I spent the final days of October last year in three days of solitude and silence atop Monteagle Mountain as I've done every Autumn since 2010. While there, I made the first of what would be many natural mandalas from materials I found while out walking.
When I returned home, I continued the practice each Sunday morning as a way of recreating, if only for a moment, the state of present moment awareness that is much harder to maintain as the realities of daily life press upon me. I photographed it, shared it on instagram and gave it the hashtag #sundaymorningmandala.
"A contemplative practice is any act, habitually entered into with your whole heart, as a way of awakening, deepening, and sustaining a contemplative experience of the inherent holiness of the present moment." James Finley, The Contemplative Heart
In the beginning, I had no idea how long I would keep it up and I'm honestly surprised to find myself sitting here reflecting on what this practice has become for me after a year. There are three reasons that I believe helped make this into a sustainable practice for me:
Building on an established habit.
I was able to weave my mandala making into the natural rhythm of my life by tying it to something I was already in the habit of doing (walking).
By limiting my practice to the one day of the week where I was not so rushed after my morning walk (Sunday), I made it easier to incorporate into my routine. The practice of present moment awareness extended throughout the week as I naturally became more attentive to the world around me as I noticed what might be available for the next mandala.
I also limited the amount of time I was willing to spend putting them together (generally a half hour or less). Some mandalas obviously took more time than others, but the point was to show up for it whether I was feeling creative or not, and to never become too "precious" about the end result.
Sharing it all.
Being willing to share the mandalas I liked as well as the ones that didn't seem all that special, forced me to release perfectionism and stay true to the intention of the practice. As people began to comment and even join in, I realized that the practice was not only doing some sort of work in me, but it was offering something to others as well. Even if that something is just a brief moment of reflection on the wonder and beauty of creation, I believe we need that more than we ever have right now. I've found great joy in knowing that others have been impacted positively by this simple offering, and that inspires me to continue sharing.
Midway through the year, when I thought I might actually to stick with it, I began building a slideshow to commemorate a year of practice. In the process of editing, I've relived these individual moments many times. As I viewed the progression of images, memories that might have otherwise been forgotten were recovered, revealing the movement of God in my life this past year.
I hope you enjoy this reflection and that you might be inspired to try it for yourself.