Living with cancer blog

Creative process helps cancer survivors with overall well-being

By Sheryl M. Ness, R.N. May 1, 2012

Mandala is an ancient Sanskrit word meaning circle. It has a long history as a sacred art form and is recognized for its deep spiritual meaning and representation of wholeness.

It's been used across several faith traditions and is often reflected in the entrance to sacred spiritual places and in spiritual imagery (above the entrance to churches, within the dome of the church, Celtic crosses and other symbols).

The circle with a central pattern is the basic structure of creation and can be represented in a mandala. The idea is that we're made up of tiny cells which form our body, which exist within the world and also within the larger universe.

It also represents life and our connection to others around us such as our circle of family, friends and community. The concept of a mandala helps us to see that we can look outward and inward for a connection to the whole.

Today, the mandala continues to be embraced as a tool for well-being. The creation of the mandala, this sacred circle, offers many benefits to the healing of body, mind and spirit. It's a mindful, creative and reflective process that can increase self-awareness and self-understanding. The process of creating a mandala helps to release tension, anxiety, and fears, and can have a very calming and peaceful effect.

To help you visualize a mandala, close your eyes and picture this idea ... a work of art that starts with a dot or circle in the middle with the design flowing out from the center. The design can be free flowing or geometric. The concept of a mandala reflects what is in the world around us — our cell structure, the solar system, and nature (think of a sunflower, snowflake or seashell).

As you work with a mandala, you can meditate on the beauty of the details while setting your intention for what you need from the creative process, such as healing, strength, gratitude and peace.

If you would like to experience the making of a mandala, visit the Mayo Clinic Cancer Education Center in Rochester, Minn. We have a mandala creation in process. You can participate individually or collectively in this creative and spiritual process.

Visit the Cancer Education Program — Mayo Clinic Facebook page to see images of past mandalas that have been created together by patients, family members and health care professionals. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Share your experiences with mandalas with each other.


Sheryl M. Ness, R.N.

May 01, 2012