10 things I learnt from making 100 nature mandalas in 100 days

On the 4th of May 2019 I decided to join in with the #100dayproject. I was keen to create 100 days worth of mandalas made from natural treasure that I’d find each day: flowers, petals, leaves, stones, shells, sticks, etc! It was a beautiful process and I learnt so much.

First of all, what is a mandala?

A mandala is a circular figure representing the universe in Hindu and Buddhist symbolism. It can also symbolise a dream, representing the dreamer’s search for completeness and self-unity.

I have always enjoyed making mandalas, but was keen to commit to 100 days of disciplined making, and watching the mandalas develop, as we went along, and as the season morphed one into the next.

  1. For me creating mandalas is about playfulness: taking time out, ignoring all chores, to do lists and tasks for a little while. Sometimes that was 10 minutes, sometimes 30 minutes of focussed play. Playing with shapes, playing with colours, fully concentrating on one single task. It’s ever so relaxing!
  2. The above play brings me to mindfulness – making mandalas is my daily meditation. All my senses were concentrating on creating this circular structure. My sense of sight was measuring the synchronicity, sizes and shapes, my hands and fingers, with the help of a pencil were laying and shifting things into place, trying not to shake too much, I had the scent of the flowers in my nose, and usually a breeze of fresh air on my skin.
  3. It teaches me a lot about letting go: The Mandalas only lived temporarily, sometimes only seconds before the wind blew the petals away, some hours before the flowers wilted, sometimes days, before the rocks and shells get dispersed. Making mandalas from nature is temporary art. Creating beauty but knowing it will be gone soon. It taught me about living in the moment with what’s going on right here, right now. Thoughts come and go, moods come and go, feelings – the good and the bad. It’s all temporary: Nothing lasts forever. So I am appreciating this moment, temporary beauty, life!
  4. I select and collect the most beautiful flowers, stones, shells and sea glass to build my mandalas. Then I create beauty, and leave it. With recent changes in my life, and a house move coming up, I have also opened myself up to letting the mandalas teach me about not getting too attached to anything/non attachment. Don’t get too emotionally involved with certain things, people, etc, but also, when it comes to moving house – despite all the good memories and fear of change, a house is just a house. A home can be built up anywhere, with the right people, a.k.a. family, listening to the heart and all – it’s doable, and not dependent on one location. It is ok to let go and move forward. No things can substitute what we already have inside. We don’t need to keep things, we can take photos of them, and carry their beauty and memory in our heart.
  5. At the beginning of the 100 days I was worried that I’d run out of ideas of how to lay mandalas. But that didn’t happen. I managed to find new shapes of petals, leaves and other things, that inspired new shapes of making mandalas every day, that gave me new creative impulses. Creativity is endless, there are no limits! Every day is different. Moods change, inspiration changes!
  6. Consciously letting colours and textures speak to me every day, on my path, while walking place,s provides an opportunity to notice all the stunning colours and shapes that surround us, in nature! How beautiful is nature, without trying hard at all? It just is: Slowly, quiety, beautiful! Every season has it’s own beautiful aspects. I felt so priviledged to be able to create beauty from beauty. Paying attention also made me find beauty in nearly everything.
  7. Time and Ageing: Time is precious – we all know that. Using our time purposefully, when we spend so much time on tech and other time wasters, often mindlessly, and not paying attention to time, is lovely! Try it. Turning 40 this year makes me think about ageing a lot, and watching the mandala petals wilt, really brings that home. First picked, the flowers’ colours are vibrant, alive, the shapes crisp. A few hours in the sun, and those petals look tired, they have shrunk, lost their vitality – still beautiful in their own way, but different. Age is a natural process. It’s meant to happen, it’s unstoppable, like with so many aspects of nature. However, we can chose how we spend our precious time on this planet!
  8. With all the accellerated life of news, scrolling down speedily changing feeds on our social media platforms, the ability to focus has suffered immensely in our modern day and age. Not just children, no, adults, too! I believe that focussing and concentrating on only the one task of making a mandala, has really helped me.
  9. Keeping going with this challenge has been a task. There were days when I didn’t feel like making a mandala, or it had got too late and too dark for my camera to capture the mandala in the best light, but I kept going. It taught me how determination got me there in the end. I do like a good challenge and owning it!
  10. Last but not least, I had decided to gift my mandalas, to dedicate them to a different person every day. Whether it was a moving conversation with someone, a phone call, a thought, or a memory of someone: That day’s mandala had the very person’s name on it. I didn’t manage to connect to a new person every day, but the giving aspect of creating mandalas was the best bit of them all. Gifting to me is just as much fun as receiving a gift.

Some of the mandalas were created by the WanderWomen groups I was with that day. It always blows my mind that when a group of women individually find their own treasures, then come together to make one group mandala, how magical it is, how everything and everyone is connected, and that connectedness being symbolised in the universe-representing Mandala.

We are all connected in this world, and if you’d like to come and share some of that connectedness on a WanderWomen experience, I’d be delighted to meet you soon!

Have a look at all the mandalas here and let me know which one is your favourite! You can also find them all on my Instagram account @annamnw.

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