Visual Journal Prompt: Jung’s Mandalas

I’m a big fan of mixed media journalling. My inner child has a heyday when I get a new blank journal. When I have a really good one on the go, those pages are where I want to be. There’s something about pulling together images from a bunch of different sources that makes for a more all-encompassing “experience” in a journal that makes me want to return to mine over and over again. It’s a satisfying satisfying form of self expression and an interesting opportunity for a deeper-look.

In general when it comes to journal practices, I like to keep it focused. The way I see it, journalling at it’s core is about reinforcing an intention. The more focused I am in my intention, the higher return on my investment I get from my time. Up until now though, the work I’ve done in visual journals have been more or less decidedly unfocused. Scrapping and collaging and doodling had no real desired outcome aside to make something satisfying, and that was the point for me, sort of like adult colouring.

Since I started doing Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages and discovered what a helpful resource it can be for creativity (sparking it, supporting it, keeping it going strong day after day, etc.), I’ve been open to finding other kinds of daily journal practices that provide the same kind of support – do it in the morning for a few minutes, forget about it, results seep in throughout the day and add up to greater overall clarity.

I recently found out about Jung’s hand sketched mandalas and I was intrigued to find out more. He referred to mandalas as an archetype of wholeness, and they played a big role in his personal inner work, which he devoted his life to. For him, mandalas could represent a “psychological expression of the totality of the self,” which helped him to “see” the process of fulfilling his potential for wholeness as it was happening:

“I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, a mandala, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time. With the help of these drawings I could observe my psychic transformations from day to day… My mandalas were cryptograms concerning the state of self which were presented to me anew each day. In them I saw the self—that is, my whole being—actively at work.” (From Jung on Active Imagination).

As a cryptogram, (a puzzle based on an encrypted message), mandalas were a portal to his entire inner world, not just one or two compartments of it. He sketched them daily for a year while he was trying to arrive at the goal of his work in psychic development. Without knowing what exactly he was doing, he just continued drawing them until he eventually:

“Saw that everything, all paths I had been following, all steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point — namely, to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths… I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate.” The single point it all lead back to, the self, was Jung’s ultimate.

Arriving at a vision or goal for any given creative project, be it a painting, a novel, a business or a psychological system, takes time (and inner work!) As a visual journal practice, sketching mandalas could help make it easier to “see” the ideas we’re bringing to our work, where all the paths are leading to. Our creative projects aren’t isolated creations, they’re small projections of us. Personally, the clearer I am about the intentions I bring to my work, the better it feels to make.

And journalling can help to clarify that intention – whether you choose to draw mandalas or not, really. I just think seeing our thoughts on paper as a cryptogram could lend a new perspective that’ll put you in code-crackin’ mode. Or at least, see for yourself what kind of mood, recognizable shapes or letters come up and what overall impression you’re getting. For an awesome resource on how to draw mandalas even if you can’t draw, peep Creative Dream Incubator’s post and video, How To Draw Mandalas (and Why You Want To).

Writer Carol Lloyd said that before you can create a vision for what you want to make, “the first task at hand is getting to know the materials from which you will build that vision… this collage of memory, desire, and logic comprises the voices that direct you.” Visual journalling can be a helpful tool for tapping into those voices and direction.

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