On Mandalas

By Rose Amodeo Petronella

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The mandala is a circular design which represents wholeness, the Universe or the Self.  It has been used as a symbol for prayer, healing and enlightenment since ancient times, in spiritual and cultural traditions around the world. Navajo sacred healing rituals, Buddhist sand mandalas for peace, Hindu mandalas drawn to center a woman for the day, and labyrinths walked by Christian pilgrims for insight are some of the ways mandalas have been used throughout history.

Carl Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist, pioneered the use of the mandala to explore the unconscious aspects of his own and his patients’ lives. He wrote, “I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, a mandala, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. With the help of these drawings I could observe my psychic transformations from day to day.” He concluded that the mandala is a universal archetype, a guide that taps into the unconscious, leading a person along the path toward wholeness.

It is in this sense that I began drawing mandalas in 2001. During a stressful time of transition in my life, I followed the suggestion to “draw my feelings” each day. Having had no formal art training, I traced around a dinner plate and drew my feelings intuitively, without thinking what the outcome should be. Instead of choosing a color intentionally, I let colors “choose me.” When I contemplated what then appeared on paper, I allowed the image to connect with events in my inner and outer life. I noticed that, over time, I gained insight into my life circumstances; I became more aware of my feelings by naming them; and I learned to be less judgmental, more accepting and more trusting of my inner process.

Over the years, this habit of “drawing my feelings” became a prayer practice, which continues to the present. I journal to get in touch with my inner state, identify current challenges, pray about them, create the mandala and conclude by writing the prayer around the image. This prayer often stays with me throughout the day.

Rose Amodeo Petronellad, a spiritual director, artist and retired minister in the United Church of Christ, will be showing a selection of her mandalas and other works in the Mary C. Daly RSM Art Gallery beginning June 1. A reception where you can meet the artist, view the artwork and enjoy refreshments will be held on Sunday, June 2, from 2-4 p.m. 

In addition to her artistic work, Rose recently published Honoring the Soul: Mandalas for Inspiration and Insight, available at lulu.com.  She grew up in Rocky Hill, Connecticut, and lives in Middletown, Connecticut with her husband.