The Art of the Mandala

Healing meditations inspired by the garden.

By Heather Rodale

Photography by Christa Neu


mandala means circle in SanskritOnce when I was working on a mandala of colored stones, my 3-year-old granddaughter asked to join in. At first, she just admired the shapes and colors, but then she began to make a design, singing to herself. It was a comforting sound—to her and to me—her version of a lullaby inspired by the concentration of creating the mandala.

To make a mandala, gather objects such as stones, shells, pinecones, beach glass: anything that captures your imagination. On a flat surface, begin in the middle, arranging pieces to form the center. Sometimes I measure for symmetry, but often I just go with the flow. Continue building outward with items of different sizes and shapes. Create mandalas along themes, such as nuts or stones, or combine different materials in the same mandala.

I did not glue down my first mandalas. Glue is needed for tiny items or mandalas you want to preserve.

Once you're aware of mandalas, you'll see them everywhere.Garden Mandalas

Nature is the ultimate mandala maker. Once you start looking, it doesn't take long to notice the patterns in natural things:

  • Flowers, such as passionflower, sunflower, daisy, rose, chrysanthemum
  • Dandelions in all stages from bud to seeds
  • Concentric ripples of water
  • Spiderwebs
  • A bird's nest
  • A succulent plant viewed from above
  • The underside of a mushroom