Art as a Healing Tool (Mandalas as Medicinal Wheels)
Carl G. Jung introduced some of the striking medicinal properties of art and creativity to the West.
The different healing properties of art have been proposed by various disciplines in the fields of traditional medicine, philosophy and psychoanalysis. Doctors have been testing, for instance, how decorative paintings in hospital walls may affect a patient’s health, while some philosophers allude to the “consolation of art” as provider of nurture and comfort (unlike entertainment). But one of the most interesting, and perhaps the axis of these theories, is Jung’s hypothesis concerning the medicinal properties of the mandala.
Jung suggested that paying attention to the symbols of the unconscious accelerated personal growth; a sort of revolution that sprouts form the creation of spherical figures. The mandala, which in Sanskrit means “center”, is one of the most represented archetypes in the history of humankind (think of the Aztec calendar in Mexico or the Chinese Ying-Yang). Its form reflects, in the words of the Swiss, the wholeness of being; a conjecture that makes absolute sense if we conceive our self as a geometrical figure with a center and circumference.
In this sacred figure everything is related to its center —to the mandala—, the figurative origin from which we emerge. And since we all want to accomplish our “mission” in life, or, in other words, be all that we can be, observing the center of our personality can be an extremely powerful healing technique.
Jung proposed that we should not only look at mandalas and follow their lines with our gaze —like someone who is lost in a maze searching for the center—, but we should also create mandalas to learn more about ourselves; to strengthen the process of healing diseases or anxieties. When he started to draw circles, he noticed a correspondence between them and his overall situation: his feelings, impressions and thoughts. Thus, by making and observing them, he realized mandalas were therapeutic.
Sometimes, by only thinking of a mandala we feel a slight tranquility, a consolation; as if we were innately and tangibly attracted to these symbols, possible ambassadors of our unconscious. And if there is a point wherein we can submerge ourselves with the purpose of healing, that place could well be, precisely, the medicinal wheel.
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