Layers of the Heart

Guest Post by Joanne Hofinger, Circle Member

During our recent Heart Flame Retreat at the Edge, we had a chance to experience mandala-making with Joanne Hofinger. Here is Joanne’s story from the heart:

My life is a mandala, filled with thousands of layers. Each layer is a person, an event, or an experience adding to the total of “me”. Inside my mandala are hundreds of other, smaller mandalas. These smaller ones are relationships layered together, or circumstances, or memories. Each layer of my little mandalas are all added to the total of me. Thousands of layers, hundreds of mandalas, all stacked, placed to make the total of me. My beautiful whole.

My life is a mandala, filled with thousands of layers.

It changes every day with new thoughts, new events, and layers adding to my relationships with each connection I make. There is beauty in my layers. Joy, love, and happiness. There are also shadows of fear, trauma and hopelessness. Peeling back the layers exposes these pieces of me to the light of day, in its raw truth. Pulling them apart allows for new thinking, new perspectives, observation, acceptance and love. Peeling back the layers can be difficult work, and it is the most rewarding work I have done so far.

What might it be like for all of us to be willing to pull apart some of our layers? Are all the layers perfect or are they torn, broken and mended the best they could be? Peeling the layers of broken relationships, events that ended badly or regrets. Peeling back the layers of joyful moments, of love anew, or the best of memories.

When today’s ways no longer serve, do we have the courage to look at it and touch it with our hands? Will a broken mandala stay that way? Will you examine them, and find fault, find fortitude, find answers?

What if we  could put them back together in love? Love for the lessons, love for the teachings and love for the pieces that help make our beautiful whole? What if in putting it back together, we discover a new and better way to move forward? Creating new layers, new adventures, new experiences, new relationships. How are we reshaped by our experiences?

My life is a mandala. A beautiful, imperfect, messy, perfect mandala that is 100% me. Just like my person, working with my mandala as an art form is ever changing and all mine. Loving the layers is the work I choose to do. Loving the whole is the life I choose to live.

Mandala Making 


Mandalas are easy to make of any material, even pen and paper. The idea is to make layers of a pattern. Layers can be made one after the other immediately, or you can add a layer a day, a layer when you revisit the project etc. In the example at the top, I sat down and did all the layers in one seating. 

  • One large piece of base paper to be the background of your mandala (I used a 12×12’ paper
  • Ripped or cut strips of paper in a variety of colours
  • Adhesive like tape, glue stick and tacky glue available
  • Scissors 

I chose the theme of seasons and started my mandala with spring colour scrap paper I had on hand. Ripping the paper into strips in a simple starburst type shape. I glued down the strips to create a layer that represented newness and growth of spring. The second layer had the colours of the blue sky and bright flowers of summer. Strips were glued down allowing my spring layer to show through. Next I layered on beige and brown fall layers. Lastly, I hand cut a spiral in black to both represent the winter layer and the idea of going within for the winter before the cycle begins again. 


Drawing a mandala. Starting at the centre of a page draw a circle. Keep adding layers using signs, symbols, shapes that have meaning for you. Complete each circle before you move on to the next layer. Don’t worry about mistakes, you can’t see them in the final product as people look at the whole, not each one of its beautiful layers. 


On a walk or in a favourite natural place, draw a circle with a natural element (sticks, rocks, leaves etc.) Each time you visit that spot, add a new layer. See how the weather shifts and changes your mandala over time. Wonder on the impermanence of it.

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