Years ago, I witnessed my first sand mandala ceremony. What exactly is a sand mandala? A Tibetan Buddhist tradition, sand mandalas involve painstakingly placing millions of colored sand grains into intricate geometric “paintings”. After spending days or weeks to complete the beautiful design, the monks deliberately destroy the mandala to meditate on the impermanence of life.
It was incredible to watch the monks spend 3 days building the detailed mandala with complete focus. I would check-in on the mandala from time to time to watch the progress, and it was beautiful to see it all coming together. In some way, I felt that I was a part of the mandala because I was witnessing the transformation. On the final day’s destruction ceremony, I couldn’t help but feel my stomach flip watching all those hours of hard work wash away like it never existed. But a funny thing happened, something in my mind shifted that day. After some reflection, I took away a few truths that I still practice today:
Fully commit to the act of creating
When the monks were building the mandala, they put 100% of their energy and presence into creating the masterpiece. No matter what you decide to do with your life, fully commit to creating and building that vision of your life. I was always “all-in” no matter what iteration of my life I found myself: pitching new clients during my advertising career, training during my years as a competitive figure skater, or welcoming guests as a super yacht stewardess. I wanted to fully embody each version of myself in the moment. This focus of presence is necessary to maximize joy and purpose during each phase of our lives.
Challenges are merely a transition
The sand mandala is built from the center outwards. Each geometric section is layered and repeated around the previous chamber of patterns. Just as one section is complete, another new section begins. Like the mandala’s many layers, your life will not continue to grow outward if you haven’t built on all the previous challenges you’ve experienced. As I moved through the different chambers of my life, I realized that each challenge I encountered was a precursor to something amazing happening immediately after. Remember that when a challenge comes up in your life, it’s an opportunity to transition to the next level of your life.
Letting go is necessary to grow
As I watched the sand mandala being destroyed on the final day, it was bittersweet. A pile of grey sand and a flash of memory was all that was left of the beauty that existed moments before. We could spend an entire lifetime building a certain career or loving someone, and in an instant it could all be swept away. However, with every crumbling chapter we create the space to start anew. Rebuilding after letting go is both an act of cathartic hope and a demonstration of human resilience. These are the moments that help us grow. We are always capable of rebuilding.
In my own existence, I’ve built and destroyed variations of my life and lived to talk about it. We have so many lifetimes to live within our moment on this earth. Instead of fighting and stubbornly wanting to force permanence, why not embrace the constant ebb and flow of growth and destruction like the sand mandala?