Although I practice meditation almost every day, I still have a difficult time retaining focus. I constantly have monkey mind and my thoughts run wild. To tame my whirlwind of restless, endless thoughts, I’ve started incorporating the practice of visualization into my daily meditation. While saying a mantra or coming back to the day’s intention helps (especially with self-positivity), I’ve found that focusing on a sacred space and visualizing that sacred image inside myself improves my concentration because I am such a visual person. Not only is my concentration improved by using visualization, it also instills in me the idea that divine energy lives and thrives within my very being. Visualizing sacred symbols, purifying light and the moving waves of energy in my body spark the recognition that divine energy exists within me, and I have the ultimate power to access that enlightened force.
To enhance my visualization technique, I have begun testing out mandala meditation. Mandalas are traditionally spiritual and ritual symbols in Hinduism and Buddhism that represent the universe. The basic image is a square with a circle inside it. The outer square has four gates on each side and a series of lines inside that represent paths of a maze leading to the circle in the center which is a sacred space. Translated as “circle” in Sanskrit, mandalas have become more widely represented as geometric patterns, diagrams or charts and interpreted as showing the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically. The interpretation of the mandala as a circle emphasizes the idea that mandalas are everywhere. In every facet of the universe circles exist from the sun to the moon to the open blossoms of flowers — healing cosmic energy is all around us.
Mandalas are used as an aid for meditation by focusing the gaze upon the image. For people like me, with thoughts constantly buzzing around in the mind, focusing on a mandala can help clear the chaos stirring in our brains.
In Tantric meditation or Vajrayanar teachings, mandalas are used in a more advanced meditation technique in which visualization is incorporated. In this form of meditation, the practitioner brings the image of the mandala into the mind and navigates the various intricacies with the power of the mind in an attempt to reach its center — the sacred space. Here, it is thought of that our minds are like a mandala, a microcosm of the universe. An interconnection comes into play between our minds and the mandala. Our minds represent the divine powers of the universe at work. And the mandala represents the deep intricacies of our mind, the confusing paths (mazes) to enlightenment.
Before you even begin your mandala meditation, you can have essentially a pre-meditation by creating your own mandala. Making your own mandala can be a therapeutic meditation tool that eases the mind and enhances self-expression. If you’re not an artist like me, you can simply print out a pre-drawn mandala online and color it in with crayons, colored pencils, markers or pastels (or, of course, draw and color in your own). Try chanting mantras as you color to enhance the energy flow or play soft music. Watching your own mandala come to life enriches your meditation even more, and creates an even stronger connection to your mandala when you know that this divine energy represented by the mandala did, in fact, come from you. When practicing mandala meditation, if you try the Tantric version of using visualization, allow the fact that the mandala came from your own mind to be part of your meditative process. Play with the idea that your mandala and mind are interlinked. Your creative energy birthed this mandala, and that divine energy expressed flows back into you.
Visualization meditation using a mandala
After coloring and cutting out your mandala, place it facing in front of you. Sit in a comfortable position.
Let yourself be mesmerized by its different shapes, long curves, the bursting array of colors. Fix your gaze on the mandala until you feel that with your eyes closed you will not lose the image.
Close your eyes and begin to trace pattern of the mandala, starting with the outside and working your way inward. Follow the maze, going slowly and carefully. As you trace over each line, feel the vibration of color and notice the different shapes again. Watch the energy flow as you move from one line to the next.
Reaching the center point takes great concentration and lots of practice, so don’t feel discouraged if you don’t reach your destination on the first try. Just embrace the experience of letting your mind wander the mandala and feel its radiating energy.
Also by Jessica Renae: 3 Yoga Breathing Exercises for Self-Healing
Photo: Elmar Eye via Flickr; haron Sperry Bloom via Flickr; Marianna Spiritakis via Flickr; Jessica Renae