I decided to participate in writing for www.MySingleSpace.org because I am a single woman and I have a personal account to share with the single women that participate in this site. I also work with single women and the question that keeps coming up often is: how we, as single women, obtain support? What are the avenues we utilize to nurture and nourish our spiritual & emotional selves? So here goes …
I arrived to USA in 1981 leaving behind my birth country (Argentina) in social and political turmoil. I was married then & the marriage was in disarray, and few years into this country, I filed for divorce and my ex returned to Buenos Aires in 1983 when Argentina became ruled by a civil government.
I found myself alone and in search of many questions while I was trying to become acculturated to this country. No doubt that the 80s were times of transition for me. My life unfolded in front of me like a huge map with no signs or posts, it was all there for me to create anew. I needed to re-group and to find a way to anchor myself to the “here and now”. Therapy, Kundalini yoga, meditation and relaxation practices provided me with a sense of security and emotional stability. And after engaging in graduate work in the field of art therapy at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1986), mandala journaling practice was another way for me to explore my inner world and make sense out of the confusion I was experiencing.
Mandala is an ancient symbol from the oriental art and religion represented by a circle. Its traditional design often utilizes the circle -symbol of the cosmos- and the square -symbol of the earth. It is a symbol that has been used by many cultures as a method of individual and/or group knowledge, as in Native Indian and Orient cultures and it has been given spiritual curative capabilities when used to increase understanding of one’s own inner dissonances.
The first time I learned about mandalas was when reading Carl Jung, the ground-breaking Swiss psychoanalyst who was the first in integrating creative expression within a therapeutic context. He encouraged his patients to draw and paint their dreams imagery, and engaged them in a process he called “active imagination”, which can be likened to a conscious contemplative dialogue with oneself that usually leads to insight; an approach that help patients explore their emotions through artistic creation. It was his clinical and personal observation that mandala drawings appear spontaneously in dreams and in certain states of conflict, dissociation or disorientation or chaotic states of mind.
Jung himself drew mandalas and acknowledges the fact that the making of mandalas had a therapeutic effect on him.In the mandalas created by his patients, Jung saw a natural process of generating and resolving inner conflicts that brings about greater complexity, harmony, and stability in the personality; he called them instruments of meditation, concentration, and self immersion, for the purpose of realizing inner experience (1973).
Motivated, curious about his ideas, and with a desire to increase inner stability,I began a mandala journal bringing forward a combination of my artistic skills and personal imagery with the purpose to unveil & connect with my own symbolic language as a path to deeper understanding of who I was becoming in this country.
I followed Jung’s drawing routine (1965) sketching every morning, right out of bed, in a sketch book. I sketched a small circular drawing, a mandala, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. I used a compass, graphite pencil and color markers. With the help of these drawings I could observe my psychic transformations from day to day. I thought that this creative journey was going to last for about a month instead it lasted for about four years, leaving me with seven mandala sketchbooks and a rich experience of self guidance, inner knowledge and integration.
I learned that mandala making has an intuitive, irrational character and, through their symbolical content, exert an influence on the unconscious. It becomes a mirror of the maker’s psychological state of mind, exposing the maker’s thoughts and feelings organized within the outline. It can also portend a clue to emerging concerns to which old psychic order must respond.
Ultimately, the process of making a mandala is a personal search, an attempt to center oneself, to express order, balance, and wholeness. This was what mandala journaling provided me with. You can visit my website www.ledesmastudio.com to see the drawings that were part of my journey.
So, if you are going through a transition in your own life, or wish to become more centered in yourself, you may want to tap your natural creative process and explore mandala journaling. If you wonder how to begin, I would love to hear from you. In addition, look for future articles from me on MySingleSpace.
Dr. Ledesma is an art- psychotherapist practicing in Chicago and also a professional artist. Her mandala drawings can be viewed at her web site:www.ledesmastudio.com.