Finding Your Center

What if I told you there was a spot on Earth that marked the world’s center.  Would you want to go?

The axis mundi is known to be the world’s center point connecting sky and earth where all four directions meet.  There are actually many symbolic representations of this point including structures like lighthouses (no wonder I love them!) and natural formations like mountains.

I was lucky enough to encounter several of these on my recent trip to Italy.  One was at the Pantheon in Rome.  It has a concrete dome with a central opening (oculus) to the sky.  And what a view!  The height to the oculus measures the same as its diameter–142 ft.  And if you stand in the center underneath it and look up into the sky, you certainly feel connected to something higher.

Another axis mundi was seen on a hike in the Cinque Terre from Monterosso to Vernazza.  I couldn’t ignore the spot where the earth and especially the sea met the sky.  It was like I was staring at the edge of the world.  Or perhaps it was the center.  I could not tell, only that it was breathtaking.

A skyscraper can also serve as an axis mundi.  I just saw the movie The Walk about Philippe Petit’s walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.  I dare say he was experiencing a divine moment when he did that.

One of the greatest symbols of an axis mundi in literature, religion, and myth is the Cosmic Tree or Tree of Life.  Like all trees, this tree exists on three planes–heaven, earth, and underworld (where its roots are)–and symbolizes immortality.  It makes you look at trees just a little bit differently, doesn’t it?

I was also delighted to discover that the mandala represents an axis mundi.  No wonder they’re such a powerful tool for meditation and centering one’s self!

Even more mind-bending is the notion that the human body itself can serve as an axis mundi.  The Renaissance image of the Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci symbolizes the axis mundi.  Furthermore, many religions view the human body as a temple and prayer as a column from earth to heaven.  Do you see the connection?

Now, what if I told you the world’s center was right where you stand?  Strive to connect with heaven and earth in this moment.  Then you will find the center inside of you.

“At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.” –Lao Tzu

“I want you to be everything that’s you, deep at the center of your being.” –Confucius

 

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Meditating with Mandalas

As you know, my new favorite thing is working with mandalas.  I started out by coloring them as a way to meditate on a specific idea and person with the  intention of giving the finished piece as a gift to that person.  See my post here.

Today I want to share a new book that I recently purchased.  I found it at a local bookstore in Columbus…or rather, it found me 🙂

It’s beautifully illustrated and features various mandalas, differing in color and design, to help aid in meditation on a variety of topics.  Some of them are health related, like heart or fatigue.  Others are more meditative, like releasing stress and connecting to nature.

The key is to stare at the mandala for several minutes absorbing all the colors, symbols, and energy.  Then follow the guided meditation to its conclusion.

And the results?  You definitely feel better afterward!  And you feel more in control of your life.  We can’t always control what happens to us, but we can control how we respond to it.  You always have the power to transform yourself and your way of thinking!

 

Making Mandalas

 

I first heard about mandalas from one of my best friends.  It seemed like a great way to combine two of our favorite pastimes: art and meditation. A mandala is a unique and intricate symbol representing the universe.  The word means “circle” in Sanskrit.  The symbol is used in both Hinduism and Buddhism as a meditation tool as well as for other ritual and spiritual purposes.

The idea is to gain clarity and focus by coloring the design with a specific color pattern in mind.  You may want to work on one as a way to relax or to gain insight into a particular situation in your life.

You can find free mandala patterns online to print and color.

Recently, I met up with my neighbor for an artist day.  What began as a day of mosaic making turned into a day of coloring mandalas.  And it turns out it was just what my soul needed anyway.

This time, I bought a coloring book of nature mandalas by Creative Haven with artwork by Marty Noble.  I chose this one because I liked the idea that each page focuses on one element or animal in nature.  I decided that I would dedicate each page I color to someone in my life as a way of wishing them positive thoughts and healing energy.  After choosing my special person, I then decide which animal totem will represent them and reflect their experience.  It’s lots of fun!  I’m looking forward to presenting each page in person.  Of course, there is personal benefit as well.  You can even dedicate pages to yourself, if you like 🙂

There’s one ritual involving mandalas that I find particularly fascinating and in keeping with the spirit of meditation.  A group of Tibetan Buddhist monks create a giant mandala made of colored sand.  They spend countless hours making it, and then as soon as they finish it, they destroy it.  This is supposed to represent the transitory nature of life on earth.  It’s a great concept and goes along with my word for the year: change.

As an artist, I tend to have trouble letting go of anything I create.  In fact, in life, I tend to hold onto things as well!  One day perhaps I will be brave enough to destroy a piece of art after I create it, but for now, I think I’ll stick to coloring mandalas 😉

 

 

Sidenote:  It turns out labyrinths are also a type of mandala.  To learn more about labyrinths, check out my post here.