Art Projects for the Retreat

Why create at a contemplative retreat? 

We find that engaging in creative activities during a retreat can aid reflection and serve as a form of meditation.  Some of us have not created since we were young and few of us set aside regular time for creating.  It can be fun and freeing to explore our imaginative side.  All of us have a creative spark, and can no doubt recall pleasant times as a youth coloring or making objects in art class.

The creativity projects follow Nina’s presentations.    The presentations are rich, varied and offer ample food for thought.  Creating provides a physical activity, while an atmosphere of stillness provides the freedom for reflection.  It has been said that “meditation within activity is better than meditation within stillness.”  Notions seeded by Nina’s presentation have opportunity to ripen while one is busy cutting, painting, embroidering or collage-making.

The focus of the creative time is the process, not the result.  The process of object making in silence is settling, relaxing and sometimes insightful.   The resulting objects are very personal and often become an extension of our selves and a window into our life.  The group environment is encouraging, appreciative and supportive of all efforts.

Mandala making

Mandala is a Sanskrit word for “magic circle”.  For thousands of years, creation of circular designs has been a feature of spiritual practices of many cultures.  Sacred circular images are found in many religions – for example, a church rose window.  Making a mandala simply means creating an image within a circle.  Mandalas can be reflections of your inner self and compliment a search for wholeness and self-knowledge.

In the mid twentieth century, Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung explored art making as a form of self-discovery.  He made many circular drawings and came to believe they reflected his present inner state. In his autobiography, Jung wrote:  “I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing,…which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time….Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is…the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well, is harmonious.”  Mandala making may indicate a personal desire for growth and wholeness.

We will explore different mandala-making approaches such as the Buddhist design of square in circle – employing four elements of earth, air, water, fire, or four directions with a divine center; the use of personal symbols (Jung’s mandalas sometimes included snakes and lighting) and drawing with colorful opaque gel pens on a back background.

Prayer Flags

A prayer flag is a colorful rectangular cloth, often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas. Traditional prayer flags include woodblock-printed text and images. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside. Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five: one in each of five colors. The five colors are arranged from left to right in a specific order: blue, white, red, green, and yellow. Blue symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth.

Once hung outdoors, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. It is believed that the prayers will be blown by the wind to spread good will and compassion and bring benefit to all.

We will make small prayer flags with prepared cloth and materials to which we can paint or sew our own personal tokens for healing and well being.


When we write, we think differently.  Journaling during a weekend which is set aside in place and time from normal life activities can be evocative and rewarding.  We will make a special space to record our thoughts and ideas.   Using repurposed fabrics along with paints, found objects, markers and charms, we will create journals which are both useful and individual.