II training of Mastering the Meaning of Mandalas from Carol Cox, ATR-BC, REAT, LPAT and Dr. Alysa Muller, Psy.D. FAMI. I had the great honor to make a pilgrimage to Bon Secour Retreat Center in Maryland to complete a training that was started 5 years ago with two of my esteemed mentors. It really did feel like I was headed to the Mandala Mecca. If you haven't had a chance to consider taking this training I would highly encourage it to art therapists and any other counseling professional who has an interest in mandalas. It is personally and professionally enriching beyond words. There website does not list workshop offerings, but if you email me, I can put you in touch with Carol or Alysa to find out about upcoming trainings.

Labyrinth at Bon Secour Retreat Center

While, there may be coming posts about my training experience there, I had a transcendent experience on the labyrinth at Bon Secour that I would like to share. I realize my last post (horrifyingly, nearly a year ago!) was on labyrinths. While that was more of a practical suggestion in how to engage in labyrinths this post will reflect my personal experience in one. It was timely, powerful, and a great reminder of all that mandalas behold. If you've ever had a transformative experience making a mandala, just imagine your who body submerged into one. The impact can be profound. Enjoy my writings transcribed immediately after walking the mystical mandala - the labyrinth.


Our journey. A labyrinth.
Two people walk the winded path.
Sometimes the journey is short before a sharp turn.
Sometimes you circle.
Your journey is straight before you change course.
It feels like you weave for so long – not headed anywhere, not knowing when you will come upon the destination.
But have faith.
There is only one path.
It leads to the center. It is inevitable.
You cannot avoid it, even if you choose so.

As two people walk there are times when it seems as thought you will converge.
Maybe, even crash.
But you are on a different part of the path.

You excitedly near that person, anticipating relationship. Perhaps fearing how you may treat the encounter.
At the moment before connection the person turns and carries on in their different direction. Maybe disappointment. Maybe relief.

Then again!
It seems as thought you’re nearing. But, to follow the path you must turn and go your separate way.
You see their shadow stretch along your path. Even it journeys on unreachable. You become used to your walk of solitude. You make peace with it.

Suddenly, when you least expect it, there you are! On the same part of the path.
You’re nearing a head-on collision if neither person looks up!
You catch gazes.
One person must step to the side.
You move off the path to let the traveler pass.
A bow of respect is initiated.
You are a mirror reflecting the bow. Honoring our being.
You learn from this.
You want more.
But, the pause is short and before a moment passes both walkers must be on their way.

The next turn you make takes you a long way away.
A sense of grief washes over you.
The figure moves further and further away until all you can see is a glimmer of moving color coming from the corner of your view.

A sweat bead catches a tear.
They roll down your cheek together.
It doesn’t matter which is which anymore.
Salty like the sea, you’re reminded of home.
The journey continues.

Then! It’s as if a miracle happens! There you are.
The two of you walking side-by-side.
Your pace is quick but you slow so you are in unison, in sync.
Together walking paths side-by-side.
Silent comfort.
Your unity speaks without words.
It feels incredible.
You have so much to learn.
You keep walking slow, rhythmic.

You realize your path continues.
The traveler’s does not.

Coming out. Ending.
While you are just on your way in.

The delight just reached you and now you are alone.
They are gone.
Their figure drifts down the path that no longer circles, but leads away.
You hang on to the sight of the figure refocusing with each of your turns until just a shadow descends over the horizon.
And then nothing.

This time really gone.

Only a memory remains.
You’re alone. You feel sadness again.
You refocus on the path.
Being alone doesn’t feel so bad.
But it is alone.

You wonder when you will reach the center.
And will anyone else enter the path?
It seems as if you’ve been journeying a long time.
There is no way to hurry the path.
If you try to walk faster you will just dizzy yourself with the turns.

But you just want to get there!
Where is it?!


Slow your pace.

Remember, it’s the journey that matters.
Amazingly with an unexpected turn, you’re there.

The Center.
It’s glorious!

Indian style like a child you sit.
The path radiates around you.
It feels like it’s pulsating, reverberating.
The breeze pushes gently through the trees.
The golden light of the afternoon dashes into parts of the trodden path.
Your favorite time of day.
A bird sings.
A wind chime dances to the orchestra of the leaves.
There’s a string weighted with a tile on the wind chime.
It twirls like a whirling dervish.

Your eyes are wide.
Your soul feels alive – for the first time – in a long time.

Just Me alone.
And happy.
In this moment.
I want to bottle it.
Keep it forever.

You can’t stay.
Your senses awake from it’s blissful dream to ants nipping bites at your legs.
A bell rings. It will be dinnertime soon.
You lift your body.
It aches from your run…
Your life.
The journey outward unwinds.
You feel chilly.

The sun is beginning to dip behind the clouds.
You circle far away and then close again to the center, but just out of reach – that sweet spot is gone.
You know the path leads away.
You walk…and think.
Pirouetting on the turns.
Trying to let go. Can you?
Or is it too much a part of you?

The journey out goes by quickly. Before you know it you’re at the end.
The way in seemed so much more glorious, richer, contemplative.
But here you are.

With reverence you turn toward the path. You lower your eyes and dip your brow
Acknowledging the journey.
Then your feet turn you away.
You disappear over the hill toward the lavender sky.