the mandala as interface

by David Rankine

Recently while leading a workshop on mandalas I had to compress what normally takes 2-3 hrs into a 1 hour format. I needed to sum up the experience of the mandala quickly. When presenting a lecture on the mandala or leading mandala workshops, perhaps for me, the hardest thing is finding an all-encompassing metaphor that will describe just what a mandala really is. I am never content to call it a “meditative tool” – although THAT is one of it’s purposes, but the mystic in me needs to couch it in terms that speak on many levels at once.

At the same time, I know that when presenting something as unfamiliar as the Mandala to people, it is important to use language that is non-threatening and familiar. Personal computers have become a large part of our lives and the language of the computer has penetrated to all levels of our culture. “Interface” is one of those oft-used computer terms and it is one that is fitting when discussing the Mandala.

In this same workshop I referred to the Mandala as an “interface” between conscious and subconscious mind or between Self and the outside world. “Portal” is another term I used to support this analogy. The act of drawing the mandala opens the portal and allows the “interface” to occur. Interface is a good term because it can be used as a noun or a verb and the Mandala is exactly that- it is the process (action) and the thing (or object) through which we see a different reality – a different view of Self.

This is where the Mandala enters into the “Quantum Zone” – it is action and object, container and contained material. It is the action by which we draw out new elements of reality and it is also the evidence of that process. In essence it’s lines, colours and forms create a new reality and expunge old ones. The Mandala IS “creative destruction”. It destroys the old and provides the new. The creation of a mandala is evidence that we DO create our own reality second by second.

The mystic in me though, does not sit comfortably with the Mandala as object – the mandala as “pretty picture” (although they ALWAYS are beautiful). For me, a mandala is an ACTION – a process, and behind every action is an intent. So … really, the Mandala is pure INTENT. Intentions are thoughts, therefore a Mandala is a THOUGHT. When we spin it out in the other direction, all we do that is creative – paint, dance, sing, write and yes THINK – is a Mandala. We stand at the centre point- as Self and the circle around us is our ever expanding consciousness and also the expression of Self.

In a graphic mandala (the most familiar form) the lines, colours and forms are the graphic evidence of a deeper universal language – EMOTION. Indeed much of the research into the Quantun World has indicated that emotion is the way in which we communicate with that world. It is the way we communicate with Self too and how we best communicate with others.

So, if emotion is the language we are speaking, then the Mandala really occurs when we say to ourselves ” I will speak of emotions and with emotion”. The mandala is the intent and as soon it is thought- thus it is so! It is now the portal, the interface through which WE flow and communicate using the language of emotion to do so.

“Hold on!” you may say. ” What happened to that beautiful graphic mandala I just created? Is it not the Mandala?”. It is and it is not. The intent is the Mandala, the source and the opening of the interface. It is the willingness to open it that is the Mandala, while the opening of it – the act of creating it is also the Mandala. The image is the evidence of that flow and communication. The thoughts behind the flow are the Mandala. The flow is the Mandala. The change in consciousness and resulting increase in awareness is the Mandala! I know – it is all a paradox – wheels within wheels and worlds within worlds.

It helps if we think of the Mandala (in whatever form it takes- as thought, graphic image, sound etc) as a “shimmering window” – a plate of glass that we do not really see – it is like the air between where we are and what we are looking at -where we are now and what we are becoming. So, I guess it is another way of saying – do not get hung up on the image, or the Mandala as object- consider it the window- the open space that WE open ourselves simply by intending to do so. It IS the shimmering window, once done, easily forgotten as what we really become aware of is how we have changed in that process and THAT is all that we need – the experience and the transformation, the increase in awareness and the expansion of consciousness- the awareness of ourselves as ever changing divine beings.

by David Rankine
See his art and find some of his music at
Article copyright © David Rankine.

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