The sand mandala, an ancient Tibetan Buddhist tradition in which colored sand represents a microcosm of the universe, has long symbolized the complete qualities of an enlightened mind.
Bay Area youngsters this week will practice that tradition and embark on a spiritual journey by participating in an extraordinary art project: creating a community sand mandala alongside Tibetan monks.
Beginning today, students from Aim High in San Francisco, Northern Light School in Oakland and Envision Schools in San Francisco, Oakland and Hayward will be on the road toward peaceful awareness at Grace Cathedral, where their efforts are part of a program sponsored by the church and nonprofit Tools for Peace.
The weeklong effort marks the launch of the “Tools for Schools” project, which was established to help students manage stress, resolve conflict and cope with the everyday rigors of adolescence while also cultivating compassion, peace and well-being.
“The mandala is a symbol of what peace might look like in an individual or in a community as a whole,” says Jamie Price, executive director of Tools for Peace and chief editor of the “Tools for Peace Personal Mandala Workbook.” “At the same time that it’s a symbol for peace, it also contains within it instructions for how to get there.”
Every day after school, students will lay down sand until the mandalas are completed. Tibetan lamas also will be creating a more traditional, formal mandala throughout the week.
On Sunday, the two spiritual artworks will be dissolved in a traditional ceremony. The sand will be taken to a body of water so the wishes for peace and the intention behind the creations can then flow out into the world.
“What’s wonderful about it is that it will come together as a result of a lot different people, spiritualities and ages being involved,” says Mark Grace, a member of Grace Cathedral’s board of trustees and Tools for Peace’s board.
Creating a sand mandala is a way of contributing to something greater than oneself. It enables individuals to feel empowered to do something about the challenges in life, says Price, who left the ranks of Fortune 500 America in 1997 with an action plan to make positive changes in the world.
This week’s activities for peace aren’t solely focused on sand, however. A gala celebration and fundraising event Saturday will feature an appearance by singer k.d. lang, a longtime Tools for Peace ambassador.
“What is really important,” Grace says, “is that the consciousness and the funds that we raise will hopefully be brought into a school curriculum and be used to create an even more lasting impact on students’ lives.”
If you go
Where: Grace Cathedral, 1100 California St., S.F.
When: Mandala creation 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. today through Friday; gala 6 p.m. Saturday; dissolution ceremony 11 a.m. Sunday
Tickets: Free to view sand mandalas; $75 to $250 for gala