It was a cloudy, rainy, ‘miserable’ day. We were both cold. We were both tired. Some fresh air, it was agreed, could be helpful. It was difficult to summon the motivation, but we made it to the nearest beach for a quick walk along the seafront from the car. Having made it to the end of the short seafront, both still tired and eager to retreat back to the car, we turned around. For a brief change of scene, we walked back over the sand rather than the promenade. This brought an automatic mindfulness, staring down at the sand as we passed over it.
Among the fronds of seaweed and broken shells we found some sea glass. Stopping to brush off the sand to inspect more closely, I couldn’t help but draw a line in the sand with it afterwards; a childhood habit that seems to have become instinct! That’s when I had the idea – let’s make some mandalas.
Mandalas are a traditional Buddhist ritual, also appearing in Hindu and Jainism. The word itself means ‘circle.’ They serve two purposes; either a visual representation of the universe or a guide for meditation, and they can be constructed in two ways; either painted on wood/fabric/walls or made out of a temporary material such as sand. The temporary mandalas take weeks to make, and once finished are ceremoniously destroyed, and the sand/stone filings are released back to nature via a river or similar.
We were using them in the second ways above – as a meditation aid, making them out of sand - an impermanent structure, deliberately made and tended to which will then be destroyed. This last aspect of the creation is traditionally there to remind of the impermanent nature of everything in life. The making of the mandala is for the experience there and then, not for a prized creation to hold on to at the end.
Our versions of mandalas in the sand were much less sophisticated than the traditional, being crudely drawn/carved by pebbles. Stopping only to make the one, we soon became engrossed in creating them, not leaving until after six. Having discussed it afterwards, we had both found the same thing; being present in the moment and absorbed by the activity, we were no longer thinking of the cold and our tiredness, nor our previous want to return to rest in the warm.
In conclusion, it’s definitely something both of us would do again when trying to fight the urge to stay inside. Living in a coastal town, it’s easy enough to walk (or drive if necessary) a short distance to stare at the sea for a moment. However, if once there we are able to have a go at a mandala – even just start one - we both know it will be beneficial, both in keeping us outside in nature and in creating inner space in our minds for a while.