Friday, December 17, 2010

Enjoy the Process

In a perfect example of synchronicity, I recently had the privilege of watching Tibetan Monks from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in India conduct the opening ceremonies and initial chalk drawing of a sand mandala. I didn't really know that much about mandalas before that, other than that they were works of art with some spiritual meaning behind them. I was aware you could take classes to learn how to make your own, but I never really investigated it. Intrigued as I am by new things, different cultures, and various interpretations of personal spirituality, I was drawn to this event hosted a few weeks ago by one of our local technical colleges.

For those of you who are not familiar with sand mandalas, they are intricate colored sand "paintings" that take hours or even days to create. After they are finished, the sands are swept up by the Buddhist monks and placed in an urn. Some of that sand is given to those watching the closing ceremony and the rest is released into a nearby water body. The waters then carry the healing blessing to the ocean, and from there it spreads throughout the world for planetary healing. There are a number of videos on You Tube showing this process, including this one of the same Tibetan monks that I saw at Fox Valley Technical College. (photos courtesy of FVTC)

Going back to Chapter 2 of The Artist Way, I pondered what I would write my blog entry about. This chapter didn't speak to me as much as many of the others (I've read ahead!) and I struggled to find a good theme. However, after re-browsing the chapter I noticed that I had made a mark next to one paragraph, "You will learn to enjoy the process of being a creative channel and to surrender your need to control the result. You will discover the joy of practicing your creativity. The process, not the product, will become the final result." The Tibetan monk sand mandala immediately popped into my mind. Mandalas are a PERFECT example of this principle. The Tibetan monks have had to train their minds to concentrate on and to enjoy the process of making their artistic masterpieces, because as soon as they are completed, they are destroyed. This is meant to symbolically represent the impermanence of life.

How many of us are so goal-oriented that we fail to enjoy the process of learning and creating?We want to be perfect artists immediately. We expect our first attempts to be masterpieces. Maybe we shouldn't place unrealistic expectations on our finished products. Goodness knows many of us are so paralyzed by the prospect of the finished product and what is going to become of it that we never even start it in the first place. We need to learn to play, to experiment, to practice and to appreciate the moment, and not focus on the goal line. Do you think these Tibetan monks will look back and say their life was wasted because all they did was make art with no permanence? I think not. We can learn a lot from them.

More about synchronicity in a future post...

****For those of you who make jewelry, here's a really cool demonstration by Camille Sharon on how to make a wire mandala that can be manipulated into different forms.*****


  1. This is a great post. And thanks for the link with wire Mandala by Camille. I had retweet it. It was so worth it!

    Your post reminded me of something called alpana- it is a welcome design my native folks (from India) do at their door step. Once I met a rural lady who showed me how to do it with rice paste. She spent the whole morning to do it and then at the end of the day when it was blown away, rubbed away by natural foot steps of people, I was shocked that such art work was wasted like this. The lady did not have any problem with that. That is their way of life.

  2. Thanks for sharing another culture's example of sand and/or rice painting! I encourage everyone to look up images of alpanas and mandalas. Maybe it will inspire something in your art?