Q & A with Sharon Seyfarth Garner

How Did Praying with Mandalas Come About?

Mandala with No Color

How did Praying with Mandalas come about? Was it something you had thought about doing for a long time or a sudden inspiration?

About three years ago I began a new ministry called Belly of the Whale Spiritual Direction and Retreat Ministries. The serious story behind the silly name: When Jonah was in the belly of the whale, he prayed, reconnected with God, and gained the strength to step back into the world and be who God had called him to be. That is the essence of spiritual direction and spiritual formation retreats—we pray, reconnect with God, and gain the strength to go out and be who God has called us to be.

As I did more and more one-on-one direction and small-group retreat leadership, I discovered that folks were hungry for hands-on, tangible ways to pray. So I offered prayer workshops on topics such as praying with mandalas, pottery, journaling, beads, and even origami. The topic that gathered the most interest was praying with mandalas, and the idea just kept growing.

At the same time, the adult coloring craze was picking up momentum. I enjoyed coloring circular mandala designs as a way to stay centered but wanted something deeper than just a chance to color and relax. I wanted a new way to pray.  So, over the summer of 2015 I worked with a friend to create mandalas designed to facilitate specific contemplative prayer methods. I then developed these four mandalas into a locally produced workbook that I used for retreats. Folks seemed to love it, so I shared it with The Upper Room staff, and they were interested as well.

Two Upper Room staff persons came to a Praying with Mandalas retreat at the end of January 2016 and by November 2016, the book was published. I am still amazed at how God’s fingerprints have been all over this project. In addition to the print book, we are producing the content as an online course that should be available in January 2017.  There is even talk of translating the book into Spanish. So many blessings have arisen from this little idea that was grounded in a desire to grow deeper in love with God by doing something fun and meaningful. I am profoundly grateful!