Fall in North Salem is perfect for creating this meditative art form

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Mandala art made with natural elements

The color palette that frames the rural roads of North Salem invites us to engage with the beauty of the season. With several school holidays in November and fall programming coming to a close, now is the perfect time to accept nature’s invitation. Creating a nature-based mandala during a walk in your neighborhood or on a longer hike through one of the many North Salem Open Land trails offers a meditative practice that can connect you to autumn’s richness.

Halmi Preserve’s soft-sloped trail paves the way for a gentle walk through a vibrant forest.

Meaning “circle” in Sanskrit, mandalas were introduced by Buddhist monks as an artful practice organizing around a central item with outward circles of similar patterns or elements ensconcing the grounding core.  It evokes feelings of order and peace within the symmetry of life and offers the opportunity to connect to the center of one’s own being.  Mandalas are increasingly being used by art therapists as a tool for supporting mental health including mandala coloring which can be an “effective stress management tool for young adults and adults with intellectual disabilities” (Lamkin). The simple yet profound practice of nature-based mandala art connects people of all ages to the elements of the natural world while creating a meditative piece with nature. 

Bright green leaves wrap around the central focal piece of the mandala.

To build your own nature-based mandala, explore your neighborhood or wooded trails, such as Halmi, Gaymark, or Bloomerside Preserves to search for materials to create with. Children who may otherwise be resistant to nature walks will enjoy this activity as they are encouraged to collect rocks, acorns, leaves, or pine cones during the hike. Bring a small bucket or bag to fill with items along the trail that draw your interest. Collect at least 8-10 pieces of each to use in your mandala. Additionally, search for one central piece that speaks to you. Being respectful of the environment, choose items that have already fallen and lay on the ground, such as seed casings, leaves, pine needles, and acorns. With the carpet of fallen leaves, it may be necessary to hunt for items by gently pushing the leaves to the side around the base of a tree.

A Reflective Meditation

As you journey through the trail, take the opportunity to connect to the offerings that the natural world provides in preparation for the approaching harsh winter days. Find grounding by feeling the strength of the earth below your feet. Reflect as the world learns to let go of what is no longer needed, and be surrounded by the beauty of this release.

The process of building a mandala

After taking your collective walk, sort your items into categories of similar objects, textures, and colors. Find an area along the trail that doesn’t block the path but allows you enough space to use as a canvas. Start by choosing the item that will be the core of your mandala. Place it on the earth, making sure there is enough space to add additional rings. Create a ring around your centering piece using one element at a time. The mandala will continue to radiate outward as each concentric circle grows larger with added elemental rings. Include as many pieces as you choose, creating patterns, symmetry, and textural rounds. Once you have decided your piece is complete, take a picture of your masterpiece so you can revisit and reflect on its presence.

As additional rings are added, the mandala radiates energy outward while remaining grounded in its central element.

Over time, the winds and rains of the season along with the community of animals will scatter the natural mandala, signifying that nothing is permanent. Incorporating this concept of “impermanence,” mandalas offer the peace of renewal; all things begin again. There is grounding to be found as the elements return once again to the forest floor. Reflecting on the season that surrounds us, this sentiment supports that there can be comfort in letting go in order to begin again. If you accept autumn’s invitation to form a nature-based mandala, we welcome you to share pictures of your creation with North Salem Post by tagging your photo on Instagram or Facebook with @northsalempost. For more information on how to design mandala art at home, click here.

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