This week, our community was honored to host five monks for a week long mandala creation project. I had never heard of a mandala, but learned that it is a piece of artwork created by taking millions of grains of sand in various color and laying them out in geometric patterns creating a spiritual piece of artwork . Mandalas have been created for hundreds of years. The meticulous work takes days to create and it is thought that they create positive energy in the universe.
I was a bit skeptical at first but since I was asked to take photos of the opening ceremonies I decided to check it out. Listening to the guttural moans and chants coming out of these monks was mystifying, intriguing and enthralling! I cannot think of enough adjectives to describe it! The monks were from The Drepung Loseling Monastery in India.
The mandala is said to be a spiritual representation of the universe. Some say it gives energy and balance. The process took all week and I found myself checking into The Woodland, where it was being constructed, nearly every day this week to watch the process. I became truly riveted. Watching their steady hands as they drew the lines and spread the sand captivated me. I spent hours there just watching!
Throughout the week, yoga and meditation classes were held around the mandala. You could truly feel the energy! Believe me, I am a skeptic and truly didn’t think that was possible, but it was. Whether that energy was coming from the mandala itself, or the hundreds of people who came daily to watch the construction, it was there!
After the opening ceremonies, (which made me feel so spiritual even without understanding the language), they began drawing the lines. It was math, science and art all in one! I took hundreds of photos of their hands and the lines and none of them can do it justice. The chalk as it rose above the lines in a cloud as they laid the lines, the steadiness of their hands – those will have to stay in my memory.
As they began to lay the sand, the richness of the colors and the designs in each quadrant, were becoming more and more vivid. With each day that passed, it became more elaborate. The three dimensional effect was remarkable.
I decided to try some of the meditation classes that were offered. One was a guided mediation which I loved – again, going in skeptical and cynical but leaving inspired and rejuvenated. I also had the good fortune to be invited on an early morning walk through the reservations with the monks. I jumped at the chance and although the walk wasn’t long, watching their faces as they saw the New York City skyline and the faces enthusiasm of the few of us on the walk, I was once again energized. That spirit was truly in the air and whether it was “all in my head” or not, it gave me such a sense of peacefulness.
Yesterday, was the final day of the project. All of that hard work and beauty was swept into swirl of color. People were invited to take a small spoonful and the rest was carried in a procession and poured into the local brook. It is said that by doing this, they are releasing the energy of the mandala into the water, dispersing that energy into the universe sending blessings to all. Such a beautiful sentiment.
The entire project was filled with love, peace and kindness and for the entire week, it truly brought that to our community. I was so sad to see it end and was feeling a little disappointed after the ceremony. That is why last night, when I got a last minute invitation to have dessert with the monks as they visited the home of a friend, I happily accepted! These friends have beautiful antiques in their home, most of them from Asia and the monks seemed fascinated to see many of them. I didn’t get to speak much to them, again, the language barrier interfered, but I shook each one of their hands, we exchanged our names and smiles. Truly an amazing way to end the week.