Mandalas of Self-Discovery

Michelle Wang, a professor at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, invited me to visit her classroom last Monday to lead a mandala-making workshop with twenty of Career Planning students. The students, who had taken a tour of the museum with me a couple of weeks earlier, had learned about mandalas as tools for spiritual insight and transformation within the Tibetan Buddhist context.

Now, with simple art supplies in hand, such as construction paper, tape, cardboard, and magic markers, Dr. Wang and I wanted the students to construct their own mandalas while visualizing their unique path to personal fulfillment. Whatever color, form or structure came to mind, we encouraged them to go with it.

As the students settled down with their supplies, a hush fell over the room. The only words spoken for almost forty minutes were, “Please pass the scissors,” “Where are the magic makers?” and “Is there any more tape?”

The result?

Nearly twenty mandalas were made by the end of class, revealing a stunning variety of shapes and forms. During our sharing circle afterwards, a number of students commented that making mandalas had helped them to focus and to feel a sense of inner peace. “It felt like a kind of meditation,” said one student. “I can see how monks make sand mandalas for hours…I didn’t want to stop.”

It’s always a pleasure to work with Professor Wang. Along with being a dedicated teacher, she understands the importance of introducing her students to the universal values and wisdom embodied by the sacred art at the Rubin Museum as a means to help them question, explore, and apply these values to their own lives.

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