Today I made a mandala garden. My son outgrew his swingset, so we got rid of it and I had a nice empty 10 x 13 enclosed space with a gigantic hemlock tree in one corner. I cleared it out and started putting stuff in it – a lawn chair for reading, two metal café chairs, a bust of a Greek Goddess, a Chinese pillar, a little cement rabbit, a plastic owl, and two angels on sticks. This was on one side of the space. On the other was a little sculpture of tree branches and composting leaves. I just randomly placed things from the house and other garden areas around the space. Later, when the weather improves, I’ll decide what plants to put in. When I finished, I realized I had made a mandala from my garden. The space isn’t round, but it is full of things of symbolic value placed in the four directions and elsewhere in ways that spoke of my relationship to them.
Mostly the term “mandala garden” means a round garden with a specific design. Other mandala gardens are very formal and meant to be symbolic and meant for meditative practice. When I draw mandalas, I make a circle and then just start creating with lines, shapes and color and figure out what it all means later. I have created my mandala garden the same way. No one will mistake it for a formal garden or even one that is well-planned.
I plan to continue to create my mandala garden over time – adding things that are meaningful, taking away what is no longer reflective of me, moving things as their importance in my life or relationship to one another changes. When the weather is warm enough for me to sit in my mandala garden for any length of time, I will do that and contemplate what I have put in and why I placed it where I did. Just as with my drawn mandalas, I will no doubt learn something about myself, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. I’ll gain some new metaphors for my life. However, unlike with the drawn mandalas, where I can only look at them from above, with my garden mandala, I can participate from the perspective of being inside it (though, interestingly, my lawn chair, the symbol of my Self since that is where I will be sitting, is off to one corner, though under the big mama tree).
You can make a mandala garden anywhere – in a large new space, in a corner of an existing garden, even in a container if you want. You can make one or as many as you want and remake them often. You could even make this your Spring Equinox celebration if you are choosing to celebrate alone (or even if you are with friends!).
~ Carolyn Lee Boyd