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Build your own mandala to better understand its structure and function. You can follow a traditional model or let your imagination run free.

Step 1: Gather your materials. Your mandala could be two-dimensional (using paints, markers, photographs, collage, etc.) or three-dimensional (using cardboard, paper, metal, found objects, cherished mementos or souvenirs with personal resonance, etc.). It could even be virtual if you use a computer program or app.

Step 2: Mandalas can be all shapes””square, circular, triangular””and elevations. Determine the shapes and number of layers of your mandala to create your foundation.

Step 3: What ideal do you aspire to? Place something to represent that ideal in the center of the mandala. It could represent someone””Christ, Martin Luther King, Ruth Bader Ginsburg””or something you believe is essential for a peaceful future and coexistence, like a healthy environment or equal rights.

Step 4: What obstacles stand in the way on the path to your center? Perhaps it is anger, envy, resentment, or insecurity. In Tibetan mandalas guardians prevent these obstacles from entering the gates. How could you overcome your hurdles? Use written texts, symbols, drawings, or objects to represent your obstacles and the means to overcome them and place them at the gates of the mandala.

About the Contributor

Martin Brauen, PhD, is a cultural anthropologist, curator, and author. From 2008 to 2011 he was chief curator at the Rubin Museum. Since his retirement he has independently curated several exhibitions, including Bill Viola: Passions at the Cathedral of Bern and The Cosmos at the Museum Rietberg, Zurich, and he recently published A Sameness Between Us: The Friendship of Charmion von Wiegand and Piet Mondrian in Letters and Memoirs.

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