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blog - Charles Stanford

Mandalas and Healing

Life's ambition occupy my time
Priorities confuse the mind
Happiness one step behind
This inner peace I've yet to find
Rivers flow into the sea
Yet even the sea is not so full of me
If I'm not blind why can't I see
That a circle can't fit where a square should be
There's a hole in my heart
That can only be filled by you
- “Hole Hearted,” by Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt

Mandalas have gained a great deal of visibility and attention in modern western culture recently, and with good reason. Although the word “mandala” itself is of Sanskrit origin and the best known examples of Mandalas come from Asian traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, the symbolic use of the circle and the square is a universal human archetype.

Kalachakra Mandala, painted in Sera Monastery, Tibet, from Wikipedia, by Kosi Gramatikoff, Public Domain.

Burton Fullmer experienced the symbolic power of mandalas during his own healing journey before becoming a clinical counselor, and on September 30th 2017 he will present a free workshop on mandalas at the Cirque Lodge in Orem. After his own encounter with mandalas and what they symbolize, Burton found Jung's reports of the mandala work that he and his patients experienced.

A mandala can come to the mind in different ways. One approach is to consciously draw one, a practice that Dr. Jung employed for some time in his personal life. But he also noted that mandala imagery arises spontaneously in the psyche, often in dreams and particularly during times of trouble. Bringing together a circle and a square in a spontaneous image is an expression of stability in a center, and of that reconciliation of opposites which is needed for wholeness.

Thus, though we may draw mandalas as expressions of these concepts, far more vital are the experiences which bring us to stability, healing, wholeness – experiences which, defying words to describe them, commonly find more fitting expression in images. Modern religious teaching mostly aims to bring people to such experiences linguistically, though Christian tradition certainly has a history of using mandala imagery.

The southern Rose Window of Chartres Cathedral, photo from Wikimedia Commons, by Ludwig Schneider, under Creative Commons Share Alike license.

In his work with all kinds of mental health patients, Burton has observed the distress that comes from a life without a stable grounding in meaningful experience, a clear understanding of self identity. This central meaning serves as a compass (another mandala!) with which to navigate through life. Burton is fond of a quote by Joseph Campbell which illustrates this point: “The psychotic drowns in the same waters in which the mystic swims with delight.”

Finding the compass is essential to navigation, finding one's center of gravity is essential to learning to swim. We all carry paradoxes inside us that give tension, and we need the experience of reconciliation of which the mandala is such a natural spontaneous expression.

Creating a mandala is one thing, meditating on it and experiencing its meaning is the deeper goal. Like the Buddhist metaphor of the finger pointing to the moon, we have a constant temptation to focus on the representation at the expense of the experience it was meant to express. This workshop will offer plenty of pointing toward the central experience, in the hopes of evoking individual healing experiences in the participants.

Join the Jung Society of Utah and Cirque Lodge for a special workshop on Jung and the Mandala!

Date: Saturday, September 30th
Time: 10:00am - 1:00pm
Location: 777 N Palisade Drive Orem, Utah 84097
Cost: Free (including 3 CEUs)


~Charles Stanford
Archivist, author, musician
Staff Writer – Jung Society of Utah
Etsy shop: Only Real Quills

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