MANDALA - Creativity tool for insight and healing
Lukasz Krzywon speaks with Patricia Fitzgerald from the Healing Creations about the process of working with the mandala
You have made a mandala your career. How did you come across the mandala in your life?
I was a librarian for twenty seven years. I had always wanted to be an artist when I was younger but was told to get a proper job. So I did. I put myself through art college at night, but didn't really enjoy it and it seemed to stifle my creativity. I found a ‘proper’ job as a librarian and was awarded a scholarship to complete a degree in philosophy and sociology. In 2012, my whole life fell apart; I divorced, and was selling my home and so everything I knew was now up in the air. At that time I began to experience a huge amount of synchronicity. Ridiculous amounts of synchronicity. I began researching the concept of coincidence or as Carl Jung coined it, synchronicity. I went down the route of science, looking at quantum mechanics, and ideas such as Einstein's spooky action at a distance theory. It was then that I came across the work of Carl Jung on synchronicity.
I think that during my life crisis, my creativity was wanting to bubble up, and I began writing a novel at that time. As a librarian, that seemed the natural route. During the summer of 2013, I brought my young daughter to Malta. She was only seven years old. She kept asking me for this little toy that you play with it that was being sold at a stall on the beachfront. I bought it for her. It was a three dimensional wire mandala that you twist to represent the planets.. I found that I kept playing with it myself; that it was something I was very drawn to. So I decided I'd have the character in the book I was writing, play with the wire mandala as a character trait. I Googled mandala and the first thing that came up was the fact that Carl Jung had drawn them in the Red Book, and there was me reading Jung's work on synchronicity! I was having synchronicity with the father of synchronicity! So I said, “Okay, I'll follow the synchronistic breadcrumbs.” I drew my first mandala in my little journal. I found it so relaxing. I began to draw them every day that year. I would come home from work, turn off the TV light, a candle and draw. Meditation came very naturally with it. I had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t until much later and after much research that I realised I tapped into something very ancient, archetypal, and healing. And I've never stopped doing it. The synchronicities have led me all the way on this magical journey.
Mandala has been featured in many cultures across the world. Are you inspired by a particular culture or tradition?
No, I work very intuitively. I think sometimes when you look at Sacred Geometry, you think you should do it this way, and this is the only way to do it. I tend to work with this very intuitively, starting with the centre point, and working outwards, I very rarely know what I am going to create. I let it lead me. I work from my heart rather than from my head, though of course the brain kicks in wanting to go a certain direction. I allow ‘mistakes’ to lead me, for example, if I dip my paint brush in the wrong colour, I'll go with it rather than fight against it. It often feels like I create with an energy that's greater than myself.
This touches on my next question. Can you tell us a little bit more about your creative process? Where do you draw inspiration from? And how do you know you are finished with your piece?
Most of the time I work very intuitively with geometry. And if you look at my earlier work, it was much more geometric and I would have worked on paper, so a lot of geometry and intuitive geometry. Sometimes I'd work with specific sacred geometries like Metatron’s Cube or The Squaring of the Circle. And I think that process brought me to a deeper state of consciousness. I began to have huge amounts of dreams, amazing dreams, very archetypal dreams. I then began to work with the dreams and have done work with a woman in British Columbia, in Canada called Tokopa Turner, author of the book "Belonging: Remembering Yourself Home", and it's wonderful. The dream work I have done with her has been a very powerful experience. I would often bring elements from the dreams into the mandala and sometimes the mandala will come through the dreams. So it's almost a circular process. It's like the veil between these worlds is very thin, if that makes sense. The painting is finished when I feel it is finished. It’s an inner knowing. Certainly the creative practice of mandala has connected me more to my gut instinct.
Wherever you go now, every newsagent, bookshop, art shop offers some designs and ideas for creating mandalas. It became something of a mainstream phenomenon. But I still often get this question from people “What is a Mandala" as people still confuse the word with the famous name. So it's still quite a novelty as a word as a concept in our culture. So what does the mandala mean for you?
For me, it is a container. It's like a container of essence, of spirit. The earliest known usage of the word is from the Vedic scriptures. And it was actually a chapter of chants. So it's coming from sound. I feel sound is very related to it. And if you tried sound healing, you would feel the resonance. If you look up cymatics, cymatic frequencies, and the science of cymatics, you can see how sound becomes visual. We also talk about mantras in sound healing, when people recite mantras. The visualization of the mantra is called the Yantra. And certain yantras are particular sacred sounds. I think that when we're creating our own intuitive mandala, it's almost our own sacred sound, it's our own connection to the universal domain, at that particular moment in time, if time exists.
I like the word container. I think that that is the essence of this for myself as well, when working with mandala. As I said before, mandala became something of a mainstream phenomenon, and a lot of people will just be colouring mandala these days. It's a very trendy thing to do. But would you say, is that it? Or is there a way of working with a mandala that is making it more than just doodling or colouring?
