“I beleive that mandalas are of the most powerful modes for the raising of consciousness and the igniting of collaboration.  The principles of the mandala underly the designs and collaborative mobilizations that I orchestrate.”


What are mandalas?
Mandalas are an ancient and sacred art that can be found in cultures and religions around the world. A mandala can be as simple as a circle drawn in the sand, as beautiful as a cathedral rose window, or as sophisticated as a multi-terraced, pyramid temple like like those of the Aztecs or Mayans. Working with a blossoming circular mandalas unfold outwards from the centre, taking a flow of their own. Mandalas are an art that organically involves symbolism, color-meaning, and numerology.  Meaning  hangs in the spaces between the radial geometrical symmetry of a mandala.



Mandala Making

Making a mandala and tapping this outward flow is a potent process for exploring one’s subconscious, developing one’s intuition and revealing personality.  Since Carl Jung first pointed to mandalas as a reflection of the collective unconsciousness, psychologists and therapists have used mandalas as potent introspective tools. I have used mandala making, both with individuals and groups as a way to mine personal and interpersonal insights. An individual’s mandala puts the once hidden, into the light.


Raising Consciousness

Mandala making is a fundamentally meditative, reflective process.  Because of this the process directs the attention and focus of the maker or makers onto the theme and the medium of the creation.  A mandala made from picked plastic inevitably puts attention on picked up plastic, it’s context, cause and consequence.  A mandala made as a blessing for a new home, puts attention on the home and the intention for good things for the new path it represents.  A mandala made for Church window will not only incorporate all the story and spirituality of the specific religious community, the attention of the creative process will come to defining that Church.  Regardless of the theme or the medium of the mandala the process is invariably one of consciousness raising. The consciousness raising properties of mandalas have vast import to our times of ecological and social crises– crisis was which are fundamentally caused by a lack of consciousness.


The Tibetan Tradition

In the Tibetan mandala making tradition, groups of monks would work in silence for days and weeks at a time to compose intricate mandalas from grains of coloured sand around a specific intention: perhaps blessing a new temple, asking for peace in a conflict, harmony in a community, etc.  Without speaking, the monks would work together within the dynamic of the blossoming symmetry.   In this way their collective intention and prayer for the space was made.  The intense and focused process of making a mandala, of holding the specific intention, would deeply effect not only the mandala makers, but those observing the process. In so doing the collective consciousness of the surrounding community would be raised towards the focus of the intention.


Group Mandalas

In the same way as the TIbetans make mandala, a group can come together to make a collective mandala. The process is a profound experience in collaboration and consciousness raising.   When groups of people make mandalas, the dynamics of personality and interpersonal interaction are likewise laid bare.  This powerful dynamic of focused collective attention raises both the consciousnesses of the participants and of the group.  When the group has a chance to process the experience afterwards, profound insights are inevitably mined.



Applying Mandalic Principles to Collaboration

The principles of the mandala can dramatically empower collaborations.  Let us review the making a sand mandala to draw out the core principles at play.

  1. First, the intention is clear to all participants and those observing.
  2. Second, the circular geometry, or unfolding pattern, is also coherent and accessible.
  3. Third, the medium of the mandala (sand in this case) is accessible to all.
  4. Fourth, the tools and technique to join are accessible (in this case the specialist sand dropping tool restricts accessibility to participation to experienced monks).
  5. Finally, the end of the creation (he destruction of the mandala and dispersal of the sand to rivers and streams), is an intended and planned part of the creation.

By following and applying these principles, mundane collaborations can be otherwise supercharged with viral spread and the empowerment of participants into new leaders of new nodes and circles of the mandala.



the pattern Best of all, anyone can join the mandalas co-creation. By design, the mandala uses readily available materials, to be welcoming and inspiring, a new participant has but to grasp the unfolding geometry and begin their contribution to it.


Case Studies of Mandalic Mobilization

In 2009, after leading many collaborative mandala projects, I discovered ‘Ecobricks’.  Ecobricks are a super simple solution for plastic waste– by packing a plastic bottle full of plastic, one can make a building block that can be used on over and over.  I was amazed at the potential of this low-tech solution, and decided that seeing the concept spread, trumped my work making artistic mandalas.  However, as I was in the groove of making collaborative mandalas, I inadvertently applied the same principles to my work sharing ecobricks.  The results were staggering, and have fundamentally changed the course of my art and life.

As I went school to school, village to village sharing the ecobrick technique, I held on to the following mandalic principles:

  1.  I made sure that I was setting the example.  As the center of the mandala, and the orchestrator, I realized I played a part in setting the pattern and the intention.
  2. I made sure that the intention was clear: “Let’s keep our plastic out of the environment”.  I made sure that the intention and core concept was widely available to all through a free PDF guidebook that put on our website.
  3. I made sure that the door to participate in the unfolding was wide open to as many people as possible– this meant keeping the technique as simple as possible, using only local materials, using only universally available and with negligible cost.

The ecobrick making began with me in my house.  As I shared it to my neighbourhood school, other schools in the area expressed interest.  I went and visited them, and then more.  Within a few months the superintendent endorsed ecobricking to all 263 schools in the district.  I visited many, and our guidebook went out to all.  Then, other school districts began to follow suit.  The undersecretary of education was paying attention, and mandated ecobricking in over a thousand more schools.

It was thus, that ecobricks spread to several thousand schools in under two years, with only my un-funded orchestration.  The spread of ecobricking continues exponentially in south east asia.  In comparison, in other parts of the world, ecobricking, shared with only a slightly different methodoly, has grown then dropped off in central america and south america.


The Future


I use these principles of mandalic co-creation  to orchestrate movements with hundreds or thousands of people.   In contrast to the compulsion of capital economy to pull  people into participation, mandalic unfolding leverages much more profound and human motivations to inspire participation: belonging, community, beauty, harmony.

Although the mandala itself might not be visible, as long as the principles are there, before you know it dozens, then hundreds of people are contributing to a co-creative intention. There is no leader. The intention and vision lead the way– but of course morph organically (and appropriately) as the collaboration blossoms.

Our world stands to transcend compulsion once and for all.  One day, when everything is being done for reasons of beauty, belonging, community and harmony, we’ll look back and shake our head at the old linear ways.

With joy I share mandala making far and wide.

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What are Mandalas?

Mandalas are an ancient and sacred art that can be found in cultures and religions around the world. Mandalas harness circular geometry and symmetry to create a pattern filled with meaning, symbolism and intention.  Their creative process enables one or more folks to come together and organically unfold consciousness raising co-creations.

Russell is a regenerative designer and inventor based in Bali, Indonesia.  He is one of the leaders of the Ecobrick movement in Indonesia and the world.  Inspired by the principles of the mandala and his time amongst the Igorot people he works to implementing deep, trans-formative innovations.  You can read more in his Regenerative Design Manifesto or follow him on Facebook and Steemit:

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