Flow State is described by psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi as that moment when, “The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.”
Mandala making gets me into flow state. Confusion fades and clarity peaks. Ideas coalesce, and problems that I’ve struggled with for months suddenly find their own solution. Doubts and anger evaporate, and compassion soars. All the while, art happens.
The best part about making art in this way is that the resulting work hits a universal chord, and has been embraced by people across cultures and generations. The crown chakra gives us access to higher states of consciousness as we open to what is beyond our personal preoccupations and visions.
Break it up however you need, we all come from the same stuff.
Written language forms the structural pattern in this series. Working automatically, each mark or color determines the next. Freed up from overthinking, I let colors blend and break up, lines form and fade. I use simple materials for which I have respect and wonderment, as I watch them play.
Muladhara took over a year to complete. As I worked, playground structures developed, and then strange rose petals or blood cells over them. Twisting, thorny vines grew through the soil. Very like our childhood memories and perfect for the root chakra, which is our foundation and our earthy, primal root of manifestation.
Even a subtle reminder of the complexity inherent in our very being–our birth, our ancestry, the foundation of “I” as we understand it–is enough to provoke a lifetime of inquiry.
In each mandala, I trust whatever arrises and I never plan. The above image is of the chakra in our solar plexus, close to the navel. It’s element is fire and color is yellow, and I wrote “will power” and “instinct” and “drive” to build the pattern. The layers blended like they had a mind of their own, however, and formed squiggles very similar to the intestines in our gut. And of course, that is our digestive fire–our metabolism. Often overlooked, but now thought to be our other brain, and known to house billions of organisms, it’s an entrance to the cosmos in our bellies.
Contemplate that while you work on your homework, kids…
Like the concept of fractals, the mandalas grow and expand from a simple pattern. Deceptively simple, because the pattern is made from something incredibly complex, abstract, and symbolic: written language. Each piece–with sometimes over a hundred layers–may be reduced or amplified, and yet still remains basically the same throughout.
The original paintings are large, so to appreciate the details you must get up close and personal, the way I do when I’m working on them. Surprising structures develop within the layers, and it’s no shock that some turn out looking rather sensual. The second chakra is our center of sexuality.
I can’t deny that my own inner state is inevitably and intimately recorded while working. Just look at how cluttered my own intuition felt while I was flowing with my Third Eye, in the image below. I used words like “protection” and “projection,” in an unconsciously defensive way, spiraling to release all the tension. Dark clouds obscure areas, but they all seem to be rotating outward with a lighthearted abundance of new information.
Honest, yet incredibly complex, a meditation on the Third Eye can both energize a space and provide pause for contemplation.
Like ourselves, and something as primal and unique as our own energy and drive, each piece can stand on its own…
…or be understood as a part, integral to the whole.
Whatever the finished product, the most rewarding part for me is the process of mandala making.