I think it comes to you in the way that you're ready for. Does that make sense? It can be anything from colouring one of those colouring books, where it's simply a matter of taking some time out and you're just relaxing. It will take you to the point that you're ready for at that particular time. That's my experience in working with people and working myself with it. It almost has an intelligence all of its own, that it will take you to where you're ready to go for your next part of your healing. So the initial colouring is obviously balancing both sides of the brain, the creative and the mathematical. It's like giving the "monkey mind" a banana. So it's giving us something to do so that your thought process can begin to clear and slowly you start to move into different levels of performance, like in a video game. As you practice more and more, the deeper you go.
I think we're touching here on the mindfulness side of mandala. Is there any practical exercise you recommend when working on a mandala? Let's say when you're working with people?
I encourage people to be very intentional about what they are creating and to come at it from a place of intention, reverence and healing. So letting being yourself be open to insights about yourself. Often things can come up for people during the process. Maybe a person will be worried that they're going to run out of certain colours. So looking at that at a deeper level, using the mandala as though it is a little mirror of the psyche. Psyche is the Greek word for soul. So let's say you're worried about running out of a colour, the idea would be to close your eyes, feel into the body, and connect back into the self. Then asking yourself if there is somewhere in your life you are worried about running out of something? Perhaps you're worried about running out of money or time or love? Other people might be looking around the room and saying "Oh my God, everybody else is better than me. My work is rubbish. I'm rubbish. I'm always rubbish blah blah blah...". This voice, the inner critic, it's kind of a demon on our shoulders really. I suppose the practice is to exorcise these demons, coming at the work from a place of love, and without judgment of the self, knowing that we all have these energies and voices within us that hold us back from achieving our true potential. I think that's what the mandala is. And it'll take you deeper and deeper levels. I don't know if it ever ends. Maybe it does. It's a wonderful process, but not an easy process. It's not for the faint-hearted, it is courageous work.
This actually ties in with the next question I had ready for you here. How do you connect the creative process with the kind of inner experience of gaining insight into your own psyche? I think you answered that pretty well. So is that the healing aspect of your work?
It is almost something more than that. Something there are no words for. You probably have experienced that yourself, Lukasz. Sometimes there are no words, It is like you feel a connection with something numinous, with something bigger, a spiritual connection regardless of your religion or none.
For me, it has also certainly brought back a childlike wonder at the world. My world had become a bland over the twenty five years of working in the system, where you're just plodding along, doing the mundane tasks of quotidian living. Mandala practice has given me back the wonder. Even when I'm cooking dinner and chopping the vegetables and I'm looking at the fruit or vegetables and saying "Oh, my God, look at the geometry of this one.". When we practice, we begin to see these intelligent geometries everywhere, and the childlike wonder within you is woken up again! And that is a gift. For most of us, that childlike wonder has been educated out of us. Our education system does that to us, unfortunately. So it is very empowering to rediscover this aspect of self and the connection to all that is.
Each time you go through these layers of healing the psyche, you are empowering yourself. So it's not about healing people that come to my class, I'm not healing them. I'm encouraging them to access their own inner healer, their own inner wisdom and their own self-empowerment. You can certainly see in the culture at the moment, we often give our power and inner wisdom away to ‘experts’ who tell us what to think, what to feel, what's good for us, and what's bad for us. Many of us have stopped listening to our own selves, our own inner wisdom. And I think we can restore that self-empowerment through mandala practice and meditation. You can also access it through dream work. Your dreams hold such wisdom and insight! Lots of different modalities can help bring your back to yourself; to trusting yourself, your gut and your inner knowing. I believe that work is extraordinarily important right now.
Patricia Fitzgerald is a visual artist located in Dublin, Ireland. Her main focus is on the art of Mandala and the power of mandala as a tool for the expansion of consciousness. Her internationally selling work has been exhibited extensively in Ireland. As well as creating stunningly detailed mandalas, she also hosts online workshops. (And will return to hosting physical workshops when the current situation has passed.) Her studio is located in the beautiful old Craft Courtyard at Marlay Park, Rathfarnham, Dublin.
Patricia studied Visual Education and Communication at Dun Laoghaire College of Art & Design (IADT) and also holds a first class honours degree in Philosophy and Sociology from University College, Dublin where she was awarded a post graduate scholarship.
Her first book Healing Creations: Discover your mindful self through mandala colouring and journaling (Collins Press 2016) contains forty hand drawn mandalas for you to engage with, positive quotations and wisdom from many of the world's best thinkers plus meditation. It is available in all good bookstores in Ireland and globally on Amazon. Her second book 'Who Would You Be If..." is a personal development guide for women and was published by Red Stag Books in November 2018. You can see more about her work at www.healingcreations.ie