Mandalas and art as tools for personal development

I’m happy to welcome back artist and art educator Heidi Miller Lowell with a new guest post that includes some of her own artwork featuring mandalas. Heidi teaches art and storytelling workshops, homeschool classes, and camps at The Austin Artery.

Mandala is a sanskrit word that means circle. Mandalas are ancient spiritual and ritual symbols believed to represent the universe. Some cultures believe that mandalas are important tools for meditation. You might recall having seen monks spend endless hours pouring delicate sand designs into mandalas only to let the sand be carried away by the wind as a reminder of the impermanence of life.

In my life, mandalas have been a helpful tool for gaining insight, clarity, and becoming more authentic. Creating any piece of art is a process. When we quiet down and pay attention to that process, we learn a lot about our mind, emotions, and creative process. Sometimes the process of creating a piece of art is more important than the finished product itself. I believe that the lessons we learn in creating art can be taken back and applied in our lives, work, or relationships to help us reach our highest potential.

For example, I began creating this watercolor mandala several years ago with the intention of paying attention to my tendency toward perfectionism. As I painted delicate designs for hours, I began to know that my creative process was lacking the spontaneity and joy that I desired when making art. I was often tense and focused on making a finished product that other people would enjoy looking at.

After coming to that realization, I picked up my brush and begin painting dark streaks of what I imagine it might look like in the darkest corners of outer space. The painting might not look like much to a viewer. However, this mandala hangs on the wall in my studio and serves as a powerful reminder that I can let go and make art that is imperfect and deeply meaningful. This piece of art marks a very powerful moment in my artistic career.

I also often use mandalas to teach children mathematical concepts like radial symmetry, angles, division, focus, and proportion. Geometric mandalas have helped to teach me patience, focus, and discipline. These geometric designs have informed much of my current work.

You can learn more about making simple mandalas online. I also am hosting several workshops  on creating 3D sculptural mandalas from natural materials, as well as geometric watercolor mandalas, this spring and summer. You can find out more at

Heidi Miller Lowell