The Art of Watercolor Mandalas: Healing Images of the Soul

Mandala Class at Artisan's in Santa Fe, NM

Mandala Class at Artisan’s in Santa Fe, NM

Introduction to the Presentation

You have likely heard the saying that “where there is no vision the people perish.” And certainly it would appear that we live in a time where vision a pathology and blindness a virtue.

Many observers over the past few decades have noticed that

  • in times of cultural change and shock,
  • when the stories religion and science tell us about who we are , why we are here and what we are supposed to do become too constricting to our questing human spirit,
  • when the culture’s teachings omit something absolutely vital
  • and when some aspect of the dominant doctrine deeply injures the soul

THEN, in those times, the prevalent myth or story about who we are and why we are here will ultimately lose its power or degenerate into fanaticism, violence and various forms of chaos.

When that happens, the society becomes demoralized, fragmented, and defeated and there is decay and collapse into fear, poverty, and polarization.

Metaphorically the land becomes barren, a lot like the myth of the Fisher King.

However, it is precisely at that time when certain kinds of visionaries, artists, poets, musicians, and heroes re-emerge.

And they have a task to do.

That task, is to bring forth a new image and vision, a new story that in some way explains more deeply who we are and why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing  in such a way  that it renews that culture’s relationship  to the cosmic order & the sacred patterns of the earth.

If the culture can ACCEPT & RECEIVE these new images then a new shared collective belief system, a new paradigm,  can be embraced and the society can evolve and thrive once again and thus become fertile.

So what does this have to do with mandalas and how are they healing images of the soul?

The basic thesis of this demonstration is that the creation of a mandala is, by its very nature, a potent way of accessing the images of the new paradigm. This is by definition,  a healing process for the soul.

It seems to me that mandala painting is a way of focusing our consciousness on a deeper, more authentic and more expanded version of our greater identity that subordinates our limited ego and thus, helps re-connect our awareness to the whole.

That focus automatically takes us “out of the box” as it were, and moves us closer to a greater awareness of our purpose…that is, who we are, why we are here and what we are supposed to be doing.

It is interesting to note that the root of the word mandala comes from the Sanskrit and means circle and center.

In a variety of cultures the term mandala represents the geometric or circular pattern or plan of the cosmos either symbolically or metaphysically.

It also represents the microcosm of the universe from a spiritual or enlightened perspective.

In many traditions, it represents the divine intelligence made visible. In psychology it represents the SELF.

From the art as activism perspective, it represents a kind of spiritual lighthouse.

Mandalas have been used for thousands of years in many cultures in ritual, healing, worship, astronomy, calendars, sacred architecture, initiation, meditation, focusing and concentration, trance induction,  communication with the divine and in spiritual instruction to name a few.

A mandala implies  love, wholeness, unity, oneness, the quintessential, the pattern behind the form, the order behind the chaos, timelessness, the great cycles, Spirit, Divinity and much more.

Thus, mandalas have become linked metaphors for the unity of all creation and the individualized soul as it is connected to a divine and sacred SOURCE.

Although few of us have ever seen a soul directly, we all feel it  to exist. And feeling is clearly another form of seeing, one we often invalidate.

So by “Soul”  I mean the sense of something central, something in the center, something that is THE immortal, non-material individual essence of each person that is indelibly  connected to a much larger divine pattern.

It feels to me very much like a mandala, a magnificent pattern of who we are.

It seems to me that the primary language of soul is imagery and feeling. This includes dance, music, poetry and high art.

Fortunately, mandalas by their very nature, are perfectly suited to enabling the soul to speak in its own language of its relationship to its own divine source, without judgment, censorship  or the looking to outside authorities for validation.

So, the creation of a mandala becomes a ritual act of deep listening to and then expressing this message from the soul. That in itself takes us beyond the boundaries of our conventional reality. It is that experience of moving beyond our own boundaries that is visionary, transformative and healing.

I have come to this way of thinking because a little more than 3 years ago I passed through a crisis of soul that was a sudden and overwhelming psychological transformation that at first appeared pathological but that in fact, had a trajectory that led me towards healing and an expanded awareness of the unity of all life.

At the time I did not think I would survive nor did I imagine that I could possibly endure the pain, grief, and loss of the dark night of the soul that overshadowed my life during that 3-year period.

Nevertheless, I did survive. And out of that chaos emerged this process of painting mandalas that helped me so much and which I have been doing ever since. And so, here I am.

I hope that by sharing this process with you, you too may utilize this wonderful form of soul healing.

-Richard Welker, Santa Fe, NM  March 16, 2013