Sun-Shadow Mandala

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Sun-Shadow Mandala

What is a mandala? Mandalas are circular and geometric representations of the images of spiritual life, both outer (sun) and inner (shadow). They symbolize aspects of life such as earth, water, air, and fire as well as all other components of life. 
Sun Shadow Mandala Instructions:

  1. Choose a character from the novel for which to create this mandala.

  2. Selecting The Sun Images: Put yourself in a quiet, receptive frame of mind. Think of yourself as the character you have chosen. As that character, write down your responses to the following questions: 

    What animal are you most like?
    What plant are you most like?
    What color are you most like?
    What shape are you most like?
    What number are you most like?
    What mineral or gem are you most like?
    What natural element are you most like--air, earth, fire, or water?  (you may choose some aspect of the element or the entire category:  breeze, hurricane, or tornado for air, e.g., or mountain, desert, to  beach for earth).

    These seven symbols become the sun images for your mandala.  The concept of sun image arises naturally from the method of arriving at these images in a thoughtful, conscious manner, in "the light of day" as we say.

  3. Writing The Sun Sentences:
    The next step is to write a sentence for each of these specific symbols. You may use the following core sentence as you think through your primary reason for selecting each of your sun images. There may be a number of reasons why you select a giraffe, for example; but in this part of the exercise, think about the single most important characteristic that you (as the character) shares with the giraffe.

    Suggested core sentence:

    I am like the (sun image) because, like the (item), I                            .  

    Examples:  I am most like poison oak because, like poison oak, I am harmless until I'm stepped on.

    I am most like a giraffe because, like the giraffe, my vision extends beyond my reach.

4. Selecting Sun Image Qualities:
After you have generated your sun images and the seven sentences elaborating on the nature of their relationships, construct a mandala chart like the example below. Fill in column 1, the sun images.

Mandala Chart

Sun Images

Quality Word


Shadow Images





























  1. To fill out Column 2, you will need to find one word to express the single characteristic or quality that represents the underlying reason for each choice and place that "quality" word in column two on the chart.  

    Selecting these words is not easy; it can be a rigorous vocabulary activity.  Selecting these words is a key activity. Even if you end up with a word you first thought of, you use this word with a firm knowledge of its appropriateness.  I encourage you to use the dictionary, the thesaurus, the library and each other during this part of the process. 

    After column two is filled out, you are ready to move to the idea of opposites, or the shadow images.

  2. Selecting the Shadow Images: Now move from the outward, or sun images, to the inward aspects of your character's life and generate a shadow image for each of the seven categories that will make up the mandala.  

    Looking at the quality you have ascribed to your animal image, and using the thesaurus as a guide, fill in the first line, column 3, with an antonym for that word. Check to see that the word you choose is the same part of speech.  For example, if your sun quality is intense, for the panther, your shadow quality might be lethargic rather than lethargy.  In column 4, you write the animal that you think of as the most lethargic animal they can think of, such as a cow."  

  3. Writing Shadow Sentences: Here is a core sentence from which to model yours. Write a sentence for each of your shadow images.

    Suggested Core Sentence: "Inwardly, I am like a _____ because_____."

  4. Drawing the Sun-Shadow Mandala: The directions for actually drawing the mandala are very simple: 

    Within the framework of a circle, using color and shape, but no words, draw or symbolize all of your sun images and all of your shadow images.  Arrange them in any way that you like.  You may want to consider how you place things in relation to each other or you may want to consider only the way the colors and shapes look together.

    The artistry of the drawing is not as important as the images you choose. Use symbols if you cannot draw something you have selected. For example, a simple drawing of the footprint of a bear can stand for a bear. 

  5. Writing the Sun-Shadow Sentences:  Write a single sentence using all of your sun signs.  See how you can weave all of these images together in one sentence.   Then weave your 7 shadow signs into a sentence.  Write both of these sentences around the outside of your mandala to serve as a frame for the entire image.

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