Keeping time

When 2010 came around I was working in a consultancy in London and after four months I was already beginning to grow disillusioned with that world. Knowing that I had to change tracks without being clear where to, I spontaneously drew a spiral on the back of a notepad and put a line through it next to which I scribbled ‘3 years’. From that day I began to log events that had significance in my life within that spiral calendar and as the years went by the spiral was filled with little drawings, words and phrases.

old time mandala

While filling in my calendar I noticed that this way of looking at my life brought new perspectives and connections to the surface which I hadn’t seen before. Because the year is mapped as a circle I could see seasonal recurrences and also make wishes or envision what my world would be like once another circle had been completed. It was also a way of remembering certain things I wished for and discovering different threads and patterns in the events that happened during that time.

When the first three years had come around I decided to expand the spiral to include another year. When that year had passed there was no more space and I had to start making another one. Looking at the calendar I realised that there are multiple ways to map out time with the help of a spiral, and that it’s possible to introduce different tracks within the calendar. I had stumbled into what I now think of as the ‘time mandala’, I way of engaging with one’s own development and finding out more about the deeper motifs that characterise one’s life.

Speaking with people about this practice I found out that this way of looking at time may be helpful for others too. So here’s a quick guide to making a time mandala and a few suggestions for how to use it.

First, draw a spiral on a piece of paper big enought that you can add little sentences or drawings within the spiral to signify events on weekly or bi-weekly basis. A spiral with three revolutions drawn on an A4 size paper works for me.


Then add one horizontal and one vertical line through the middle of the spiral to signify the co-ordinates of the calendar.


My calendars begin at New Years, so the inner starting point of the spiral correspond to January 1st. The first quarter of the first revolution then signify the months January, February and March while the second quarter equates to April through to June, etc. However, the calendar doesn’t have to start in January, you can make the North co-ordinate any month you like, or alternatively ‘tip’ the spiral so that it begins in a different month.

Now you can begin filling in the time mandala with events or happenings that are significant to you through the year. Sometimes the ‘important’ things are only visible in hindsight and if nothing comes up you can just wait a while to fill it in. I use symbols, drawings, key words and short sentences. You can of course also decorate the calendar as you like and it’s possible to introduce different ‘tracks’ to the calendar too.

For my last time mandala I have drawn a second ‘vision’ track (highlighted in orange) which is reserved for those things I wish for in the future, certain dates which have a special meaning or goals I am working towards. The white track is where I keep events that actually happen.

new time mandala

There are plenty of other ways that this mandala can be modified and adorned. If you like this calendar and decide to make your own, I would love to hear from you and see what you come up with. Feel free to share the time mandala practice with others, just remember that as with all good things in life it can’t be rushed. Things that seem important at one time may seem less important at others and sometimes it is necessary to stand still for a while to really feel what matters. The mandala may help you find out more about what that is.

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