An important aspect of ‘integral coaching’ is helping people to discover their patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. Through rigorous self-observations, reflections, relevant practices and appropriate exercises we help clients turn ‘stumbling blocks’ into ‘stepping stones’.
Patterns are important to me in my work and in my play, too. As a child I was fascinated by patterns. I remember a ‘Standard 1’ lesson run by Mrs. Chalmers, our class teacher. She showed us how we could make patterns by repeating letters, spaces and colours. We then turned our paper upside-down and repeated the same sequence. Beautiful patterns emerged.
Years later when I attended a course at UCT Summer School called ‘Finding the artist within’ we did similar exercises but used our signatures as the emblem to be used over and over again. During the same course, I was introduced to Mandalas and I had one of those ‘aha’ moments. I loved the way the creative process was even more important than the outcome. Somehow I would ‘lose myself’ while developing the patterns. I haven’t ever purposely designed a Mandala. Each seems to come ‘through’ me. A one-day course in Sydney last year cemented that.
It was only ‘natural’ when I started painting table-cloths a few months ago that I automatically used Mandalas as the pattern. And with each, I allowed the pattern to develop as I proceeded. The photograph below shows a table-cloth I developed over a period of a few Saturday afternoons during 2011.
Until last month, I was more aware of the ‘artistic’ side of Mandalas than the meditation aspect. But attending sessions called ‘Mandalas to unmuddle the mind’ run by local artist, Jutta Faulds changed that!
In her book, ‘Mandalas: pages from my diaries’, Jutta explains that a Mandala is ‘usually a circle with a central pattern’. ‘Mandala’ is a Sanskrit word meaning ‘circle’ or to quote a Buddhist scholar, ‘the Mandala is an integrated structure organised around a unifying centre’. She provides another quote: ‘God is a circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere’. The importance of the circle as a symbol of wholeness dominates in many religions and cultures.
Images in nature which echo this. Two circles that have a great impact on our lives are the sun and the moon. The earth is a circular structure, as are cells, and many flowers as well as animals such as snails.
So, in Mandalas we combine nature as symbolised by the circle with no beginning and no end, and man-made elements represented as straight lines. These could form squares or other shapes.
Very often, the circle acquires symbolic meaning for the creator or the observer. In ‘Creating Mandalas for insight, healing and self-expression’, S Fincher states, ‘It was found that the therapeutic benefits of making a Mandala had nothing to do with the content of the art work. It is the process of making art that does the good…….. by making a Mandala we create our own sacred space, a place of protection, a focus for the concentration of our energies’.
Creating patterns helps us to express ourselves, communicate in a ‘different’ way. Mandalas are an excellent way of doing this. Practices like this combine ‘left’ and ‘right’ brain activities and help us to recognise our own ‘patterns’. From a coaching perspective, I have found that working with Mandalas is an excellent way of generating effective self-observations, reflections and practices with some clients. These processes help us recognise and then act on our deeper understanding of ourselves.
There are many books and websites that provide excellent information on Mandalas. One that I find particularly interesting is on Wikipedia.
If you’d like more information on integral coaching, you are welcome to contact me. I do however emphasise that not all clients benefit from doing Mandalas and they would not be assigned where not appropriate. It is a tool which I personally recognised and is not necessarily associated with ‘integral coaching’.