I had only been very peripherally aware of mandalas until recently. For most of my adult life, all I knew about them was that they were some sort of spiritual symbol/activity, that monks were sometimes involved in their creation, and that nowadays some people enjoy coloring pre-drawn mandalas.

This was before I was invited to a mandala workshop two weekends ago. Led by two Filipino artists, the workshop taught us about the meaning behind mandalas, and how to create our own. I wanted to share with you some nuggets about the process of basic mandala creation.

A mandala (meaning "circle" in Sanskrit) is a symbol or meditative art form traditionally used in a spiritual or religious context, to represent the universe. The most basic form of a mandala is a square, with four gates on each side, containing a circle that converges at a center point. As you move towards the center of the mandala, you enter the "essence" of the universe. There are many examples of the mandala in the world today - the Forbidden City in Beijing is one example, as is Angkor Wat in Siem Reap.