Tibetan Inspired Community Art: Mandalas, Talismans and Prayer Flags
Tibetan Inspired Community Art
For our 20th anniversary exhibition, Circles of Life: Making Art, Creating Communities of Hope, I wanted to pay tribute to the Tibetan Culture, as they had influenced the design of my creativity practices for at least 15 years. Curious why Tibet? Read our earlier post – Travel Inspiration: Stumbling Across the Tibetan Sacred Arts in India.
I created three fun, easy-going, hands-on Tibetan inspired art activities for all ages. When visitors came to see our exhibition, they were invited to make something that would become part of something larger. We were creating public art. Our signage throughout the exhibit urged everyone to simply play, unwind and have fun.
In light of our community’s suffering from the “100 year floods“, these participatory art as healing practices reached a much larger population than we anticipated. All walks of life, all ages, all races came together to witness and be a part of our Circles of Life.
Add a stroke of color and become part of creating our Mindful Chalk Mandala
Wrap a stone with beautiful thread to contribute to our sacred sculpture of Kuan Yin, Goddess of Compassion, by creating a visual offering, a Talisman of Healing
Add to our Prayer Flags of Hope by writing their your own personal blessing or prayerful intention on a small paper flag
Mandala, the Sanskrit word for circle, is an archetypal symbol of balance, wholeness and unity. They have been created for centuries as meditational symbols that when contemplated, lead to self-awareness, insight and peace. Think of stained-glass, rose windows in cathedrals, moon gazing, Sufi dancers, and Buddhist sand painting.
Creating mandalas is an ancient practice we have revamped for new times, our time. The goal of our mandala-making is not an intellectual path but a journey that trusts and supports a willingness to open into the playful intuitive mystery of the creative process.
Guests of our exhibition were invited to add to our Community Mandala of Hope and Healing. Everyone selected a piece of chalk, placed their hand within the large circle, and traced its outline.
“Now have fun and fill your hand with lines, patterns, using as many colors as you desire. Use the surrounding ones as inspiration. You are leaving your mark, your joy, your energy of hope and healing within this circle to be joined by others. At the end of your visit, consider taking a “selfie” or “groupie” in front of our collaborative mandala and post it on FaceBook tagging Healing Icons.”
At the end of everyday, I would photograph these incredibly intricate community mandalas and then erase them. The Tibetan Buddhist principals of non-attachment and the impermanence of life continues to echo through all of our practices.
Talismans of Healing
Talismans and amulets are simply physical objects that are believed to have powers to cause good things to happen. They are tangible symbols that focus our thoughts on a specific idea or intention. Think good luck four-leaf clovers or horseshoes for protection. For the ancient Egyptians it was the Eye of Horus, for Christians it’s the cross. All cultures and spiritual traditions have them and we are inspired by them all but especially the ones of Tibet.
Whether these physical symbols are to protect, to empower, to calm, to bless, to bring good fortune, peace or serenity, they are amplifiers, helping lead us into the power of mindfulness, and closer towards harmony, quietude and tranquility.
When I was in India many moons ago at the Menri Monastery, I was captivated by the practice of making talismans. Herbs and seeds, each one holding a specific power and energy, were harvested from the surrounding fields and laid out to bask under the warmth of the sun. When dried, several monks would gather and begin the process of creating prayer bundles, or amulets. As the herb and seeds were placed within a piece of cloth, the chanting of a specific mantra began as the fabric was rolled and tied into a bundle.
Guests to our exhibition were invited to create their own Talisman of Hope and Healing. I had created a mixed media found object sculpture of Kwan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy and Compassion and she seemed like the perfect focus for our Talisman “offerings.”
Blessings sent out into the world with each and every breeze, silent prayers of compassion and healing spoken on the breath of nature bringing good will to all beings.
For over 2,000 years Tibetan Buddhists have created prayer flags to honor their spiritual traditions. They have hung the flags over mountain passes and rivers to benefit all who would pass underneath, as well as outside their homes and in places of spiritual worship.
Every flag holds holy spiritual symbols and prayers. The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life’s changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.
Again on my many moons ago Indian journey, every time I passed by a gathering of prayer flags my whole body felt a deep spiritual connection. I adored every aspect of these colorful flags and wanted to give our community a chance to experience the wonderfulness of this spiritual practice.
So not only did our students create prayer flags for this exhibition but we hung them throughout the exhibition.
We invited our guests to create a prayer flag of their own and add to to our Community Prayer Flags of Hope and healing.
If you participated in our community art creations, please share some of your thoughts about your experience.
What a beautiful experience it was to see the monks create the sand mandala. I had the emotions of wonder as I saw the completed work, so precise and exact. I loved it, then I watched the Monks began to brush it away! I learned what non-attachment and impermanence means. Life is not permanent and the “things” in our life…. Lots to learn yet, each day something new. I enjoyed the blogs.
Selena, what a wonderful ride we have had on this creative journey. Thank you for your open-heartedness and willingness to stretch your soulful yearnings.
It was amazing to have my artwork on display and to realize how truly far I had come from my cancer experience and the subsequent diagnosis and death of my husband all within a three year span. Heidi Darr-Hope’s Healing Icons was a major influence in my recovery and in moving my life beyond cancer.
Each class made me feel more comfortable as I interacted with others and discovered my strength as my writings and artwork made me look inward. I’ll always be grateful for Healing Icons!
You have had an amazing journey and your open-heart has helped heal many other survivors. Your courage and strength in telling your story through your artful creations has inspired so many. Thank you for all you have done and continue to do.